NEW YORK, NY -- The AOL Time Warner Center -- owned by Related Companies LP of New York City and designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP -- will open next year in Manhattan's Columbus Circle. The center will take up 2.1 million square feet of the circle, and its two towers will reach 80 stories into the city's skyline.

The center's first five stories -- comprising 340,000 square feet -- will be retail space, dubbed "The Palladium." Top retailers such as: Joseph Abboud, Cole Haan, Hugo Boss, A/X Armani Exchange, J. Crew, Sisley, Benetton Kids, Clio Blue and Eileen Fisher have officially signed on for space in The Palladium. The complex AOL Time Warner blueprints place restaurants, offices and condominiums above the shopping Palladium, while also connecting it to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Designed by Boston-based architects Elkus/Manfredi Architects Ltd., The Palladium layout in the AOL Time Warner Center draws the visitor's attention to the upscale public space. According to Architect Ron Zeytoonian of Elkus/Manfredi, stone was chosen for The Palladium's flooring and wall installation because of this. Stone radiates a feeling of "stability and quality for tenants and the setting in which they sell their products," he said. "The AOL Time Warner Center demanded uncompromised design and sophistication of materials - stone with its inherent richness lent itself to the exterior wall cladding and extensive floor paving."

Innovative Marble and Tile Inc. (IMT - a WBE firm) head-quartered in Hauppauge, NY, was chosen to furnish and install the essential fabricated stone for The Palladium.

The design requires the installation of 12,000 square feet of Jet Mist, flamed finish black granite wall panels. The Galleria's floor calls for 55,000 square feet of Himalayan white granite, Alpina white marble, Marcoli green marble and Absolute black granite - all with a polished finish. The Marcoli green has been chosen as a signature feature for the related lobby wall. This uniquely distinctive and rare, emerald green, beautifully veined, ancient (180,000,000 year old) stone comes from the deserts of Australia. It is close to granite in hardness and durability. Patterned Punto glass pavers will also be used as accenting on the ground floor.

Marble and granite specified for The Palladium was chosen to reinforce the spatial experience through a thoughtful selection of stone types, according to Zeytoonian.

"The paving pattern must weave the various design components together through a choice of color veining and motif," he said. "The Galleria has an impressive scale, recalling the great passages of Europe, while maintaining the intimacy of a 'Madison Avenue Shopping Experience.'"

According to Edward Rappold, IMT's director, the stones used for the project originated from six countries, spanning across five continents. The blocks were shipped from each country to Italy.

"Since all the floor pieces fit together in a special pattern, IMT decided to fabricate all pieces at its Italian fabrication site," said Rappold. "This was done to ensure accurate piece sizing and to facilitate aesthetic quality control."

The complexity of the floor pattern was also intensified by The Palladium's circular design. From the first to fifth level of the AOL Time Warner Center, flooring follows the Columbus Circle design in a sweeping 300 feet radius. All stone that will be installed was cut on a bias to create the segmented radius pattern.

The Palladium's stone installation is scheduled to begin in September 2002 and will be completed by June 2003.