Slave Theater faces extinction

TRD New York /
Mar.March 26, 2009 11:51 PM

 
Bedford-Stuyvesant’s beloved Slave Theater may be sold to a retailer or developer in a matter of weeks unless a preservationist emerges to buy the space.

The estate of former owner Judge John Phillips has listed the historic building, located at 1215-17 Fulton Street, with Massey Knakal for $2.95 million.

In the month since the two-story theater has been on the market, Massey Knakal listing broker Michael Amirkhanian said he has received several offers “north of $2 million” from local property owners, retailers and church organizations, but the estate would prefer to sell it to someone who would keep it as a theater.

“We’d love to be able to sell it to a theater preserver or operator,” Amirkhanian said.

But if no such purchaser comes forward, he said, the theater will go to the highest bidder in order to satisfy back taxes and other obligations of the estate.

That may happen within the next few weeks, Amirkhanian added.

“We want to make sure we’ve fully saturated the market, but we’re not looking to have this drag out,” he said.

Phillips bought the movie house, then called the Regal Theater, in the 1980s. After the racially charged killings of Michael Griffith in Howard Beach, Queens and Yusuf Hawkins in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, the theater became a center for activism, hosting press conferences and black pride rallies.

Since 1998, it has been shuttered. In 2001, Phillips was declared mentally incompetent, and a series of court-appointed guardians reportedly mishandled his estate, leaving Phillips with only a small fraction of his former holdings and a mountain of back taxes by the time of his death in 2008.

The 11,600-square-foot Slave Theater is 60 feet wide. It seats 450 people, has a concession area, and comes with 60 feet of Frontage On Fulton Street as well as a rear parking lot. It is adjacent to a 32,000-square-foot vacant lot that Massey Knakal is also marketing.

The commercial real estate company is also selling another theater, formerly part of the Phillips estate. Located at 750 Nostrand Avenue, it’s known as the “Black Lady,” or Slave No. 2.

The 11,183-square-foot Black Lady is listed for $1.45 million.


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