Required along with a legitimate Broadway theater in return for a floor area bonus granted by a City special permit in 1973, this constellation of privately owned public spaces west of Broadway between West 45th and 46th Streets provides outdoor, covered, and indoor experiences for circulation and destination activities. Along the full Broadway frontage is Broadway Plaza, a sliver of open space that normally would be overlooked but for the fact that Times Square is now so packed with crowds that even the slightest widening of sidewalk becomes appreciated by the passing pedestrian. Two arcades leading from the plaza underneath the theater toward the interior hotel entry constitute the outdoor portion of covered public pedestrian area. Further west across the legally private through-block driveway is the indoor portion of covered public pedestrian area, on the ground floor of the hotel core, entered either from the driveway or from two doorways off Shubert Alley Extension toward the back of the building.
Appropriately named, the Shubert Alley Extension is a through block arcade that “extends” One Astor Place’s Shubert Alley, one block south, to fashion a two-block, mid-block passageway from West 44th to 46th Streets. Hugging the western wall is a black metal tube, laid horizontally and vaguely sittable, and a long mirror that fosters a theatrical air. To the east is the indoor covered public pedestrian area with escalators and elevators taking the public space user, as well as hotel guests, to interior spaces on upper levels. The original 1973 special permit and approved plans called for two publicly accessible atrium spaces: a seven-floor retail shopping space rising from floors two through nine, and another atrium for the hotel starting on the twelfth floor and rising another 37 stories to a skylit top. As built years later, the structure diverges from these plans. The planned retail atrium does not exist, filled instead with meeting rooms and theater offices on floors three through seven, accessible by escalators (floor two is not accessible). Floor eight features the hotel lobby at the base of an impressive atrium, surrounded above by hotel rooms, that is the signature design of Atlanta-based architect/developer John Portman. It remains unclear where, in addition to the hotel lobby, the rest of the 40,300 square feet of interior spaces required by the special permit is located.
As with other public spaces that combine hotel and public uses, such as the west leg of Le Parker Meridien Hotel’s through block arcade and Millennium Broadway’s through block connection nearby, it becomes impossible to distinguish between private and public activities.
Development of the Marriott Marquis was accompanied by its own drama. To make way for the hotel, three old theaters, the Helen Hayes, the Morosco, and the Bijou, were demolished. On the morning scheduled for demolition, some 1,000 demonstrators gathered to protest the loss of these historic theaters. By prior arrangement with police, roughly 170 demonstrators, including such theater luminaries as Colleen Dewhurst, Joseph Papp, Susan Sarandon, and Michael Moriarty, were arrested for trespassing and taken away in 13 police vans. With the lifting of a temporary stay that had been previously issued by a court, the work crews went about their task of razing the theaters.