Our History


Since its founding in 1976, 42SDC has been at the forefront of the redevelopment and revitalization of 42nd Street. We champion and fund arts that catalyze neighborhoods.

We developed the theaters, restaurants, and apartments known as Theatre Row and, in partnership with others, built the Police Stables for the NYPD at the west end of 42nd Street. We were also involved in the successful fight to preserve Grand Central Station. Over the years, many New York City luminaries have served on our Board of Directors, including Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Gerald Schoenfeld, and Marian Heiskell.

Since 1997, the organization has funded Music and the Brain (MATB), an innovative music education program that reaches more than 45,000 students each year. MATB programming is inspired by scientific research which has shown that acquiring music skills in early education can improve proficiencies in language, reading, math and cognition.

While our history is rooted in the development of 42nd Street, our mandate is far reaching. We are currently exploring opportunities in all of the five boroughs of New York City.

TIMELINE
1976
Reclaiming 42nd Street
  • Our Founder, Fred Papert, a former ad man turned historical preservationist, had a passion to bring together the arts and economic development. He established the 42nd Street Development Corporation (42SDC) with a vision to transform the once-derelict west end of 42nd Street into a home for the performing arts.
  • The initial meeting of the Board of Directors of 42SDC was held on May 24, 1976 with some of New York’s most powerful professionals in theater, design, banking, and public relations, as well as with the support of the Municipal Arts Society (MAS) and officials from the City Planning Commission, Port Authority, MTA, and other government agencies.

rr42SDC Founder Fred Papert

1977

JACQUELINE KENNEDY ONASSIS ELECTED TO 42SDC BOARD

  • Though already active in 42SDC reutilization efforts, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was elected as a Director on April 7, 1977.

Photo CFred Papert and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis with Theatre Row “Phase One” model

WEST 42ND STREET TRANSFORMATION BEGINS
  • The transformation of the western area of 42nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues began in August 1977. A groundbreaking ceremony was held to mark the start of construction of “Phase One” of Theatre Row, which would replace existing peep shows and other pornographic venues on the block between 9th and Dyer Avenues with a series of off-Broadway theaters, rehearsal and office space. Plans were also set in place for “Phase Two” which would extend development to the area between Dyer and 10th Avenues.

Photo AFred Papert, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and others at Theatre Row Phase 1 groundbreaking

Photo BOriginal West 42nd Street before “Phase One” Transformation

 

MANHATTAN PLAZA OPENS
  • Neighboring Theatre Row, the affordable housing development Manhattan Plaza opened on 43rd Street and 10th 42SDC played an important role in advocating for the majority of Manhattan Plaza housing to be designated to professional artists.


Photo DManhattan Plaza with Theater Row in foreground

1978
THEATRE ROW PHASE 1 COMPLETE
  • Papert’s initial vision to revitalize 42nd Street came to life with the grand opening of Theatre Row. A celebration was held on May 13, 1978 with Mrs. Joan Mondale serving as Honorary Chair of the event. Vice President Walter Mondale, Mayor Ed Koch, and many other prominent government officials and guests from the entertainment industry were also in attendance to welcome the addition of off-Broadway theatres, rehearsal and office space to the neighborhood. 
SAVING GRAND CENTRAL
  • Papert was one of the key players in the fight to save New York City’s iconic Grand Central Terminal from losing its landmark status and being demolished. Papert, along with fellow MAS Board Member Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and others, form the Committee to Save Grand Central Station with former NYC Mayor Robert F. Wagner as its Chair. On June 26, 1978, Papert and fellow preservationists celebrate victory with the Supreme Court ruling to uphold the Grand Central’s landmark status.

Photo EJacqueline Kennedy Onassis flips the switch to illuminate the south facade of Grand Central Terminal with Fred Papert (courtesy of Charles Ruppmann/NewYork Daily News)

1980
THEATRE ROW PHASE II BREAKS GROUND

On October 8, 1980, 42 SDC broke ground on the second phase of the Theatre Row Project, which extended the redevelopment of West 42nd Street to the neighborhood between Dyer and 10th Avenues.

 

RENOVATION OF BRYANT PARK
  • As a founding member of the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation, Papert aided in the renovation of Bryant Park. A twelve-year effort, Bryant Park was initially cleaned up in the early 1980s, then closed in 1988 in order to undergo a four-year restoration, and finally re-opened to the public in 1992.
1982
A NEW HOME FOR NYPD STABLES
  • 42SDC brought the NYPD Mounted Unit back to midtown after a 15-year hiatus. 42SDC led the acquisition of and converted a former New York Telephone Company building at 42nd Street and 11th Avenue into the new headquarters for the NYPD Mounted Unit and Troop B.
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1997
MUSIC AND THE BRAIN
  • As part of its ongoing commitment to bringing arts to the community, 42 SDC founded Music and the Brain (MATB) – a program which provides early music instruction to young children in under-served neighborhoods.
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1999
TRANSFORMATION OF THEATRE ROW
  • 42SDC, in partnership with the Port Authority, Playwrights Horizons, and the Schubert and Brodsky organizations, commenced a complete redevelopment of the Theatre Row block between 9th and Dyer Avenues.
2002
  • Construction of the present day Theatre Row (theatrerow.org) was completed in November 2002. Designed by famed architect Hugh Hardy in conjunction with SLCE Architects, with signage by the renowned graphic artist Ivan Chermayeff, the Theatre Row complex today includes the Clurman, Beckett, Lion, Kirk and Acorn theatres. 42SDC also leases space to two restaurants – Jean Claude Baker’s Chez Josephine Restaurant and the Theatre Row Diner, both of which have become a thriving part of this block.

Separately, Playwright’s Horizons developed a new multi- theater complex and the Schubert Organization opened the 499-seat Little Shubert (now Stage 42) on the Theatre Row block.

The success of Theatre Row allows for 42SDC to continue to improve New York City through important projects bridging the arts and economic development.

theatre_row

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TODAY

The neighborhood surrounding West 42nd Street continues to flourish and expand. The land previously owned in part by 42SDC on the block between Dyer and 10th Avenues is now home to the MiMa luxury apartment complex and the Frank Gehry-designed Signature Theatre. A new hotel under construction on the southwest corner of 42nd Street and 9th Avenue will only further add to the ongoing resurgence of the Theatre Row block.

Photo FMiMa apartments and Signature Theatre