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When Lehman Brothers purchased One Times Square in 1995, they envisioned a new kind of tenant: advertisers. Instead of renting the offices inside the 25 floor building, they began retrofitting the facade with billboards. By 1997, the profits were up 400%, and the inside was empty. The New York Times reported: “The building is vacant and, aside from a possible theme restaurant in its base, is likely to remain mostly empty, continuing to serve as little more than a gigantic billboard.”

So it remains 16 years later, hosting little more than a ground floor Walgreens and the office of Countdown Entertainment. The company, known for the New Years Eve Ball, organizes all Times Square entertainment on the last day of each year. One Times Square is also the year-round home of the New Years Eve Ball.

New Years Ball-Times Square-Untapped Cities-Ben Helmer-3937From atop One Times Square, the real face of the building can been seen apart from the scaffolding holding the billboards for which it is known.

The New York Times themselves play a role beyond the article and in addition to providing the namesake for Times Square. The Newspaper had the building constructed to serve as their new Midtown Headquarters, relocating from downtown in 1905. Yet the turn of the century building was faltering just a few years before the sale, as it filed for bankruptcy in 1992, just three years before the Lehman Brothers purchase.

What struck the real-estate market as a mad purchase in the 90’s was recently reported by The Wall Street Journal to be wildly successful. In 2012, they cited an appraisal note in One Time Square’s loan documents  to be $495 Million, a staggering figure compared to the $27.5 million it fetched when it sold to Lehman Brothers in 1995.

These figures would come as a surprise to no one today. The real surprise, on the other hand, comes in the huge ratio of dollars to tenants.

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One Times Square-Midtown Manhattan-Untapped Cities-Ben Helmer-3749Scaffolding erected atop One Times Square raises billboards several additional stories to provide additional ad space on the iconic building. (above/below)

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See our behind-the-scenes photos of the New Year’s Eve Ball, on a tour with Countdown Entertainment and Atlas Obscura, and how Times Square gets its name. Get in touch with the author @atomox. See more quirky NYC facts and discoveries in our “Daily What?!” series. Submit your own via Twitter with the hashtag #DailyWhat.