News: architecture firm Snøhetta has concluded the first phase of a major overhaul of New York's Times Square, continuing the initiative started in 2009 to pedestrianise large sections of the popular tourist destination.
The $55 million reconstruction project is the largest redesign of the square in decades and encompasses the transformation of five public plazas between 42nd and 47th Streets, which will be entirely reconstructed to remove any traces that vehicular traffic once ran through the square along the Broadway.
Snøhetta completed the redevelopment of the plaza between 42nd and 43rd Streets just in time for the New Year's Eve celebrations. It features flattened-out curbs that create single-level surfaces for pedestrians, as well as new benches and paving surfaces.
Working alongside engineers Weidlinger Associates and landscape architect Mathews Nielsen, the architects plan to open a second plaza by the end of 2015 and complete the entire project the following year.
This stretch of the Broadway was first closed to traffic in 2009 as part of an initiative by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg to provide additional space for more than 400,000 pedestrians who pass through Times Square every day. Since then the square has seen a 33 percent reduction in traffic-related injuries, as well a 180 percent increase in shop lets around the square.
"Since we first introduced temporary pedestrian plazas in Times Square, we have seen increased foot traffic and decreased traffic injuries - and businesses have seen more customers than ever," said Bloomberg. "With more than 400,000 pedestrians passing through Times Square every day, the plazas have been good for New Yorkers, our visitors, and our businesses - and that's why we're making them permanent."
Once complete, the restructuring will add 13,000 square-metres (140,000 square-feet) of new pedestrian space to Times Square. It will feature ten solid granite benches, as well as two-tone paving slabs with embedded metal discs, designed to reflect the neon glow from surrounding signs and billboards.
"With innovative designs and a little paint, we've shown you can change a street quickly with immediate benefits," said transportation commissioner Sadik-Khan.
The project is one of 59 new public squares under development across the city initiated by Bloomberg. Various other public realm improvements have also taken place in the city in recent years, including the introduction of a cycle-hire scheme and the continuing extension of the elevated High Line park.