Last summer, a fire started on the first floor of the empty Victoria Theater in Harlem, which quickly spread to the third floor. Preservationists held their collective breath for this building, which began life in October 1917. Designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb, it was said to be one of the largest, and most beautiful theaters in the New York area, with a seating capacity of over 2,400, and constructed at a cost of $250,000. But years of planning and discussion have led to the much-anticipated ground breaking ceremony on the theater yesterday, where we were in attendance.

The plan will include preserving its historic facade, lobby, marquis and signage, while transforming 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, a 210-room, full-service hotel, 30,000 square feet of retail space, 25,000 square feet of cultural arts space, and underground parking for 90 cars. The project is expected to generate a total of 1,635 jobs, with an emphasis on hiring women and minority owned businesses. The site at 233 West 125th Street will reach 300 feet in hight, as a 26 story tower.

The Victoria Theater project extends from 125th to 126th street. Above lot facing 126th Street 

The theatre, which has been closed since 1989, is located on a bustling stretch of 125th Street, between Adam Clayton Power Jr. Blvd. and Frederick Douglass Blvd., and just doors away from the famed Apollo Theater. Street vendors line the sidewalks in front of some new members of the 125th Street business community, which will include a Whole Foods, scheduled to open this summer. This week’s ground breaking ceremony was hosted by the Lam Group, Exact Capital and Danforth Development. Funders for the project include the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, Goldman Sachs, through its Urban Investment Group, and other sources.

Breaking ground for redevelopment of The Victoria Theater, just doors away from the famed Apollo Theater

It has truly taken a village to move the Victoria Theater project to this point. Above, a delighted former Congressman Charles Rangel of Harlem standing beside John and Keith Lam, and other partners

A view of the back of the Victoria Theater, which extends from 125th to 126th Street

On view were easels with projected images of the public space and lobby bar in the new Renaissance New York Harlem Hotel, and rooms

Rendering of the Victoria Theater project

The Victoria Theater is located at 233 West 125th Street, and with a cost of $178 million, it has an anticipated completion date of Spring 2019. While on 125th Street, check out the murals by local artist Franco the Great, take a tour of the historic Apollo Theater.

Across the street from the 126th Street Victoria Theater lot is one of the many Harlem murals that make up the #EducationIsNotACrime project.

Next, check out 22 delicious Harlem bakeries. Check out the Studio Museum, and its museum beyond walls, entitled InHarlem, currently on view in four Harlem parks. Get your tickets for the annual culinary treat Harlem EatUp held each May. Contact the author at AFineLyne.