Chocolate Factory Theater Has New Home

BY JON CRONIN

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 the new site 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 that the theater attempted to purchase.

“We were in contract negotiations for two-and-a-half years and they could have pulled out at any time,” she said.

She said that the only reason the deal went through was that the previous owner wanted to sell the site to an arts organization.

“He didn’t want his old factory to become a hotel,” she said.

Lewandowski said that she discovered in 2009 that it was not feasible in the long term for the theater to continue leasing or renting locations. If it continued to lease the current location, the theater would have to close after its lease ends in May 2019.

The theater announced that the purchase was made possible by funding allocated by City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D–Astoria), Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, former Borough President Helen Marshall, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan (D-Long Island City), the city Department of Cultural Affairs and the mayor’s office, and was administered by the city’s Economic Development Corporation.

Lewandowski said that she and Rogers feel lucky since the Astoria Performing Arts Center is in danger of losing its space and LIC Artists has already lost its space.

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] in a year and a half,” Lewandoski said.

During that time, the theater will use its new space for rehearsals as renovations are ongoing.

The new home needs 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, jcronin@queenstribune.com or @JonathanSCronin.

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