FROM THE FOLKS AT THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY: The Chocolate Factory is thrilled to announce the acquisition of a new permanent facility in Western Queens. Located at 38-29 24th Street in Long Island City, the standalone 7,500 square foot, one story industrial building will become the organization’s permanent home and will ultimately house all of its performance and residency activity. The new facility is three times larger than its current space and, when open, will include a 99-120 seat flexible performance space with a sprung-wood dance floor, a 2,000 square foot rehearsal space, and office space.
The $3.8 million dollar purchase was made possible by lead capital fund allocations from New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, former Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, and the current New York City Administration; and was administered by the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
The first project of its kind in Western Queens, the purchase and renovation of 38-29 24th Street will enable The Chocolate Factory to substantially improve its services to artists; expand its audience capacity by more than 100%; and cement its presence in Long Island City, where the organization has operated since 2004, and where its founders have lived for more than 20 years.
The process of acquiring a facility for The Chocolate Factory began in 2009, when a feasibility study led the organization to understand that without a permanent home, the non-profit organization would likely be displaced and forced to close upon the termination of its current lease, which ends in May 2019. In the ensuing seven years, co-founders Sheila Lewandowski and Brian Rogers worked tirelessly to secure government and community support for The Chocolate Factory’s future. The co-founders attempted to purchase six different properties including its current facility, negotiations for which were interrupted by the landlord’s untimely passing in 2013. All efforts ended in disappointment until the leaders met the seller of its new home, Robert Salerni, who specifically wished for his building to be acquired by a local arts organization.
The Chocolate Factory will conduct its 2017/18 Season at its current facility (located at 5-49 49th Avenue); and will concurrently manage renovations of its new home and the first phase of a modest multi-year capital campaign. Initial renovations, which include necessary building code improvements; electrical, plumbing, fire safety and HVAC upgrades; restrooms; and the installation of a performance floor, will cost an estimated $1.2 million. Lead funding of $350,000 has already been committed by New York State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan. The organization anticipates partial occupancy of the building in 2018 and full occupancy in 2019.
“As co-founders of The Chocolate Factory Theater, and longtime residents of Western Queens, we are grateful for the strong relationships we have forged here over many years,” said Executive Director Sheila Lewandowski and Artistic Director Brian Rogers. “Were it not for the grassroots support of this community – artists, audiences, small business owners, neighbors, friends and elected officials – The Chocolate Factory would not be what it is today. The opportunity to create a permanent home in this very challenging city, in the neighborhood we love, and to support the work of groundbreaking artists for years to come, is the fulfillment of a dream.”
“For over a decade, the Chocolate Factory Theater has been a driving force in making Western Queens a cultural center in our city,” said City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. “As the Council Member for Western Queens and the Chair of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, I’m proud to have allocated millions in capital funding to the Chocolate Factory Theater for the purchase of a larger performance space in Long Island City that will amplify their work empowering dancers and choreographers to push artistic boundaries without compromises and confront ideas in new ways. By providing a rehearsal and performance space, monetary support, and a community that encourages collaboration, the Chocolate Factory Theater supports the entire artistic process, not just a single piece or performance. A pillar in our community, the contributions of the Chocolate Factory Theater go beyond the walls of their space, not only serving the people of Western Queens, but the entire City of New York. As they make their move to a new location, I am confident that the Chocolate Factory Theater will continue to be an indispensable and beloved part of our community in Western Queens.”
“Building and protecting cultural institutions is a critical part of making the arts accessible for every New Yorker,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “This new home is a reflection of the growth underway in our borough, and will help provide a vibrant future for The Chocolate Factory for Queens families and visitors. You don’t have to go over a bridge or through a tunnel to experience great culture, it’s right here in Queens.”
New York State Senator Michael Gianaris said, “Queens has developed quite the reputation for its unique culture and arts scene. Cultural institutions like The Chocolate Factory help contribute to our vibrant cultural life and economic vitality. I look forward to seeing all the new ways The Chocolate Factory will work with local artists and benefit our Queens community.”
“Congratulations to Sheila Lewandowski, board members and many partners of the Chocolate Factory on the purchase of their new building” said Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan. “The theater has always supported the development and presentation of new work by a community of local, national and international artists working in dance, theater, performance, and multimedia. Sheila Lewandowski is a leader in our Western Queens community and a pioneer in bringing arts and artist work to our neighborhoods. She has my admiration and respect for her outstanding achievements. Once again, congratulations to everyone involved on this wonderful occasion.”