Disney Comes to Times Sq…El Capitan For East?


Disney selects a new retail location near its New Amsterdam Theatre to replace its shuttering Fifth Avenue store.

Mickey Mouse has finalized his plans for a Times Square invasion. Disney Store North America announced Tuesday that it has signed a lease for the former home of Virgin Records at 1540 Broadway, between West 45th and West 46th streets.

Speculation has abounded in the 18 months since Pasadena, Calif.-based Disney announced it would be abandoning its 15-year location at 711 Fifth Ave. later this month, thanks to hefty rent increases. Though the move to Times Square is partially financial—rents on Fifth Avenue above 49th Street are near $2,000 a square foot, while prices in Times Square average $800 to $1,000 a square foot—the brightly-lit neighborhood will also give Disney access to tourists and locate it close to competitors like Toys R Us.

“The physical layout and square footage availability was what we were looking for,” said Jim Fielding, president of Disney Stores Worldwide. He explained that the proximity to the new Times Square pedestrian park, as well as the closeness to Disney’s theatrical ventures, such as the New Amsterdam Theatre, were key in picking the Vornado Realty Trust-owned site. Disney also liked the build-out Vornado submitted for the new store.

Other locations formerly in the running included 1515 Broadway and 1604 Broadway.

Though Mr. Fielding would not disclose actual square footage, Disney is expected to use a portion of the first, second and third floors for a total of almost 25,000 square feet, according to sources. The Times Square store is slated to open in late fall. The company formerly operated a retail store on West 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue, in a space that has since become a Champs store.

Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins noted that 1540 Broadway suits Disney because it is a site near and dear to the neighborhood’s history. The opening of the Virgin Records Megastore there in 1996 was innovative as a new, cutting-edge retailer.

“[Disney will be in] the very spot where Virgin made a major statement,” Mr. Tompkins said. “Virgin was the beginning of the retail transformation of Times Square, which led to the Toys R Us ferris wheel and other entertainment-oriented retail.”

Disney began renovating the nearby New Amsterdam Theatre in the mid-1990s and which is also important in the area’s history.

The new Disney store will feature technological advancements, as inspired by Steve Jobs of Apple Inc., including a new theater, where visitors can see Disney movies, TV and publishing in a “new way,” Disney’s Mr. Fielding said. “We have projection televisions in all of our stores, but this will be presenting things in a new, immersive and experiential way that’s never been done before.”

The flagship will also host events timed with film premiers and Halloween, along with talent appearances, and will have an interactive Disney Princess castle ranging over 12 feet tall as one of its design centerpieces.

Unlike the former Fifth Avenue World of Disney store, which was operated by Disney Parks and Resorts, the Times Square Disney Store will be operated by Disney Consumer Products.

Though the Times Square spot will be one of more than 20 new stores Disney is introducing in 2010, it will be the last to debut. The first is expected to open on the West Coast at the beginning of the summer. The reinventions are part of Disney’s five-year retail strategy.

Source = Crain’s NY

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