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Times Square Visitors Center opens at the Embassy Theatre.

Gretchen Dykstra, outgoing president of the Times square Business Improvement District (BID), joined a host of VIPs to officially open the first-ever full-service comprehensive visitors center - the all-new Times square Visitors Center - at the historic Embassy Theatre at 1560 Broadway, between 46th and 47th streets on September 1st.

Dykstra led the countdown to the historic re-lighting of the antique chandeliers and lights inside the landmark 1925 Embassy Theatre, showcasing for the first time the results of the $1 million renovation which restored the architectural treasure and transformed it into a modern visitors center.

The new Times square Visitors Center will offer both New Yorkers and visitors easy access to a wide variety of services. The Times square BID will administer the Center, and will provide citywide visitor information by multi-lingual-tourist counselors and brochures. Licensees will provide the following services: ATMs, Broadway tickets, sightseeing tours, MetroCards, international and regional newspapers, Internet access, a video history of Times square, official NYC gifts, currency exchange, and more.

"This project is almost too good to be true. The new Times square Visitors Center is in the perfect location, in a beautiful space, with superb partners. It will be open all day, everyday," said Dykstra. "It is unique in New York City and, we think, in the nation. The restoration of the historic Embassy Theatre and its transformation into the new Times square Visitors Center is the perfect example of building the new Times square on the roots of the old."

The Times square BID has licensing arrangements with each of the participating organizations. In addition to a one-time capital construction fee to finance the $1.1 million renovation, licensees will also pay a monthly fee to the non-profit Times square BID to support the operating costs of the Visitors Center. The Center is a self-supporting, non-profit-making venture.

The 6,000-square-foot Times square Visitors Center will feature the following services:

* Fleet Bank: Four ATMs;

* Broadway Ticket Center: Full-priced tickets for Broadway shows, operated by the League of American Theatres and Producers:

* Gray Line/Circle Line: Sales office for sightseeing bus, boat and walking tours, and tickets to popular attractions;

* Metropolitan Transportation Authority: Sales booth for MetroCards and transit memorabilia;

* Panasonic: Video wall exhibit featuring the history of Times square and a simulated New Year's Eve ball drop narrated by Mayor Giuliani and Dick Clark, along with updates on new Panasonic technology;

* Hotaling's Worldwide News: Newsstand offering regional and international newspapers;

* CityStore: Sales booth for official New York City items, many bearing the City seal or City agency logos;

* Yahoo!: Six free Yahoo! Internet Surfing Stations and e-postcards.

* Self Change: Currency exchange machine.

The Visitors Center will also include attended, handicapped-accessible restrooms.

Architect Ronette Riley and her team designed the space to preserve and enhance the historic beauty of the theatre, while transforming it into an accessible, functional information center for the 21st Century. Under the direction of Frank Sciame, F.J. Sciame Construction Co. carried out the renovations as general contractor for the project, managing the construction and providing pro bono technical consultation. Ensign Engineering oversaw the mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering for the project.

Built in 1925 as an opulent movie house, the Embassy Theatre made history as the first theater in the United States to show newsreels. The elegant theater, designed by architect Thomas Lamb, is decorated with floral reliefs throughout, blonde wood paneling in the inner lobby, marble accents and two recently-restored murals painted by artist Arthur Crisp. In addition, an ornate domed rondel light fixture, crystal Rambusch ceiling lights, elaborate column sconces and antique chandeliers were also restored to their original beauty.

The BID commissioned artist Jessica Daryl Winer to paint a mural for the site of the original movie screen. Entitled "Curtain Call" and sponsored by Entertainment Weekly, the 34 x 14 foot installation depicts the artist's interpretation of 200 Broadway legends - including actors, playwrights, composers and producers - "taking a bow" in a theatrical setting.

Since opening its first Visitors Center in 1992, the Times square BID has served more than 900,000 people at its Visitors Centers at four different sites - the Rialto Theatre, the Harris Theatre, the Selwyn Theatre, and most recently the Candler Building. The BID's 40 public safety officers and 50 sanitation workers will be trained to direct tourists to the new Visitors Center. In addition to a variety of other marketing efforts, the Center will be promoted on the giant NBC Astrovision screen by Panasonic 10 minutes each day.

Since its creation six years ago, the Times square BID has worked aggressively to make the neighborhood cleaner, safer and friendlier for all who visit, live and work in Times square. Supported by the area's 404 property owners, the BID provides a full range of supplemental services, promotion for the area, advocacy for the interests of the local businesses, information to enhance economic development and public improvements.
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Title Annotation:New York, New York
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Sep 9, 1998
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