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Lincoln Center: $1.5B Impact

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Not only is Lincoln Center one of New York City's undisputed cultural kingdoms, but according to "The Economic Role & Impact of Lincoln Center," a new report covering the year 2003, it is one of the city's prime fiscal and employment engines as well.

Released Wed., Oct. 13, the study, prepared for Lincoln Center by the Economic Development Research Group, comes six months after the center's constituent organizations, such as the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, and Lincoln Center Theater, announced progress on a $325 million plan -- and capital campaign -- to upgrade and expand its sprawling, multiacre complex on the Upper West Side.

As in most economic-impact studies, various measurements were used. These include "direct effects" (direct spending on all levels of employment), "indirect effects" (businesses supplying goods and services), "induced effects" (economic activity by consumer spending of Lincoln Center employees, suppliers, and vendors), and "visitor effects" (spending by Lincoln Center's out-of-town patrons).

Direct spending on operations by Lincoln Center and all of its resident organizations, the report says, totaled $530 million in 2003; fully $350 million of that figure represented spending on employee wages and benefits. This translated into 9,000 full-time, part-time, and contract positions, equal to approximately 5,500 full-time employees.

Direct, indirect, and induced spending associated with operations spending at Lincoln Center, meanwhile, generated $840 million in sales at New York City firms; this sustained some 5,800 jobs with $295 million in earnings. The report also indicates that in New York state as a whole, Lincoln Center generated $1.01 billion in sales, creating 8,300 jobs with $405 million in earnings.

Spending by Lincoln Center's 4.7 million annual out-of-town visitors also primes the economic pump. Direct spending by these patrons on local restaurants, lodging, retail, and other activities represented $258 million for the city economy in 2003, and if one factors in "indirect" and "induced" business activity, the impact of Lincoln Center's audiences totaled $427 million in New York City, $445 million in New York state.

"The total economic impact of Lincoln Center and its resident organizations," the report ultimately concludes, "is over $1.5 billion in output for metropolitan region firms, with 15,200 jobs providing $635 million in earnings for residents of the metropolitan region."

As Lincoln Center moves forward on its redevelopment -- and with plans scaled down from the $1 billion project first proposed before the recession -- the report provides a historical perspective as well. For example, during the 40-year period 1963-2003, "property values in the Lincoln Square area increased by 2,608%, compared with just 447% for the rest of Manhattan." This, one can be sure, will be a figure used by Lincoln Center to leverage contributions to the redevelopment project's capital campaign, Bravo Lincoln Center.

Last April, the architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (with Fox & Fowle Architects, L'Observatoire International, Cooper, Robertson & Partners, and 2 x 4) issued a plan embracing the spirit of the '60s-era design of Lincoln Center while sprinkling small and large improvements to make it more pedestrian-friendly, dynamic, and inviting. The facilities to be expanded and/or renovated include the Juilliard School, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the School of American Ballet, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and Lincoln Center Theater.

The Film Society of Lincoln Center, for example, will enjoy a new, state-of-the-art presentation and education complex on the south side of 65th Street, adjacent to where a stairway sits presently. Totaling 21,000 square feet, the facility will sport 150-seat and 75-seat screening rooms, an amphitheatrelike public space for lectures and symposia, and a cafĂŠ and coffee bar. Lincoln Center Theater, which recently modernized much of its interior, will have an expanded lobby and new entrance via West 65th Street.

Construction, set to begin in 2006, is scheduled for completion in 2009.

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