HARLEM, NY - A West Harlem community board is asking the public to
weigh in about what should be done with a historic but decaying old movie
palace that two competing developers want to remake into an affordable housing
The 1,857v-seat RKO Hamilton Theater on Broadway and 146th Street
showed its last movie in 1958. Since then, it has hosted an evangelical church
and served as a boxing ring, a disco and a refrigerator warehouse, acording to
a 2013 Daily News article, but eventually fell into direpair.
While the theater's ornate terra cotta exterior on Broadway is landmarked,
the interior is not, and developers Brisa Omni New York and Brisa Builders
are both seeking to build on the site while preserving some of its historic
Omni and Brisa both pledge to build hundreds of affordable units on the site,
as well as a new arts center to maintain the theater's heritage.
The companies presented their plans to Community Board 9 in July.
The board is now asking neighbors to fill out a poll by Sept. 30, indicating
which plan they prefer. The proposal by Omni, a Manhattan-based
developer specializing in affordable housin, would build two new 14-story
buildings on the site, including up to 200 new aprartments for families making
between 30 and 110 percent of the area's median income. Omni decided
against trying to rehabilitate the theater space after finding it would cost as
much as $50 milion, presenters said,. Instead, they would preserve elements
including the theater's fabric wallpaper, stair railings and light fixtures to be
used in the new building.
Omni is proposing to build an "entertainment hub" focused on theater, dance
and the performing arts - including a 200-seat theater that would be managed
by Diana Byer, founder of the New York Theatre Ballet.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn-based Brissa's proposal cals for a new 18-story tower
and another 10-story building built on the vacant lot at the north end of the
site. The would house a combined 250 new affordable aprtments. Brisa
is proposing a 20,000-square-foot community arts facility, including
a brick bos theatre to be built inside the shell of the existing theater.
More information about the proposals is available at Community Board
9's website, or watch each developer's presentation at the July 13
meeting below (Omni's starts around the 8 minute mark, while Brisa's
begins around 52:30).