Commercial cultural space moves forward in Harlem, despite skepticism

February 07, 2012 03:00PM

It’s not the sort of thing investors want to hear you plan to do with your ground-floor space: combine three theaters, a restaurant and a post-production studio in a for-profit cultural center catering to black and latino communities. But Carlton Brown found the investors and will eventually open just such a space on West 116th Street, the New York Times reported.

While some suggested putting a drugstore in the basement of the Kalahari condominiums at 40 West 116th Street, between Fifth and Lenox avenues, Brown, who works with Full Spectrum, which developed the condos with L+M Partners, pushed ahead, and eventually got funding for the $21 million project. The center, called My Image Studios, will open next summer, the Times said.

The idea of a commercial arts space was nearly “blasphemous,” Brown said, and certainly a hard sell, but in Harlem, as demographics change, the dearth of culture spaces made it possible.

The Urban Investment Group at Goldman Sachs provided about $10 in financing for the project more recently. “What has been missing in what has been called the second Harlem Renaissance is really focusing on the needs of the community,” said Alicia Glen, managing director of the Urban Investment Group. And that “[includes] these vibrant entertainment and dining options that are the lifeblood of any neighborhood.” [NYT]