711 FIFTH AVENUE
THE COCA-COLA BUILDING
(Formerly the Columbia Pictures Building)
(N.E. corner at 55th Street)
Developer: Floyd De L. Brown
Architect: Bethlehem Engineering Corp.
By Carter B. Horsley
This 320,000-square-foot office building, shown
above before a major alteration in the mid-1990's of its retail
spaces, was one of the handsomest on Fifth Avenue. Its superb
proportions, exquisite, though limited, detailing and palazzo-styling
make an extremely elegant composition strongly accented by its
pediment entrances, a detail of which is shown below, large arched
windows above the retail level and very articulated cornice.
In 1994, the Walt Disney Company disclosed
it was planning to lease most of the building's retail spaces
in an effort to duplicate the spectacular success of the Warner
Bros. Studio Store two blocks north at 57th Street. In the process,
the famous Cote Basque restaurant that was located in retail space
in the building along 55th Street across from the entrance to
the St. Regis Hotel (see The City Review
article), relocated to a new site on 56th Street just to the
east of the Avenue of the Americas.
The new Disney store created a very large,
undulating marquee, shown above, featuring some of the company's
famous cartoon characters. The new store unfortunately removed
one of the elegant pediments and the new marquee earned an "A"
for effort and and a "D" for execution. It is rather
garish and clumsy and not very whimsical and the interior of the
store is very busy and disappointing, especially in comparison
with the far more successful Warner Bros. Studio Store two blocks
to the north on the avenue (see The City
For many years, this building, now known as
the Coca-Cola Building, was known as the Columbia Pictures Building.
Coca-Cola has a small, pleasant retail store just to the north
of the Disney store.
The building's developer was most famous for
buying the former Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Fifth Avenue and 34th
Street for $14 million in 1928 and hiring Shreve, Lamb & Harmon
to design a 50-story loft building to replace it. The stock crash
the next year, however, forced Brown out as an investor and the
site eventually was developed as the Empire State Building.