Day: October 17th, 2007

How times have changed

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007 | All Things, NYC History

It is remarkable how much this transit hub at the southwest entrance to Central Park has changed over the years. I remember a time not too long ago — more than five years, but less than ten — when I would detour well out of my way to avoid this gritty roundabout and its forbidding maze of scaffolding. Columbus Circle was home to a shantytown in the early 1990s, and as recently as 2002, the surrounding area was still considered “a little seedy, bits of pre-Giuliani New York.” Enter one shiny 2.8 million square foot complex with its pricy residences, five star hotel, world class performance venue and (of course) shopping mall and it’s an entirely different scene. These days, Columbus Circle sits within (money) throwing distance of three of the city’s most expensive restaurants: Masa, Per Se and Jean Georges.

And of course, just a couple blocks north: starchitect Robert A.M. Stern’s ultra-luxury condominium tower 15 Central Park West, where former CEO of Citigroup Sanford Weill acquired a $42.4 million penthouse in August — low floor maids’ suites sold separately.

So where did all the homeless go?

Renovations to the circle itself were completed in Summer 2005 and included new benches, plantings and water fountains by WET Design, the firm responsible for the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Columbus Circle fountain

Columbus Circle fountain

Fun fact: The Christopher Columbus monument at the circle’s center is the point at which distances to and from New York City are officially measured; just as in Boston, the highway miles are measured not to the city limits, but to the Massachusetts State House dome.

Columbus Circle fountain

Flickr preview: glimpse a less sanitized New York at the graffiti artists’ reception at Ye Olde Carlton Arms Hotel (November 1, 2007)

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