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Harlem's Beloved Renaissance Ballroom Just Can't Be Saved

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[Historic photo from the 1920s via Harlem Bespoke.]

A petition to "halt the destruction of Harlem's historic Renaissance Casino" has almost 4,000 signatories—and they're going to be pretty bummed, since the building's owners told community members this week that it's "unsalvageable." Basically, the once-beautiful recreation hall on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, which housed a 900-seat theater and casino that were buzzy, upscale destinations in the 1920s, has been crumbling (literally!) for more than three decades. Developer BRP bought up the site in April of 2014, and subsequently a rendering surfaced for the apartment building that would replace the ballroom. It's white and brown and modern and people really hate it.

"The Renny," as it's being called, is set to have 134 apartments along with retail space, an education center, and some kind of performance venue. Reaction has been heated, of course, with some calling the demolition and subsequent development "cultural genocide" and others just signing the petition against it.

At a community board meeting on Tuesday, BRP said that it toured the building—which was creepy in 2009, so we can only imagine what's it's like now—to figure out if they could save any of it. As a result, apparently two BRP reps got hurt, one with a broken leg.

BRP's take: "We hate to be the bearer of bad news ... We can't gloss over the safety factor."
Community reaction: "We see a crime here ... If you take those bricks down, you're taking art down."

Safety aside, historian Michael Henry Adams called for an investigation into how to salvage the Renaissance Ballroom's facade, even if the rest of it has to get razed. BRP said it was open to a "productive conversion," and added that currently there is no timetable for demolition. So let this preservation battle simmer on.
· Harlem's historic, long-vacant Renaissance Ballroom and Casino is 'unsalvageable,' its owners say [NYDN]
· Now There's a Petition To Save Harlem's Renaissance Ballroom [Curbed]
· Razing Harlem's Renaissance Ballroom Is 'Cultural Genocide' [Curbed]
· With Renaissance Ballroom Conversion, Harlem Loses an Icon [Curbed]
· Harlem's Renaissance Ballroom Is Finally Being Redeveloped [Curbed]
· All Renaissance Ballroom coverage [Curbed]