Apr 28, 2022 - Economy

Times Square is mounting a comeback

People wait in line to buy theater tickets in Times Square on April 27, 2022 in New York City. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Times Square is mounting a comeback after the pandemic devastated Manhattan's tourist economy.

Why it matters: Hotels, tourist attractions and entertainment venues are flocking to the once-office-heavy neighborhood, bringing something of a Las Vegas feel, the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • "People are really bullish on Times Square and Times Square's future," president of the Times Square Alliance Tom Harris told Axios.

Driving the news: New hotels are opening, including a Hard Rock Hotel. Three more are in the site assembly and design stage. according to the Times Square Alliance annual report.

  • Pedestrian traffic is up. Times Square had its highest pedestrian count on March 19, 2022 at 342,000 people — down 9% from pre-pandemic numbers, according to data from the Alliance.
  • And one office landlord — SL Green Realty Corp. — is eyeing building a casino near Times Square, per the Journal.
  • The re-opening of Broadway has helped: The alliance says some weeks have audiences have climbed to just 20% below pre-pandemic levels.
  • "I think that the single best location for a license is Manhattan, and within Manhattan I feel the absolute best, most obvious, least impactful and most globally accepted area will be Times Square," Chief Executive Marc Holliday told the WSJ.

Yes, but: Times Square's economic activity has still not returned to pre-pandemic levels, with just 80% of businesses open and six hotels still closed, per the Journal.

  • And real estate prices are lagging. Hotel investor MCR and international real estate merchant bank Island Capital Group LLC last week paid $373 million for the Sheraton New York Times Square hotel.
  • Host Hotels reportedly paid $738 million when it purchased the hotel in 2006.

The bottom line: Harris is still optimistic that Times Square will rebound and rejected that idea that it would feel more like Vegas than New York: "Times Square is Times Square," he said.

  • "Times Square has never gone backwards in time. We always look forward, we're going to create our new norm."
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