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MAS Presents Initial Results for Imagine Coney

Today, MAS released a new concept for Coney Island that features near-term and long-term programming elements. The concept calls for Coney Island to become the main stage for New York City, providing a platform for small and large performances and events in coordination with its role as an amusement destination. See photos below.

The concept, which would include a variety of indoor and outdoor facilities, could be implemented immediately (Summer 2009) and would take advantage of the parcels of undeveloped land in Coney Island, much of which is now vacant or operating as street-level parking. The concept also offers a thematic focus for the long-term redevelopment of Coney Island and creates a bridge to the point in the future when it can be implemented.

“Coney Island always has been and always should be an entertainment destination for the city and the world,” said MAS President Kent Barwick.

“By positioning Coney Island as a venue for small and large events year-round, we can immediately begin to attract new visitors while entertaining those who are already there, creating economic activity in the process.”

The concept is the product of “Imagine Coney,” an initiative that featured a global Web-based call for ideas, public input meetings and a charette (an intense design workshop) featuring a team of world-class architects, amusement designers and economists. The concept is intended to serve as a starting point to generate near-term momentum for the district.

Noted entertainment developer David Malmuth, who participated in the “Imagine Coney” effort, said that near-term live entertainment programming – from festivals and concerts to arts events – is an essential first step to begin generating excitement about a revitalized Coney Island. Malmuth, managing director of RCLCo, a development services organization, is a former vice president of Disney, who oversaw the renovation of the New Amsterdam Theater in New York City, and the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.

Malmuth said that, when completed, a well-executed new amusement park in Coney Island could attract 3.5 million visitors, and that this traffic would support revenue-generating uses such as retail, hotels, restaurants and housing. He also said a major new ride is critical to reestablishing Coney Island.

In addition to Malmuth, the charette team included legendary British architect Tim Thorton of Alsop Architects, whose Sharpe Center in Toronto transformed the architectural culture of that city; stage designer George Tyspin, who is currently working on the stage adaptation of Spiderman and recently completed the design for the new Sea Glass Carousel in Battery Park City; and creative producer and former Disney executive Anne Hamburger, who oversaw programming in all of Disney’s theme parks for more than eight years.

Earlier this month the charrette team gathered at Borough Hall for a briefing session on Coney Island hosted by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. The group heard from all the major Coney Island stakeholders, including the Coney Island Development Corporation, the Department of City Planning, Coney Island USA, the Astella Development Corporation, Creative Time, and many others. The team also was informed by the many ideas generated from MAS’s public outreach on the issue.

On November 13 and November 14 the team conducted an intensive design workshop at the New York Aquarium to identify new ideas that would build on the considerable planning work done so far by the City. The group sought to address the needs of Coney Island stakeholder groups while considering new designs, uses and activities ranging from amusements and rides to events and public art.

“Mayor Bloomberg has made remarkable strides toward a revitalized Coney Island and has repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to this neighborhood,” said MAS President Kent Barwick. “We hope that the creative ideas in this initial concept will prompt more new ideas and new investment that will spark new life in this district.”

Among the concepts from the charrette: an extraordinary new cable-car ride that would float through clouds and connect all of the major Coney Island attractions; a wave-like retractable roof that would ensure 12-month seasonality for Coney Island; an “electric city” that would feature small-scale, local entrepreneurs, amusement operators with 21st century digital skin signage; and a high-rise hotel and entertainment district north of Surf Avenue that would feature extraordinary new architecture.

“The long-term future of Coney Island begins with a short-term programming schedule,” said Barwick. “We must send a clear message to the world that Coney Island is back, and get people going there this summer. Unless that starts to happen, a robust long-term vision will become less and less viable.”

As the next step in the “Imagine Coney” process, MAS will provide a more detailed programming and funding proposal — for 2009 and beyond – at the turn of the year.