By Orlando Lee Rodriguez
After close to 10 years of bureaucratic red tape, balancing community concerns and raising capital investment, a new development is set to rise at the site of Harlem’s Victoria Theater.
Keeping the former vaudeville houses’ World War I-era façade, Exact Capital along with Danforth Development Partners has tapped architects Aufgang & Subotovsky to design a mixed use hotel and residential development that will feature a 5,000 foot ballroom and 25,000 s/f dedicated to local cultural institutions.
24,000 s/f of retail will also be created at the street level. The 210 room hotel will be run by Cambria Suites.
Atop the hotel will be 206 residential units, 50 percent of which will be designated for affordable housing, a break from the 80/20 split that has become standard for developers.
“It was critically important to us to make the Victoria Theater work for the people who help define this community, as well as a newer residential base,” said M. Steven C. Williams, president and CEO of Danforth Development Partners, a Harlem based real estate acquisition, valuation and development company.
“There has been exciting development in Harlem in recent years and we see an opportunity to hold together this diverse community and highlight its uniqueness,” he said.
The project is anticipated to create 700 construction related jobs as well as 373 permanent positions. Groundbreaking expected to place during the fourth quarter 2013.
“We are developing the Victoria Theater in a way that embraces the old and new Harlem,” said Craig Livingston of Exact Capital, a Manhattan based finance, development and acquisition company that is a partner on the project.
“It is a mixed-use project that utilizes a beautiful circa 1917 façade as an inviting introduction to a brand development,” he said.
The Victoria Theater project is the latest in a slew of new developments, mostly retail, set to hit the north side of 125th Street from 7th to 8th Avenues.
A $14 million, three-story retail complex with a commitment from Red Lobster is under construction next to the Apollo Theater at 269 W. 125th Street. A 30,000 s/f retail building that will feature Blink Fitness and Joe’s Crab Shack is rising at 301 West 125th Street on the corner of 8th Avenue.
Meanwhile, on the south side of the street, The National Jazz Museum and Image Nation have been selected to become part of a new project at 260-262 W. 125th, the now empty former Mart 125 location. A Gap outlet and a Planet Fitness have also both opened on the south side in the past couple of months.
The influx of retail should be welcome. Despite recent gentrification, Harlem still has close to an 18 percent unemployment rate, particularly for young males under the age of 24. The new hotel at the Victoria Theater site will add more rooms to serve the booming Harlem tourist flow. As of today, only the 124 room Aloft Hotel, on the corner of W. 124th Street and 8th Avenue, can offer tourists a space to rest their heads in Harlem