African American Firm Tapped For Victoria Work
â€œDanforth remains committed to the communities we serve. Our philosophy is that every project should have a positive impact that extends beyond the limits of the propertiesâ€™ boundaries,â€? Williams added.
The Harlem Community Development Corporation on Monday officially tapped Danforth Development Partners, LLC, to develop the old Victoria Theater on 125th street.
Steve Williams, CEO of Danforth, a third-generation Harlem resident, said that Danforth’s assignment to the Victoria Project is good affirmation of the capabilities of a firm with an African American leader, adding that African American firms often have to compete outside of their market and community in order to work on major projects similar to that of the Victoria Theater’s magnitude.
“Very often in this type of competitive process the decisions are somewhat subjective, and in this project I can say that our local elected officials were steadfast in their conviction that they wanted an African American firm to lead this project,” Williams said. “They really championed that and I am deeply appreciative to them for that.”
Williams further said that the Victoria Theater is significant to both Danforth and more importantly, the Harlem community.
“The Victoria is a Harlem icon,” Williams said in an interview. “I believe that we are going to create a destination building that’s also going to continue and enhance the legacy of Harlem.” Williams further said that Danforth will ensure that Harlem residents are given key roles in the construction and development of the hotel and entertainment complex.
As part of the deal, the Harlem Arts Alliance, the Classical Theater of Harlem, and the National Jazz Museum will all be given homes in the Theater. The Apollo Theater will also have dedicated office space.
“The hotel will provide hundreds of permanent jobs, as will the back-of the-house theater industry,” Williams said. “Our plan so far calls for most of these entities to be owned by African Americans or African Americans in significant partnership positions.”
“The naming of Danforth to develop the Victoria Theater is a major credit to the selection process,” said Voza Rivers, chairman of the 400-member Harlem Arts Alliance, an organization comprised of visual and performing artists, not-for-profits and for profit cultural groups, museums, libraries, universities and churches. “In Danforth and its CEO, Steve Williams, a local, talented, and capable developer has been picked,” Rivers added.
In addition to development, Danforth Development Partners, LLC, the Harlem-based real estate firm, acquires property, develops land, redevelops structures, and forms partnerships with real estate owners who want to realize their properties’ full value, the company says.
The firm has been involved in various projects throughout Harlem, including 55 West 125th street, the building that houses former President Bill Clinton’s offices, and the United House of Prayer on 125th Street. The firm also designed the main lounge of an office location of Bad Boy Productions, as reported in the March 2007 edition of Harlem Business News.
The Loew’s Victoria Theater – as it was initially titled – opened in 1917, a few doors away from the Apollo Theater in Harlem, N.Y, and for more than 50 years was renowned as one of New York’s biggest vaudeville houses. It closed as Loew’s theater in 1969 and was reopened as a five-plex movie theater in 1987. However, the theater closed two years later in 1989. In the early ’90s, African American art films were screened in one of the theater’s auditoriums. Since then, the Victoria Theater has been occasionally used to house church services, but has been largely unused for a decade.
“Danforth remains committed to the communities we serve. Our philosophy is that every project should have a positive impact that extends beyond the limits of the properties’ boundaries,” Williams added. “Community businesses and local residents should benefit from all phases of the development process from inception through operations. This philosophy is evident in the successful projects we’ve done. We will bring that same dedication and energy to the Victoria Theater project.”
“This is an important moment in the life our theater company, and The Classical Theater of Harlem is looking forward to living and creating on 125th Street for many years to come,” concurred Alfred Preisser, Classical Theater of Harlem’s co-founder and artistic director.
Williams said the theater should be completed in about three and a half years.
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