Just a year ago, the retail and entertainment complex at 234 West 42nd Street was a bustling part of Times Square, with Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Dave & Busters and Applebee’s among the establishments anchoring the block between Seventh and Eighth avenues.
But in the wake of the pandemic, tenants have slowly emptied out of the building, and it’s struggling to regain its former glory.
The most recent casualties are Modell’s, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and the Liberty Theater. The three spaces are currently being marketed as available to lease by Cushman & Wakefield, according to public property brochures. They would leave behind a combined 64,728 square feet of vacant space. A broker for the firm declined to comment.
Modell’s, which filed for bankruptcy last year, and the Liberty Theater have already closed their doors. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not was still open on a recent visit, and representatives for the company did not respond to a request for comment.
It’s not the first time that the prime Times Square property has been wounded during the pandemic. A Hilton Hotel at the same location closed permanently last year, and its owner, Sunstone Hotel Investors, turned the keys to the property over to one of its mortgage lenders in January. The hotel’s entrance is now surrounded by yellow caution tape.
Other businesses in the building, including an Applebee’s restaurant, have been closed due to the pandemic. The AMC Empire 25 movie theater was only given the green light to reopen in early March.
Times Square today is nothing like it was a year ago. Last January, the area was a hub of activity, with around 303,338 daily visitors on average. But in January 2021, foot traffic had fallen 70 percent to 89,856, according to the Times Square Alliance’s monthly pedestrian count.
That drop in foot traffic has resulted in bankruptcies, lawsuits and closures — and, consequently, hurt for landlords. The average asking rent per square foot in the area hit $1,643 in fall 2020, a 13 percent decline year-over-year, according to a REBNY retail report.
On a March 16 visit to the property, the Modell’s billboard on the front of the building was dark, as was the one for the Liberty Theater. Ripley’s still had some signs of life, with its doors swung open and videos of human wonders playing on its signage. Several visitors were inside taking pictures.
The Applebee’s, meanwhile, had a sign on its darkened storefront emblazoned with the words, “C’mon In.”