Tuesday, October 9, 2012

360,000-SF Victoria Project To Highlight Harlem's Past--and Future

A rendering of the two 26-story
towers that will be built above
the historic Victoria Theater on
125th Street in Harlem.

NEW YORK CITY-A new hotel, apartments, retail and cultural space are all part of a $143-million plan to bring a mix of commercial uses to Harlem’s storied 125th Street corridor. After Empire State Development approved Danforth Development Partners plan to construct more than 300,000 square feet above the historic Victoria Theater in July, the developer has tapped architect Ariel Aufgang to design the project with a special focus on preservation and progress.
“The whole idea of developing this mixed-use structure is that we are trying to make a destination for the community and for people from outside the community,” Aufgang tells GlobeSt.com. “It will be the center of attention.”
The project – which will rise midway between the New York State Office Building and the Apollo Theater – involves the construction two 26-story towers, a hotel and an apartment building, will be constructed above the historic Victoria Theater, whose original 1917 terra cotta facade and ornate lobby will be restored. The two towers, a 210-room hotel and a 230-unit apartment tower, will have a combined 360,000 square feet of space.
Aufgang – part of Suffern, NY-based Aufgang + Subotovsky Architecture – says the team is working to preserve and restore historic components of the theater while bringing new amenities and services to the area. He notes that the hotel will be the first full-service hotel in the history of Harlem, complete with a 5,000-square-foot ballroom and a four-story base called the “podium,” which has 25,000 square feet of retail space and 25,000 square feet of cultural space. Upon completion, it will house institutions such as the Classical Theater of Harlem, JazzMobile, the Apollo Theater Foundation and the Harlem Arts Alliance.
“What’s most remarkable about the job is the mix of all the different uses and the fact that it is also combining a presentation program that will link with Harlem’s past and a brand new building on top that will connect with the future, and that’s the most compelling part,” he says.
Aufgang says the entrance to the hotel will be on 125th Street, through the Victoria Theater's lobby, which will be restored, with its signature fountain, marquee, grand staircase and lighting, much of which has been preserved. Restoration will be based on original plans and designs, including paint colors. The hotel lobby will feature high-end retail space. The entrance to the apartment tower will be on 126th Street through a porte cochere. The covered circular driveway will facilitate the flow of vehicles transporting residents and minimize traffic congestion on the street. Each building will face the street--the hotel entrance on 125th Street and the apartment building entrance on 126th Street.
In terms of community response, Aufgang says the neighborhood has welcomed the project. Both ESD and the Harlem Community Development Corporation have already approved the general project plan, and he adds that the project has been very well received. “It is a big building, but everyone agrees that is right-sized for the elements that are needed for the community now,” he says.
Jacqueline Hlavenka Jacqueline Hlavenka, East Coast Editor for GlobeSt.com and Real Estate Forum, is responsible for coverage of news and information pertaining to commercial real estate in New York City. Prior to joining ALM, she served as a municipal beat reporter for Greater Media Newspapers in central New Jersey. Her work has also been published in The Asbury Park Press, The Village Voice, Interior Design Magazine and Condé Nast’s Cookie Magazine. Contact Jacqueline Hlavenka.

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