News from the North: Times Square in New York has been saved. That is, saved from the plan to save it by obliteration and replacement. What is left is Times Square, the show and tourism center of Gotham, long since gone more squalid and sometimes-scary than Baltimore's Block after midnight.
The plan was to save Times Square from its decades-long descent by an office redevelopment so massive that sleaze would be priced out. This project -- four massive towers, a trade mart, a hotel and renovation of historic run-down theaters -- was announced by city and state in 1981. Developers and architects were chosen the next year, their plan approved in 1984. What's happened since then has been a steady condemnation and removal of small tenants from the real Times Square, and withdrawal from the fantasy deal by the classy big tenants counted on to replace them.
Now city and state are releasing the developer from the timetable and approving piecemeal redevelopment on a market-driven scale. That has been happening north of the condemned area anyway, with a recently opened glitzy hotel. The developers can still build their office towers one at a time if they find tenants, but nobody expects that soon.