A major development firm whose projects have included the flagship Toys ‘R’ Us, Foot Locker and Swatch stores in Times Square will soon be bringing its expertise to the heart of New Haven’s downtown entertainment district.

Bow Tie Partners, a New York-based real estate and development company, plans to completely restore and develop The United Illuminating Company’s former headquarters, originally built in 1938 and located on the corner of Temple and George Streets.

The firm submitted its first proposal for site plans to the City Plan Commission on Friday, New Haven City Planner Joyce Ford said.

The plan includes five motion picture theaters with 800 seats total, one restaurant space, one bar space on the first floor, and 44 apartment units in the next three floors of the building, Ford said.

“It’s a mixed-use proposal, with residential and commercial use,” she said.

Since the spring of 2003, when Bow Tie Partners purchased the historic building and began working on a full top-to-bottom restoration, the company has been assessing the space to determine what could most benefit the city, Bow Tie partner Charley Moss said.

“We’re evaluating a bunch of options, trying to finalize plans,” said Moss, who added that definite plans for the restored building will likely not be completed until the beginning of 2004.

Craig Russell of the New Haven Economic Development office said city officials have shown Bow Tie Partners around the building site and helped them with taxation matters. The city is also collaborating with the Bow Tie project by agreeing to improve certain aspects of the location, such as lighting and sidewalks.

“I think it’s a great project,” Russell said. “The building has historical value, and we’re glad to see that they’re developing it. I don’t think they’ll have a problem renting the space out.”

Director of Town Green Special Services District Scott Healy said there is currently a “tremendous demand” for residential space downtown, especially for luxury rental units. He said more and more retired professionals and younger professionals without children are flocking to the area, particularly for all the cultural amenities it offers.

Healy said most of the projects Bow Tie Partners takes on are “interesting,” adding that they have a lot of experience working with historic buildings and converting them into retail and theater space.

Moss said their focus is on “preserving the architectural integrity” of their buildings, while finding some use for the space that might be more suitable.

“We do unique, one-of-a-kind projects,” Moss said.

Some of the projects Bow Tie Partners have undertaken include the Toys ‘R’ Us store in Times Square — which features a giant indoor Ferris wheel — ranch communities near Aspen, Colo., and several radio stations built from renovated bank buildings.

Moss said the firm has been working fairly independently on the New Haven project, although city officials have been “extremely helpful.” He said he could not estimate how long the project would take.

Healy said demand is high enough for developers like Bow Tie to purchase buildings such as the one on 80 Temple Street and convert them into residential and commercial units.

“We’re very confident they won’t have any difficulty filling in storefronts,” Healy said.

Other downtown locations currently being developed for residential and commercial purposes include the Chapel Square Mall, the former SBC headquarters at 227 Church Street, and a number of other sites in the Ninth Square Phase II project.