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Views of Columbus Circle (Keller Williams) Views of Columbus Circle (Keller Williams)
Columbus Circle has markedly improved over the last 20 years. While still not as pedestrian-friendly and publically oriented as it should be, it has come quite a ways from the uninviting vehicular sewer it was prior to a 2005 reconstruction that overhauled its pedestrian/vehicular flow while adding a fountain, seating, and a dash of green space.
The traffic circle was finished in 1905 at the dawn of the automobile age. Designed by William P. Eno, a businessman who fostered early innovations in road safety and traffic control, a grandiose rotary at the confluence of Eighth Avenue, Broadway, and 59th Street was originally prescribed in Frederick Law Olmsted's vision for Central Park, aka The Greensward Plan of 1858.
Frederick Law Olmsted's Greensward Plan for Central Park with Columbus Circle to the upper left.
The area of Columbus Circle in 1902
Looking south towards Eighth Avenue/Broadway. Columbus Circle was originally known generically as
Columbus Circle soon after completion in 1907
Before cars took over, the streets used to belong to people. That began to change in the name of safety. The first fatal motor accident in country took place several blocks north of the circle at West 74th Street and Central Park West in 1899.
Columbus Circle in 1939, looking east
Robert Cameron Yes, that's parking. The circle at its nadir in the 80s. (Robert Cameron)
Named after the increasingly controversial figure Christopher Columbus, a 40-foot-tall Carrara marble monument was erected in 1892 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his first voyage to the New World. Rapidly increasing automobile use and the growth of Uptown neighborhoods quickly made the intersection one of the busiest in the city, leading municipal authorities to incrementally scale back its central circular plaza in order to accommodate more cars.
Fast-forward a century later, and it's now quite apparent the detrimental toll automobiles have had on our historic cities. In 1998, the shuttering of the New York Coliseum convention hall (a poster child of the dismal design era of the 1950s) galvanized planners to create a friendlier, more inviting circle oriented for people instead of vehicles.
One of the Columbus Circle reconstruction design entries by Rafael Vinoly Architects
Olin Partnership, in conjunction with Machado Silvetti Winning scheme by Olin Partnership (now Olin Studio), in conjunction with Machado Silvetti
As the colossal Columbus Centre...AOL Time Warner Center...Time Warner Center Deutsche Bank Center got underway, the Municipal Arts Society urged that a world-class design should be created and invited six prominent designers to propose schemes for a great civic space. Philadelphia-based Olin Partnership, in conjunction with Machado Silvetti, was selected based on a design that consisted of a series of concentric rings that buffer traffic and a striking web-like canopy that would rise above (never happened).
A spaghetti of subway lines, underground concourses, water and sewer mains lie beneath the circle (via Olin Studio
via Wikipedia Columbus Circle's configuration today (By TarHeel4793 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
After several years of painful reconstruction, which included replacing water mains, the rehabilitation of sewers, and the installation of a new reinforced concrete roadbed, the $21 million undertaking debuted in 2005 to much fanfare. By melding the once-fragmented circle back together, a generous new public space was created and screened by plantings and a 99-jet fountain designed by WET Design, the team that built the fountains at Las Vegas' Bellagio Hotel.
After several tragic terrorist attacks where cars were used as weapons to mow down pedestrians, the NYPD with the support of design-deficient authorities have steadily peppered the perimeter of the circle with an array of bollards, 'temporary' concrete blocks, and metal barricades in an effort to protect pedestrians. Anti-Columbus protestors, food trucks, bikers, and vendors have further turned the entrance to the park into a cacophonous only-in-New York shitshow.

As a a consortium of civic organizations have called for, now is the time to put in place a public champion of the public realm to not only iron out the city's growing visual chaos but to also equitably push forward high-quality interventions to prominent intersections across the boroughs such as along the Bronx's 149th Street corridor, Harlem's 125th Street, Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza, and stretches of Flatbush Avenue.
The former Edward Durell Stone Building ruined in a short-sighted renovation in 2008.
The Museum of Art and Design Columbus Circle and The Museum of Art and Design (
The Museum of Art and Design View from Robert, the restaurant atop The Museum of Art and Design (
While the circle itself has become more approachable and public-facing, its surrounding buildings have grown more glossy and discordant. The Museum of Art and Design, housed in a building originally designed by Edward Durell Stone, butchered its interesting lollipop motif for a graceless reclad by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works. However, the institution continuously hosts provocative exhibitions and above the museum, the classic modern American restaurant Robert offers some of the best views of Central Park and Columbus Circle open to the public.

Behind the museum building, the former headquarters of General Motors at 1775 Broadway was stripped of its early 20th-century identity and remade into another all-glass box by the Moinian Group in 2010. However, Nordstrom's men's store on its first few floors has made its street presence more attractive. The imposing rental building at 240 Central Park South, a link between pre- and post-war architecture, was recently renovated, and its street-level shops and cafes beautifully engage parkgoers.
Deutsche Bank Center Twenty years later, Deutsche Bank Center remains the most ambitious mixed-use building in the United States
From the outside, the 2.7 million-square-foot Deutsche Bank Center shares much of the overbearing corporate anonymity as its successor Hudson Yards, but inside the dual towered building remains one of the greatest mixed-use buildings in the world with its below-ground Whole Foods supermarket, memorable shopping experience, six great restaurants, the Jazz at Lincoln Center concert halls, 1.1 million square feet of offices and studio space, a Mandarin Oriental Hotel, and 198 condominiums that remain among the most prestigious in the city and rarely come to market.
The supertall towers of Billionaires Row from Columbus Circle
There have been some bright spots, however, mostly coming from the residential end. The bronze and brassy Trump International Hotel & Tower, the former Gulf and Western Building, could be considered one of Donald Trump's few positive contributions to society. The slender supertall towers just off the circle on Billionaire's Row are jarring but are truly marvels of structural engineering. 15 Central Park West, the worthy replacement of the old Mayflower Hotel, accelerated the trend of new buildings taking direct inspiration from traditional architecture.
Quietly taking shape near the northwest perimeter of the circle, a new 25-story residential building has emerged out of the ground at 1841 Broadway, at the corner of West 60th Street. Developed by Gary Barnett's Extell Development Company and designed by INC Architecture & Design, the project was originally envisioned as something more ambitious. With the unraveling of a deal to assemble a larger lot through a sale of properties owned by the New York Institute of Technology, the bullish developer has forged ahead with a more discreet tower, wrapped in ribbon windows and distinguished by a curved corner that nods to the circle itself. Likely a placeholder for some bigger scheme in another decade, the project will bring 173 market-rate and affordable housing rental apartments to the area, many with views of the circle and glimpses of Central Park.
1841-Broadway-02 Extell's new rental tower rising at 1841 Broadway at 60th Street. Quite unimaginative and unworthy of its great location I'd say.
The project replaces buildings at 1841-1845 Broadway
1841 Broadway NYC skyscraper 1841 Broadway rising as of mid-March 2022
NYC rentals

Columbus Circle Listings
1-Central-Park-West-01 Trump International, #1508 (Trump Residential)
From the Listing: Trump International Hotel experienced a superb renovation in 2018, and Hotel Unit #1508 is offered fully furnished including a completely equipped European style kitchen with tasteful decor. Enjoy daily housekeeping and 5-star hotel services including Michelin rated Jean-Georges restaurant and a 6,000-square-foot health club and spa. Ownership offers the potential to generate income while the property is not being utilized by the owner which helps offset some of the expenses. See floor plan and full details here.

301-West-57th-Street-01 Central Park Place, #37C (Douglas Elliman)
From the Listing: A magnificent residence with two private balconies overlooking Central Park and the city, 37C is a stunning two-bedroom condo on Billionaires’ Row. A formal entrance gallery leads you into an expansive living room with three exposures from oversized bay window and two balconies enjoying breathtaking vistas that span from Central Park and Columbus Circle to the southern tip of New York City. The separate kitchen features modern white cabinets with textured glass, handsome granite counter-top, and brand-new stainless-steel appliances including a dishwasher. See floor plan and full details here.

80-Columbus-Circle-01 Residences at the Mandarin Oriental, #67F (Keller Williams)
From the Listing: Seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own in the Premiere Mandarin Residences, where the best of Manhattan is literally outside your front door. Wake up to stunning open sky and river views and host dinners with incredible blazing sunsets as your backdrop. At a gracious 1,180 square feet, you have plenty of space to comfortably live and entertain. The gourmet kitchen is outfitted with a Miele stove and vented Varenna hood, Sub-Zero refrigerator, and a garbage disposal. See floor plan and full details here.

15-Central-Park-West-01 15 Central Park West, #3F (Compass)
From the Listing: Ideally situated across from Central Park, 15 Central Park West is one of Robert A.M. Stern’s most sought-after and prestigious white-glove service buildings on the Upper West Side. Enter this 1,987-square-foot corner residence through the generous 22-foot-deep foyer. Wrapped in eight oversized windows, this residence offers a plethora of natural light from the south, west, and north exposures. The living room captures the southwest corner of the apartment taking in the lush, verdant and lovely streetscape views. Adjacent, is the windowed chef’s eat-in kitchen appointed with custom granite countertops and walnut cabinetry complete with double Gaggenau ovens and a five-burner stove. See floor plan and full details here.

15-West-61st-Street-1 The Park Loggia, #31C (Corcoran)
From the Listing: #PH31C is a three-bedroom, three and a half-bathroom penthouse with a loggia overlooking the Hudson River. The corner living room with oversized floor-to-ceiling windows has commanding views of the Hudson River. Enjoy sweeping views south with sunshine by day and exhilarating views of Midtown’s skyline and mesmerizing Hudson River sunsets by night. The loggia is a natural extension of the living room and seamlessly connects the outdoors to the interior entertaining spaces for use all year round. See floor plan and full details here.

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