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February 8, 2004


Time Warner Center: Now Open to the Peasant Class

This weekend, the rest of the world (apparently) and I got a chance to check out Time Warner Center, the giant new retail/office/residential space in Columbus Circle. (Our friends over at manyhighways.com went too, and took a bunch of pictures.) It's like walking around in a very narrow mall, except if you stand in just the right place, you have a nice view of the southern edge of Central Park. As you walk from one end of a floor to the other, you begin to feel like you're in a mall out in the suburbs, until you unexpectedly run out of space: the floorplan is so narrow, there's only room for a handful of stores on each floor, and then you have to double-back to the escalators before you even build any momentum. Even J. Crew has to be divided up between two floors.

As has been widely reported, the stores there are mainly high-end and useless. If you are a guy and need, for example, a regular pair of pants, I think you have exactly two options: J. Crew and Armani Exchange, and the term "regular" may not even apply to the latter. Yes, there's a big ass Whole Foods Market, and yes, the Borders is pretty big, but who wants to shop at a book store where the average CD costs TWENTY DOLLARS?? Not me.

The problem with places like the TWC is that they are in direct opposition to the idea of cities. My friend Heather points out that putting everything together and inside one building takes away from economic diversity and street culture and somehow alters the basic experience of living in, and being a part of, a city. Even with high-end stores like these that I don't even care about, I feel like it takes something away from 5th Avenue and some of the other shopping districts in New York. As the TWC opened its doors the other day, the area around Columbus Circle was a mixed-up kind of neighborhood: to the south, there's some crappy little stores and some crappy big stores mingled in with dreary office buildings, lonely souvenir shops, tailor shops, delis, and diners; to the north, Central Park West begins asserting its polished identity. But now that the TWC is the new monolithic anchor of the area, it dominates the neighborhood's diverse character, and separates the CPW folks from their rag-tag neighbors south of the Circle. With TWC there, all those CPW-ites can get their shopping done inside, without ever needing to venture into the shabbier parts of the West 50s again.

However, in all this, there is one silver lining. The $1.8 billion project has given all New Yorkers something we desperately needed: A decent place to go to the bathroom in Midtown. They're on your left as you get off the second-floor escalator.

Anyway, like I said, the NYC photo blog Many Highways has this set of photos, which were culled from a ton of his other TWC photos. And here's pictures of famous people enjoying the mall, before they let in us common folk.

categories: NYC
posted by adm at 10:29 PM | #