Wednesday, April 22, 2009

☞ REVIVE: The Victoria Theater Restoration

The above photo shows how the original 125th Street theater row looked in the 1930's with the Harlem Opera House in the foreground, the Victoria in the center and the Apollo at the far distance. Today, the Victoria's exterior and interior are still intact and waiting for the next incarnation in an ongoing struggle to come up with a plan that would placate all parties involved. On one side, government agencies want to lure big corporate contracts in to develop a high rise condo or hotel complex on top of the theater with only the shell of the facade at its base. Preservationists would like the entire building landmarked and the interior restored as a single theater (the majority of the interior is covered over from the 1980's renovations). Community activist Ethel Bates has been trying to not only preserve the original building, but also have community centers, condos, schools, museums, and four-star restaurants built up on the site.

Both of the development plans seemed plausible in 2007, but are a bit extreme and overly idealistic in 2009. Large scale projects in the most overly priced part of the city have halted, and the idea that building a large structure will automatically bring in jobs is a faulty one. Office spaces are empty in most new constructions, condos are not selling and the only restaurants opening in many luxury buildings are of the fast-food kind; Subway's the new retail tenant in the one of the luxury condos on Central Park North. What's the point of building anything new if "more of the same" will be the result? Smaller scale and more authentic to the Victoria is the way to go. There are more than enough empty lots and abandoned buildings on 125th Street to build new condos or convert into hotels and schools without all the counter-productive politics. See the previous post on the Victoria for more details: LINK

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