A hulking eyesore that clogs up a prime block on Harlem’s main thoroughfare will be torn down and replaced with a commercial building housing cultural and performing arts facilities, city and state officials disclosed earlier this month.
The project is part of an ambitious revitalization of 125th St. that includes at least eight large-scale development sites from river to river — from a fabled old vaudeville house to a bakery that’s been abandoned for 30 years.
To jump-start the building boom — and change the face of the corridor over the next four years — City Hall and Albany are about to transform a 200-foot parking garage between Lenox Ave. and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.
Plans call for demolishing the two-story, 450-car garage at 121 W. 125th St. and building in its place, a 19-story tower and cultural hub graced with a theater, recital hall, rehearsal space or other entertainment venues.
The city’s Economic Development Corp., teaming up with the Empire State Development Corp., began soliciting proposals on May 15 for the 42,000-square-foot site.
Developers have until July 13 to submit plans and offer a price tag for the parcel, which comes with the right to build 363,000 square-feet of commercial space so long as the cultural amenities are included.
“It’s an underutilized block with a huge potential to give 125th St. something vibrant and iconic and beautiful,” said Justin Ginsburgh, ESDC’s chief of staff.
The goal: To liven up the street, especially at night, by creating a new site for arts, cultural and entertainment venues, and to lure free-spending tourists to fire up the jobs market and the local tax base.
“There is no going backwards now,” said EDC President Seth Pinsky. “What we’re seeing is an irreversible trend toward the completion of multiple projects that have been around for a long, long time.”
That includes Columbia University’s 17-acre, $6 billion super-campus near the Hudson River — and a more modest plan to house two dozen world-famous murals painted on roll-down security gates by Franco (The Great) Gaskin in an outdoor art gallery near the East River.
A look at the developments that are in the works along 125th St.:
Corn Exchange Bank
The landmark building at Park Avenue has been vacant since 1972 when the city took title for nonpayment of taxes.
Developer Artimus will invest $16 million to rehabilitate its historic facade and add an additional six stories of office and retail space. Groundbreaking is scheduled for the end of 2012, EDC says.
The Victoria Theater
The once-proud vaudeville house a few doors east of the Apollo Theater became a multiplex and closed its doors in 1989.
State officials lined up a developer to turn the site into a $140 million, 26-story mixed-use complex with a 200-room hotel, 229 rental apartments and two theaters.
Inked in 2007, the deal was stalled by the recession and is now back on track, with a ground-breaking expected by the end of the year, says Curtis Archer, president of the Harlem Community Development Corp.
“The Victoria is marching to the finish line, and it’s time is now!” he said. “It will be a cultural destination and a jobs magnet that will be transformative for the street.”
The former retail market at 260 W. 125th St., which rented stalls to street vendors, shut down in 2001.
The building will be razed and the site rebuilt as the new headquarters of the National Jazz Museum. A Harlem Visitors Center, run by NC & Co., and an independent film festival, ImageNation Sol Cinema, will also take space.
A developer will be selected later this year, and construction will begin in 2013, city officials say.
La Marqueta Mile
The past-its-prime market running for 22 blocks under the Metro-North tracks and intersecting 125th Street would be reinvented as an upside-down High Line.
The gritty railroad tracks would form the roof of a $50 million, open-air market offering food, arts and crafts.
The 328,000-square-foot complex between Morningside and Amsterdam Aves. has been vacant for three decades. Two developers, Janus and Monadnock, are investing $100 million and have rebranded the building CREATE @ Harlem Green, a space for retail, manufacturing, commercial and creative tenants.
The first tenant: Harlem Brewing Co., which is moving its brewery from Saratoga Springs and plans a beer museum, a tap room and a garden for the hops it will grow on the roof.
Groundbreaking is expected by July, 2013, EDC says.
Editor’s Note: Is this a plan for 125th Street or is this a whoever has the best idea right now wins scenario? Where is the technology for the 21st century? Where is affordable housing? Do these projects coincide with the 197 A Plan? Did we miss the community involvement part of these projects?
What’s goin on?