Lincoln Center Redevelopment

In March 2006, Lincoln Center began construction on a $1.2 billion redevelopment plan for the Center’s 16-acre complex. The master plan, first announced in 1999, includes the rebuilding of nine of the Center’s twelve cultural institutions, including the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet, and the Metropolitan Opera. Opened in 1962 in what was then considered a blighted neighborhood, Lincoln Center was built in the Beaux-Arts tradition to serve as a pedestal of enlightenment and retreat from the noise and grime of the surrounding city.

The redevelopment intends to unite the Center, the largest performing arts complex in the world, with the surrounding neighborhood and to modernize its facilities. Lincoln Center had raised nearly two-thirds of the $1.2 billion necessaries for redevelopment before the credit crisis hit and expects construction to be completed as scheduled, by late 2010 or early 2011. Despite progress on the renovations, another $235 million must be raised to complete the overhaul.

Renovations are being executed in phases to enable performances to continue relatively uninterrupted. However, Avery Fisher Hall, home of the New York Philharmonic, the David H. Koch Theater, home of the New York City Opera, and Alice Tully Hall, the venue used primarily by The Chamber Music Society and the Juilliard School, have all been forced to close for significant spans of time due to major reconstruction.

Phase one of the redevelopment is the West 65th Street Project, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Fx Fowle Architects. The $650 million project aims to create a dynamic “Street of the Arts” along 65th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue, uniting 65th Street with the surrounding cityscape, extending the threshold of Lincoln Center, and encouraging the interaction of artists, students, and the public.

Two key pieces of phase one include the 100,000 square feet expansion of the Juilliard School and the renovation of Alice Tully Hall. The Hall’s renovation includes new street access to a lobby with a sleek bar open to non-ticketholders and LED-lit resin panels covering the concert hall interior. The West 65th Street Project is expected to be completed in 2009. Alice Tully Hall opened in February 2009 with a series of celebratory performances.

Phase two of the plan is the Lincoln Center Promenade Project, also designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners. According to Lincoln Center, phase two employs “glass, travertine, new landscape features, and integrated information technologies for enhancing the visitor experience.”

The plan lowers an existing vehicular service road and creates a primary entrance on Columbus Avenue. Various aspects of the central Revson Fountain will be altered alongside modifications to staircases and walkways for improved provision of pedestrian access from Columbus Avenue and Broadway. The timeline for phase two is unclear, though many elements are expected to be completed by the Fall of 2009.

Preservationists and landscape architects have spoken out against several elements of phase two. Specifically they are concerned with plans to change the dimensions of Philip Johnson’s reflecting pool, the position of Henry Moore’s sculpture within the pool, and the removal of renowned landscape architect Dan Kiley’s travertine “urban forest” planters. Opponents of the changes consider many of these plan elements to be unnecessary for achieving the ultimate goal of the project.

Phase three of the redevelopment will involve improvements to the privately-owned public space of the Harmony Atrium, to be designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects. Located between Broadway and Columbus Avenues and West 62nd and 63rd Streets, the Atrium will serve as a cultural and community center with performances, area information, and ticket services. The Atrium reopened in Fall 2009.

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