Designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb, the structure was said to be one of the largest, and most beautiful theaters in the New York area. Built in 1917 at a cost of $250,000, it had a seating capacity of over 2,400 and it is located on the same block as the historic Apollo Theater.
The theatre, which has been empty since 1989, is scheduled for a redevelopment. The plan includes preserving its historic facade, lobby, marquis and signage and transform the space into 385,000 square feet of mixed use space which will include 191 mixed-income residential rental units, half of which will be affordable – and a 210 room, full-service hotel. The project, located at 233 West 125th Street, will soar to 26 stories.
The Apollo’s Victoria Theater, located within the Victoria Redevelopment Project at 233 West 125th Street, a public/private partnership, with the hope of beginning performances in the Apollo’s Victoria Theater in fall, 2023.
Featuring two new theaters that will provide vibrant, year-round artistic offerings that build on the cultural heritage of Harlem and celebrate uptown’s enormous well of creativity, the Apollo’s Victoria Theater will allow the non-profit Apollo to expand its scope of artistic, educational, and community programs. It will also provide greater access to professional-level theater space for local artists, artist collectives, and small and mid-size Harlem and NYC-based arts organizations for the development and presentation of cross-disciplinary performance-based work. Originally scheduled to open in 2021, work on the space was delayed due to COVID-19.
The Apollo was selected in response to New York’s Empire State Development (ESD) Request for Proposals in 2015 to build out, manage, and operate the cultural spaces in the Victoria Theater Redevelopment Project. The organization has been developing a number of programs, including a subsidized rental initiative for eligible organizations to address the need for space to create and perform artistic work and community-centered initiatives. Beginning in November 2021, the Apollo will offer eligible, mission-aligned, non-profit arts and cultural organizations the opportunity to apply for subsidies through its Culture Forward program that significantly reduce the cost of using the theaters. Organizations will have the use of the professional, high-quality technical equipment, such as lights and sound, a production supervisor, and essential staff needed for events including box office staff, ushers, maintenance and security teams, all-inclusive, at significantly reduced rates of $500 per day for performances and less for rehearsals. Additional details on the Culture Forward application process will be announced in the fall. The Victoria will also address the lack of theater space uptown and bring additional revenue to Upper Manhattan by increasing audiences, further driving economic investment in the Harlem community.
“When the Apollo first began its journey to the Victoria with the Empire State Development team in 2012, we could never have imagined that a pandemic would create so much uncertainty about the future of non-profit arts organizations nationwide,” said Apollo Theater President and CEOJonelle Procope. “We have considered the financial burden many are now facing, due to COVID-19 and the Apollo’s Culture Forward program is responsive to the needs of artists and smaller cultural organizations of color, which continue to be under-resourced.”
“We know that artists, art collectives and organizations across the city look for accessible space, especially uptown. We hope that the Apollo’s Victoria will fill that void. The new theaters will also give the Apollo an opportunity to grow our artistic programming and develop and collaborate on new works that speak directly to the needs of our community. This expansion will allow the Apollo to look to the future while protecting the heritage that makes Harlem such an indispensable part of New York City and the world,” said Apollo Theater Executive Producer Kamilah Forbes.
The Apollo’s 25,000-square foot facility, designed by Kostow Greenwood Architects, will be located on the third and fourth floors of the Victoria Theater Redevelopment Project. The cultural spaces allow the Apollo to serve the needs of its artists, artistic partners, staff, audiences, and community. Since being chosen to shepherd this project to fruition, the Apollo has raised $3.75 million for the creation, construction, and build-out of the theaters. As part of the original mandate for the space by ESD, the Apollo continues to be in conversation with local non-profit arts organizations to use the Victoria Theater’s office space and commit to ongoing theater usage on a long-term basis. Because of the evolution of the project since it was announced, and the need for these longer-term commitments to ensure the viability of the theater, the previously announced partners will no longer be occupying the administrative spaces but are still eligible for the Culture Forward subsidy program.
Beginning in November, 2021, the Apollo will offer eligible, mission-aligned, non-profit arts and cultural organizations the opportunity to apply for Culture Forward, Apollo’s brand-new subsidy program that will significantly reduce the cost of using the theaters. The Apollo will offer selected organizations professional, high-quality technical equipment and the essential staff needed for events at the Victoria, all-inclusive, at substantially reduced rates for both performances and rehearsals. Additional details on the Culture Forward application process will be announced in the fall. This exciting project continues to evolve, and the Apollo is also in conversation with other local non-profit arts organizations about longer-term commitments to ensure the Victoria has year-round programming, part of the original mandate for the space by ESD.
Gifts and grants from a variety of public and private funders helped to make the theaters at the Victoria possible, including America’s Cultural Treasures, a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Booth Ferris Foundation, Empire State Development, the Harlem Community Development Corporation, The New York Community Trust – LuEsther T. Mertz Advised Fund, Regional Economic Development Council Initiative of the New York State Council on the Arts, Rockefeller Foundation and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone.
GothamToGo will be following the Victoria Theatre project from the ground-breaking until the doors open. Below is a chronological update.
A groundbreaking ceremony took place in April, 2017, hosted by the Lam Group, Exact Capital, and Danforth Development. funders for the project include the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, Goldman Sachs, and other sources.
Lam Group and Exact Capital Group closed on a $167.5 million construction loan to refinance Victoria Tower Residences in April, 2022.
August 30, 2017
The site will extend from 125th Street to 126th Street. We stopped by on August 30th (2017) to check on its progress. Images below were taken from West 126th Street, behind the existing Victoria Theatre. The project will cost approximately $178 million, with an anticipated completion date in 2022.
The architect of record is Aufgang Architects ~ who was also the architect of record for The Corn Exchange Bank Building further East on 125th Street.
September 14, 2018
Above and below ~ images taken on West 126th Street
Images below taken on West 125th Street.
Gifts and grants from a variety of public and private funders helped to make the theaters at the Victoria possible, including Booth Ferris Foundation, Empire State Development, the Harlem Community Development Corporation, The New York Community Trust – LuEsther T. Mertz Advised Fund, and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone.
We can’t close this post without an image of 125th Street, looking west from Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. This streetscape will change as the renovated Victoria Theatre begins to rise, and the Renaissance Hotel and Victoria Tower take shape.
Lee & Associates and Aufgang Architects updated their website with the renderings below, June 2019. AJC posted updated renderings of the interior space 2020. Anticipated completion of the hotel, the end of 2022 and the Theater in fall, 2023.
Schedule a showing for The Victoria Tower Residences! Studios, One and Two Bedrooms.
Don’t get lost. Get a Map of Harlem!
While you’re here, take a look at East 125th Street, a work in progress.