It's 7 a.m. on March 1, 2001. The hustle and bustle of the big city is coming to life. Store and theater owners are getting ready for the rush of thousands of tourists who pour in daily to snap photographs, spend money and experience the scene of this great community.

It could be a snapshot of New York's Times Square, but it's actually the scene at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. A scene in the future, but the very near future thanks to TrizecHahn's $400 million investment in a new retail and entertainment center.

Many of us who have lived in Southern California over the years are skeptical. This has been tried before and failed. What can be different today than in years gone by?

It's worth going back to the 1970s, when Times Square had become a spawning ground for pimps and drug dealers. It provided the appropriately seedy environment for "Taxi Driver" and "Midnight Cowboy" to be shot unfit for visitors, inhabitants and business people.

It took a private/public campaign effort before investors committed $4 billion in the Times Square neighborhood more than enough to bring back the glamour of 42nd Street. Indeed, more than 20 million tourists now stop by Times Square each year. This renaissance has revitalized Broadway's 39 theaters, with 10.6 million show tickets sold in the 1996-97 season marking a milestone for the largest audience volume on the Great White Way in 16 years.

For non-theatergoers, over 250 restaurants and 10 cinemas boasting 40 new screens beckon. The neighborhood now is home to more than 27,000 residents a population enhanced by nearly 1.5 million commuters who pass through Times Square on a daily basis. Strap-hangers, sightseers, shoppers and strollers make this New York nexus a constantly happening environment.

As for commerce, Times Square is headquarters for about 5,000 businesses and organizations, inhabiting 21 million square feet of office space and employing 213,000 people. The mix reflects the array of disciplines New York attracts from financial services and media to entertainment and fashion.

The impetus for Times Square's incarnation was ignited around the end of 1994 when Walt Disney Co. agreed to renovate a decaying movie theater on West 42nd Street in the center of the square. Within less than three years, the New Amsterdam Theater reopened with a musical production of Disney's "The Lion King." Suddenly, commercial real estate experts and business leaders noted that Times Square worked.

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