Having built a successful national fashion company, Cyrus Knits, entrepreneurs and developers Cyrus Hakakian and his brothers have set their sights on creating the premier entertainment center on Long Island with the transformation of the historic Westbury Theater into a world class performing arts center and special events venue.
No stranger to the real estate business in the area, the Long Island resident has, with his Lowe Properties partner,s purchased and upgraded a number of commercial properties in the region.
Now the Hakakians are nearing the completion of a project seven years in the making which will have an enormous cultural impact on the North Shore when they officially open The Westbury Performing Arts Center in Mid-March of 2012.
The journey from Seventh Avenue fashion executive to theater owner began when Cyrus Hakakian, equipped with only a flashlight, walked through the interior of the 1927 theater on Post Avenue and was enthralled with the possibilities for the 30,000 s/f complex.
“What was it about this leaking, run down, dark mass of building that made me pay almost $1.7 million for it at auction?,” said Hakakian. “Was it the real estate value? Was it the location? Was it getting caught up in the auction fever or was it something else? All I know is once I stepped foot in this magnificent building with soaring heights and towering stage, I was hooked.”
He retained architectural firms Hoffman Grayson Associates and Zucaro Construction, which has extensive experience in the re-purposement of historic buildings. The team — Neal R. Hoffman, Glen Grayson and Michael S. Vandrei of Huffman Grayson Architects, designer Kara Nykreim and Andy Zucaro — shared his vision of creating a performing arts center that would become the linchpin of the village’s downtown revitalization plans, which include renovated storefronts with vintage signage, a paved piazza with a fountain and waterfall and antique style streetlamps.
The theater with its Broadway size proscenium stage has perfect, unobstructed sightlines from every seat in the house, which can seat 406+ on the main level and 300 in the balcony, making it one of the largest theaters on Long Island.
The Hakakians are currently in discussions with major Broadway producers and performing arts organization heads who are awaiting the opening of a new space to showcase their works. Special programming for children and jazz and comedy series are also in the planning stages.
Additionally, the building will house an upscale restaurant, a high-end coffee house as well as several loft style work-live apartments designated for artists, dancers and musicians.
Replacing its former Tudor-style exterior will be a stone and stucco “contemporary twist on Art Deco style” with decorative mosaics, a tower and a seamed metal roof, said Michael Vandrie, project manager for Hoffman Grayson.
The construction process, according to Hakakian, has created jobs and workers frequent Post Avenue businesses, injecting some $3 million into the village economy during the development stage.
Fully operational, the Hakakians say the performing arts center will create 28 full-time equivalent jobs and the anticipated 480,000 theatergoers expected to visit would generate several million in revenue for village restaurants and merchants plus local, county and State tax revenue.
On target for his mid-March opening date, the brothers are planning a “Hard Hat Party” in November to introduce producers, talent agencies, arts organizations, special events planners and the community to the space in its near completed state.
The Westbury Performing Arts Center is located at 250 Post Avenue, Westbury, NY.