Photo Preview: Henry Miller's Theatre on West 43rd Street

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The Durst Organization and Bank of America have announced the completion of Henry Miller's Theatre on West 43rd Street in Times Square. The 1,055-seat house is located inside the new 55-story Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park and will be New York's first LEED®-rated theater. The theater and the Bank of America Tower are an Empire State Development Corporation project and a joint venture of The Durst Organization Inc. and Bank of America, N.A.

Henry Miller's Theatre is the first new Broadway theater built in more than a decade and sets new standards for environmentally sustainable design and construction of performing arts venues. The 50,000-square-foot theater is located behind the preserved and restored neo-Georgian façade of the original 1918 theater.

The complex design and construction were undertaken by a project team including Cook+Fox Architects LLP, historic preservationists Higgins & Quasebarth, theater consultant Fisher Dachs Associates, theater acoustician Jaffe Holden Acoustics, Inc., and Tishman Construction Corporation as Construction Manager. The Associate Architect is Adamson Associates of Toronto, Canada. Roundabout Theatre Company (Todd Haimes, Artistic Director) has been selected to program theatrical productions in Henry Miller's Theatre.

The theater is an integral part of the One Bryant Park project, which includes the office tower and Anita's Way, a pedestrian passage linking West 42nd and 43rd Streets. The new theater is built into a low podium between the Bank of America Tower and 4 Times Square; the podium separates the towers and preserves open space above the historic façade. The theater will be the first in New York City to meet the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. The Durst Organization and Bank of America are pursuing LEED Platinum certification for the office tower and LEED Gold for the theater.

"Roundabout Theatre Company has once again created an innovative public-private partnership to reclaim midtown Manhattan space for live theater," said New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "This beautiful new space will not only benefit Broadway audiences and artists, but will help create jobs and reinforce New York City's reputation for world-class theater."

"The completion of Henry Miller's Theatre continues the transformation of 42nd Street, creating jobs and reinforcing New York's status as the number one destination for stage productions. This one-of-a-kind theater adds to the excitement of the nation's first LEED Platinum skyscraper, One Bryant Park," said Empire State Development Corporation President & CEO Marisa Lago. "Henry Miller's Theatre is a perfect example of the type of transformational project that we can achieve when the State, City, and the business and non-profit communities work together."

"Roundabout and Henry Miller's Theatre is a perfect match," said Douglas Durst, President of The Durst Organization. "Henry Miller's Theatre is the most environmentally advanced theater in New York City and has been an important part of developing One Bryant Park as the nation's first LEED Platinum skyscraper. Roundabout has a tradition of reclaiming and revitalizing theater spaces all over the city. As a board member since 1991, I am impressed with the commitment of the institution to bring great theater to New York audiences. Under Todd Haimes' leadership, Roundabout has transformed into a major cultural institution of New York City, and I expect he will bring the same theatrical programming and vitality to the Henry Miller's Theatre."

"I want to thank Bank of America and The Durst Organization for their unrelenting commitment in supporting the arts," said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. "I can't think of a more exciting way to open a new theater in the heart of the Broadway theater district than with Roundabout Theatre Company at the helm and also thank the Roundabout for moving forward in these tough times."

"This project sets the standard for environmental stewardship in theater design and, given the visibility of the project, it admirably recognizes Broadway's potential to influence public opinion and inspire positive action," said Allen Hershkowitz, a Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council who coordinates NRDC's Broadway Goes Green collaboration.

"The new theater respects Henry Miller's original vision of an intimate, direct relationship between The Audience and the actors on stage," said Rick Cook, Partner, Cook+Fox Architects LLP. "At the same time, the new vision is consistent with Mayor Bloomberg's plan for a sustainable, twenty-first century city, and has led to the creation of a state-of-the-art Broadway theater that makes a strong statement on behalf of the entire community."

"Tishman Construction brought a high level of expertise to building this LEED Gold theater, which will benefit generations to come with its sustainable design and construction features," said Daniel R. Tishman, Chairman of Tishman Construction Corporation. "We've been diligent in making sure every step of the project conforms to the highest environmental standards. We've built a space that will have less of an impact on the environment than a traditional Broadway theater."

Creating the best possible indoor environment for audiences, performers and production staff was a top priority for the design and construction team. This has been achieved through 95% air filtration, carbon dioxide sensors to maximize fresh air supply, and the selection of healthy, low-emitting materials. Environmentally responsible materials used in the theater's construction include Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood products used extensively in finishes; high-recycled content wall panels and baseboards; locally sourced marble flooring and countertops; and waterless urinals to reduce consumption of potable water.

Green construction at Henry Miller's Theatre was multi-faceted. A minimum of 25 percent of materials was locally sourced (originating within a 500-mile radius), supporting the regional economy and reducing emissions from transportation. Forty-five percent of cement in the foundation and superstructure concrete mix designs was replaced with blast furnace slag, a by-product of iron manufacturing, significantly reducing the amount of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. Waste was reused/reduced: a minimum 85 percent of construction and demolition debris was diverted from landfill and instead was recycled.

In addition, Henry Miller's Theatre breaks new ground in washroom availability for a Broadway playhouse. There are 22 fixtures in the women's (three times the code requirement) and 10 fixtures in the men's (one and a half times the code requirement) bathrooms. The new theater will be fully handicapped accessible with 20 wheelchair positions.

The mezzanine is at street level in the theater and patrons go down one level to the orchestra, where two-thirds of the seating is located. Support for a sophisticated sound system is integrated into the new theater, as well as a larger orchestra pit and a fully functional fly-tower and set-loading facilities. Other amenities include improved public circulation and concessions areas, with a spacious lobby bar at the orchestra level, a bar and café at the ground level, and a restaurant on the upper mezzanine.

To build the theater, Tishman Construction had to overcome major obstacles. According to David Horowitz, Senior Vice President of Tishman Construction and Project Director for One Bryant Park, "The façade had to be braced with an elaborate, temporary, three-story-high, structural-steel support frame, which stood on the sidewalk in front of the façade. Then the existing theater was delicately demolished behind it and the foundation excavated to a depth of 70 feet, the deepest foundation in midtown. The foundation walls are deeply seated into the bedrock, both to transfer the large lateral forces and to cut off groundwater. An under-slab drainage system captures groundwater and then recycles it into the building's gray water system."

This foundation had to be excavated deeper than usual in order to make room for the theater's back-of-the-house spaces such as dressing rooms, as well as the orchestra and mezzanine sections and building utilities, so the theater wouldn't project above the historic façade. As excavation for the theater took place, the existing façade was underpinned; rock anchors were used to brace the underpinning. Openings had to be cut within the existing façade for new structural support columns. One Bryant Park and the new theater were erected adjacent to the freestanding façade and then the façade was connected to the new structure.

The theater was closed in 2004 due to the construction of the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park. It is now completed with a brand new interior as a state-of-the-art Broadway playhouse that captures the intimacy and proportions of the original. Working with historic preservation specialist Higgins & Quasebarth, Tishman Construction also managed the historic reconstruction of the oval reception room, and preservation of salvaged historic artifacts such as doors, wrought iron, and decorative plasterwork that are incorporated in the new architecture.

Given the age and poor condition of the façade, all of the terra cotta and brick had to be restored and cleaned, and all metal balconies and gates had to be historically repaired and cleaned. Workers also installed a new marquee, replacing the existing one, which was too degraded to be salvaged.

The original theater was planned by Henry Miller, writer, producer and actor. He included a second balcony in the design, unusual for theaters at the time, because those were the only seats he could afford as a young man. The theater opened on April 1, 1918 with the play The Fountain of Youth. After Henry Miller's death in 1926, it was managed by Henry's son, Gilbert, then later operated as a movie house and a discotheque. By 1969, after being used as a Broadway theater for 51 years, Henry Miller's Theatre was abandoned as a legitimate theater. Live theater returned briefly in 1983 with 14 preview performances of The Ritz, which closed on opening night. Aside from this one short-lived production, Henry Miller's Theatre did not house a legitimate theater production from 1969 to 1998, until Roundabout Theatre Company produced the hit Broadway musical Cabaret.

Photo Preview: Henry Miller's Theatre on West 43rd Street
THE Henry Miller'S THEATRE

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