The Empire State Building is unveiling the first phase of its modern makeover. Beginning Thursday, visitors to the 87-year-old building will enter at 20 West 34th St., around the corner from the old 350 Fifth Ave. entrance, for an enhanced experience on their way to the top.
The new, larger lobby features a grand staircase surrounding a two-story architectural model of the building itself (model-maker Richard Tenguerian built it in 105 days). Weighing 1,274 pounds, the model has 15,000 LED light bulbs that recreate the skyscraper’s famous light shows. It also features 6,514 windows — the same number as the building itself.
The real Empire State Building has also installed electronic self-service ticket kiosks, interactive “digital hosts” that tell personal stories about the building, and digital signage in English, French, Mandarin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean and Japanese.
The VIP Green Room is a swanky den for celebrities and dignitaries to relax while visiting.
The updated entrance is the first phase of the 10-year Empire State ReBuilding project, which will announce other renovations in the coming months. It promises improvements in energy efficiency, infrastructure, public areas and amenities.
“Our leadership in innovation continues with this transformative reimagination of our entrance, the first phase of the completely new Observatory experience,” Anthony E. Malkin, chairman and CEO of Empire State Realty Trust, said in a statement. “We have a high level of confidence that our work will increase customer satisfaction immensely and drive bottom-line performance. We have already transformed the Empire State Building into the Urban Campus within a building, one of the most modern and energy-efficient buildings in the world.”
The Empire State Building is the third tallest building in New York City and sees 4.2 million visitors each year. The observatory is open 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., 365 days a year.