By Jon Cronin, Editor
After more than 15 years of leasing space, the Chocolate Factory Theater recently purchased a $3.8 million, 7,500-square-foot warehouse in Long Island City.
Theater co-founders Sheila Lewandowski and Brian Rogers had searched for seven years before they found their new home at 38-29 24th St.
Lewandowski, who is also executive director of the theater, said that she had been afraid it wouldn’t happen. This was the sixth property the theater attempted to purchase.
“We were in contract negotiations for two and half years and they could have pulled out at any time,” she said.
She said the only reason this deal went through was because, “The previous owner [Salerni] really wanted to sell it to an arts organization. He didn’t want his old factory to become a hotel.”
Lewandowski said they discovered in 2009 that it was not feasible in the long term for the theater to continue leasing or renting locations. If they continued to lease the current location the theater would have to close after its current lease ends in May 2019.
The theater announced that the purchase was made possible by funding allocated by City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (D –Astoria), Borough President Melinda Katz, former Borough President Helen Marshall, Councilwoman Cathy Nolan (D- Long Island City), the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, and the mayor’s office; and was administered by the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
Lewandowski said and Rogers feel lucky since the Astoria Performing Arts is in danger of losing its space and LIC Artists has already lost its space, but are being helped by Plaxall.
The Chocolate Factory announced that its run for the 2017 and 2018 season would conclude at its current leased location at 5-49 49th Ave.
“There may be a performance [at the new location] for a year and a half,” Lewandoski said.
Over that time the theater will use their new space for rehearsals as renovations are ongoing.
The new home needs necessary building code improvements – electrical, plumbing, fire safety and HVAC upgrades; restrooms; and the installation of a performance floor. The theater estimates it will cost $1.2 million, of which $350,000 has already been allocated by Nolan.
Reach Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin