Town hall meeting outlines changes in Harlem

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 4/11/2013, 4:21 p.m.

Dozens of people, including business owners, residents, community leaders and organization leaders, gathered at the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building for the "Harlem Public Town Hall Meeting." The meeting, presented by the Amsterdam News and the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce (GHCC), discussed major development initiatives in upper Manhattan and highlighted several major construction projects going on throughout Harlem, including the Harlem Hospital Center expansion, the Kalahari, the Mother Hale Transport Depot, Columbia University's expansion and the Victoria Theater.

Representatives from the MTA, the Dormitory Authority of New York, the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, the Harlem Community Development Corp. (HCDC) and the Harlem Business Alliance were on hand to speak about the projects and answer questions.

"Harlem is a village, and many of us who grew up here are concerned that we need to communicate," said Lloyd Williams, president and CEO of GHCC. "I've watched it change. This is our home. Sometimes we have opinions about each other without even talking to each other."

Major announcements made at the meeting included the scrapping of a major project to build a hotel at the vacant lot at 125th Street and Lenox Avenue. Football player-turned-developer Emmett Smith was suppose to build on the property, but finances forced the plan to fall through.

Officials said that space, which stretches from 124th Street and 125th Street along Lenox Avenue, will remain vacant until the "market responds."

The long-closed Victoria Theater is slated to be turned into a major hotel that will feature around 200 rooms, a cultural space, black box theaters, mixed residential space, a ballroom and a restaurant. Officials from HCDC also announced that 126th Street between Frederick Douglass and Adam Clayton Powell boulevards will receive a makeover as well.

HCDC announced that famed jazz club Minton's Playhouse has plans to reopen, with corporate mogul Dick Parsons as one of the new owners.

The abandoned Mart 125, which sits across the street from the Apollo Theater, will be used to house the National Jazz Museum, which is currently in the development stage, along with a New York City Visitor Center branch.

Officials from Columbia University outlined their $6 billion plan for expansion in Manhattanville, which will take place over the next 30 years. The university also gave information about construction job opportunities along with information with minority- and women-owned businesses to be involved in the project.