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With Renaissance Ballroom Conversion, Harlem Loses an Icon

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It was announced last month that the Renaissance Ballroom & Casino in Harlem, which has vacant for three decades, would be torn down and replaced by apartments at the hands of developer BRP Development Corporation and architect GF55 Partners. And while it may seem as though the historic building had no chance of being saved, that wasn't always the case—the Abyssinian Development Corporation bought the site decades ago and had planned to, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, "restore it to its former glory as a ballroom with a restaurant and a 500-seat theater." (With apartments on top, of course.) Abyssinian also planned to preserve some of the historic building's facade, as you can see on an old rendering that NY YIMBY scrounged up. But all that went by the wayside after the recession in 2008, and Abyssinian ended up selling the now-derelict building to BRP for $15 million. The new plan will preserve none of the facade, and include a 22,000-square-foot church (likely for the Abyssinian Baptist Church, which is affiliated with the developer), and 80-20 affordable housing. It will also be called "The Renny."

Opinions about the project seem to be mixed among Harlem residents, with some celebrating the increasing affordable housing stock and others bemoaning the loss of an iconic piece of Harlem history. "The most important thing is these new Harlem residents will make it better," restaurant owner Londel Davis told the Journal, while historian and author Michael Henry Adams weighed in: "The great irony is here you have black people destroying African-American culture and building a building that like every apartment building in Harlem will have far more white tenants than black tenants."
· Rebirth for Harlem Renaissance Site [WSJ]
· What Could Have Been: Harlem Renaissance Ballroom, 2351 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard [NY YIMBY]
· Renaissance Ballroom coverage [Curbed]