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138-146 West 48th Street, The Cort Theatre: Application for certificate of appropriateness for interior and exterior alterations, as well as the addition of an annex

WHEREAS, The Cort Theatre is located on West 48th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues and was built 1912-1913 by James Cort and designed by Thomas Lamb to replicate the Petit Trianon in Versailles; and

WHEREAS, The Cort Theatre is one of the oldest surviving theaters in NYC and one of only two surviving Lamb-designed theaters, and was designated both an interior and exterior landmark on November 17, 1987; and

WHEREAS, The applicant proposes extensive interior alterations and restoration, extensive exterior alterations and restoration, and the addition of a new annex adjacent to the theater; and

WHEREAS, Interior alterations include the lowering of the north ticket lobby window to comply with ADA-requirements, the addition of decorative plaster throughout the theater, restoration of all historic lighting, replacement of all non-historic lighting with period-appropriate replacements, replacement of all non-historic balcony drapes and stage curtain with period-appropriate color schemes and designs based on paint analysis research, replacement of all non-historic seating with period-appropriate chair designs; and

WHEREAS, Interior alterations also include the restoration of back-lit Tiffany-designed glass within the proscenium along with replication of its missing components, restoration of all ceiling murals, the removal of two sets of non-historic double-doors and the addition of two sets of period-appropriate double-doors to provide access to the Annex, the removal of unsightly duct work throughout the mezzanine and orchestra levels, the shifting of the rear orchestra wall to provide better traffic flow to the Annex, the addition of and enlargement of stairwells for balcony use and for emergency use from the stage, and the reconfiguration of an unused original stairwell at the northwest corner of the building for an expanded ticket window area and a stage entrance to connect directly to the rear of the theater; and

WHEREAS, Exterior alterations include the removal of a non-historic marquee with the addition of a more period-appropriate marquee, replacement of damaged original windows on the second floor to windows with the same appearance, the replacement of non-historic main entry doors to bronze doors at the originally intended height, the addition of theater-related signage above entry doors, stage doors, and within areas of the marquee, cleaning and painting of the exterior to match the original stone color, repair of damaged decorative elements with cast concrete, and the removal of the western exterior fire escape; and

WHEREAS, The applicant proposes to construct an annex 80' in height and 35' in width to the west of the theater, 10' of which will be on the landmark property of The Cort Theatre; and

WHEREAS, The proposed annex will provide easier traffic flow of patrons to various levels of the theater, and contain an elevator, stairs, restrooms, concessions, rehearsal spaces, and production spaces, and be clad in two tones of terra cotta on the exterior with a vertical corner of windows, along with lit signage for the theater and an LED video-display sign; and

WHEREAS, CB5 finds the extensive work of interior and exterior alterations to be not only a vast improvement of what currently exists, but a proposal that will bring The Cort Theatre very close to its original and intended design; and

WHEREAS, CB5 finds the proposed annex to be appropriate in design, bulk and materials in relation to the landmark, and does not detract from the landmark; and

WHEREAS, CB5 strongly urges the applicant to re-use elsewhere the original marble stairs and ornate handrails currently found in the northwest stairwell that is to be reconfigured for ticket windows and a stage entrance, as well as to maintain the historic original details of what was once the mezzanine patrons ticket window also located in this stairwell; therefore be it

RESOLVED, Community Board Five recommends approval of the application for 138-146 West 48th Street for their application for interior and exterior alterations, as well as an addition of an annex to the west of the theatre.

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