NEW YORK – After six years of searching, the Second Stage Theater Co. has found a new home: a former bank at the corner of Eighth Avenue and 43rd Street in the rapidly changing Times Square neighborhood.

The first major Off Broadway company to finalize a move to Times Square since the district began its transition from red-light to klieg-light more than a year ago, Second Stage will be located only a block and a half from the landmark Broadway theaters on 42nd Street being renovated by the Walt Disney Co. and Livent Inc. The Roundabout Theater, a nonprofit company currently housing a Broadway-size theater and a smaller Off Broadway venue in the Criterion Center at Broadway and 45th Street, reportedly is considering a move to another landmark 42nd Street house, the Selwyn Theater.

At least one other Off Broadway company, Primary Stages, is considering taking up residence in the neighborhood, sources said.

Although a string of Off Broadway and Off Off Broadway venues have existed for years along a stretch of 42nd Street, the ongoing interest in the Times Square district itself signals the neighborhood’s rapid cleanup orchestrated by the city and state. Initially, said Carole Rothman, Second Stage artistic director, the theater “will be sharing the block with several pornographic institutions, but we hope to be a part of the change on that block.”

Longterm lease

The 18-year-old Second Stage has signed a 20-year lease for the second and third floors of the 1927 art deco bank building, and plans call for the construction of a 300-seat theater, dressing rooms and rehearsal and office space. Rothman estimated the cost of the move, including construction, at $4 million.

Rothman also said Second Stage will continue to stage productions at its home since 1984, the 108-seat McGinn-Cazale Theater located on Broadway at 76th Street.

Construction on the new theater is expected to begin in September, with a move-in date set for September 1998.

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