McLaren Helps Restore Magnificence of Longacre Theater

The renovated mezzanine at Longacre Theater.  Photo by Whitney Cox, courtesy of the Shubert Archive.

Hired by the Shubert Organization, McLaren Engineering Group served as the structural engineer for the renovation of Longacre Theater, a 91-year-old entertainment landmark in New York City’s Theater District.

The award-winning renovation, which began in 2006 and ended this spring, has re-established the Theater’s appeal and emphasized its cultural significance. The modifications increased the re-opened Theater’s usable space, made its lobbies more patron-friendly, and restored its architectural design and detailing to its originally intended elegance.

Combined with the building’s Landmark status, the primary challenge for McLaren was limited construction documentation. This set of conditions placed an emphasis on design creativity and preservation technique; in fact, almost every aspect of the renovation was influenced by the age of the Theater – right down to its new sign.

McLaren’s involvement began with the backstage area, where the firm helped design gridiron reinforcing, a new stage floor, and basement renovations. The house and lobby overhaul then began, which included converting the top floor to a patron lounge, expanding the basement lounge and restrooms, improving stair and elevator access, adding a doorman vestibule, and upgrading MEP equipment.

The key aspect of the front-of-house renovations concerned the basement lounge. Here, McLaren provided the structural and geotechnical services needed for an 800 sq. ft. basement addition, an expansion into unexcavated soil and bedrock. Due to the lack of structural drawings, McLaren coordinated several investigatory probes to understand how the building was built. With the site conditions being uncertain, the firm provided daily consultant services in order to develop immediate solutions.

Specific work included shoring and extension of steel existing columns, demolition of original brick piers, demolition of foundation walls, and installation of transfer beams. These modifications allowed for increased bathroom capacity, a new bar and concessions stand, and a more aesthetically pleasing ambience.

The upper floor also received a complete renovation for creation of a new lounge. On the lobby’s west side, McLaren helped to redesign the staircase to meet modern code requirements. On the east side, office and storage space was replaced by additional staircases and several new HVAC units and computerized controls. McLaren also designed new lighting pipe positions at both the mezzanine and balcony levels; and reinforcing for the box-booms to increase the load capacity in these lighting positions. The mezzanine’s conditions were evaluated in order to improve the sightlines.

Outside, skylights above the former office space were covered and roof penetrations were made to re-route ductwork. Additional dunnage was also added to the roof to support an additional air conditioning unit. Fire escapes were added, the east alley was modified, and a new doorman vestibule was constructed. And, finally, a new, triangular sign was placed over the Theatre’s marquee.