Apple Raises Curtain on Spectacular NYC Store

November 11, 2009

On Wednesday evening workers removed the plastic covering over the enormous glass storefront of the Upper West Side (NYC) retail store at 67th Street and Broadway, revealing a single, stone-walled room lit by ceiling lights at night, and flooded with sunlight during the day. Besides the ground-level space with four rows of display tables, there is spiral glass staircase leading down to a lower level, presumably the same size as the 8,500 square-foot main level. The size and scale of the store, and the amount of stone that was used both eclipse any previous Apple store project. The only stainless steel visible is on the huge backlit Apple logo suspended from the inside ceiling. View a photo gallery of the store.

The store’s grand opening is set for 10 a.m. Saturday. Previous high-profile store openings in NYC have been at 6 p.m. on Fridays. Celebrities were invited to two previous New York grand openings, lured with promises of free Apple merchandise, including laptops and software. It’s possible that invitees to this opening will represent that world of stage arts, since the Lincoln Center is just a short two blocks away from the Apple store.

At the West 14th Street store, Apple gave out a special edition poster along with the commemorative T-shirts. At that store’s opening, if you found a sticker on the inside of the poster tube cap, you won one of several prizes, including an iTunes gift card, an few iPod shuffle or a laptop. Apple has never given away free products based upon visitors being among the first in line for the grand opening.

At night the store is a beacon visible for several blocks, especially for those approaching by car or on foot from the south. The glow of the ceiling lights, the backlit logo and the back-lit wall graphics are brighter than anything on Broadway. As you approach closer, the towering height of the storefront becomes apparent. Once in front of the building, you realize that Apple opted not to create another Boston or Regent Street (London) store, with a mezzanine level. They took the Scottsdale Quarter (Arizona) store and did it one better—this single space is about two and one-half times the volume of the Scottsdale building, and with a second level hidden away below ground like Fifth Avenue (NYC).

The sunlight will be interesting to watch from day to day, and from season to season. The store is roughly angled east-to-west from front-to-back. Depending upon the shadows created by nearby buildings, the sun will strike the back wall in the morning, rise over the glass ceiling, and then shine back at the front door during the evening.

Besides the glass storefront, there is about 30 feet of the left sidewall on 67th Street that is also glass. This setback allows a wider view of the store’s interior, especially since the two walls come together at an acute angle at the corner. Also, an all-stone wall along 67th Street would have made the exterior more massive to passersby.

Bicycle fencing prevents anyone from using the sidewalk in front of the store right now, since they are still moving equipment back and forth. An unsightly orange-and-white vehicle barrier still protects pedestrians forced to walk in the street by the sidewalk closure. On 67th Street, scissor lifts and work trucks still block one lane of traffic. A temporary traffic signal, anchored with a large block of concrete, sits at the corner.

By 10 p.m. Thursday workers inside were using wipes and feather dusters to clean the display tables and sidewall display counters. Other workers were preparing to re-clean the stone flooring. Outside, a crew on a scissor lift was starting to clean the entire 54-foot height and 75-foot width of the front window.

At about the same time, Karl Backus, manager of Apple’s projects for architects Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, appeared at the store, walking the perimeter sidewalks and taking photos.

The store drew various reactions among New Yorkers. One woman passing the store on Thursday night asked another person when the store was opening. She then sniffed, “It’s a eyesore!” and quickly moved on in the 50-degree wind. Another passerby commented to someone on her cellular telephone that the store was “just one floor,” explaining Apple’s design decision by saying the company was “cheap.”

There are several amenities near the store, including a Barnes & Noble, Starbucks, the large Food Emporium grocery store, a late-night movie theater across the street, and a noodle and grill restaurant right next door that includes a “public space” indoor seating area (common in NYC). The #1 subway line (Lincoln Center) is just 1-1/2 blocks away, and the A-B-C-D lines are about another two blocks south.

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