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Long-Closed Metro Theater to be Reborn as Retail Space

The marquee and facade of the Metro Theater were landmarked in 1989.
The marquee and facade of the Metro Theater were landmarked in 1989.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

UPPER WEST SIDE — The long vacant Metro Theater is poised to be reborn as a shopping destination, the building's owner told DNAinfo on Tuesday.

A large retail tenant is in "advanced negotiations" to lease the once grand Art Deco theater at 2626 Broadway, between West 99th and 100th streets, which has been empty for six years, owner Albert Bialek said. Bialek will announce the retailer in about two weeks.

"It's something that everyone in the neighborhood will love, I think," Bialek said.

Bialek filed an application with the Department of Buildings in late December 2011 for a $900,000 renovation that will convert the interior of the 79-year-old theater into retail space.

The makeover will also include a "superb restoration" of the theater's 50-foot wide pink and black facade, Bialek said. The building's exterior became an official city landmark in 1989.

"We're doing everything just the right way," Bialek said. "It's going to be really something special."

The news marks a new beginning for the Metro, which has seen several possible scenarios for its future come and go since it closed in 2005.

Clothing retailer Urban Outfitters briefly considered taking over the space, but opted for a location across Broadway. Then a real estate broker announced plans for multiple merchants to rent small booths at something called "The Galleria at Metro Theater," but that didn't happen.

In 2011, after Bialek won a legal battle for control of the building, he was in talks with the non-profit Wingspan Arts about taking over the Metro and opening "a three-floor theater and education complex," the New York Times reported.

But Wingspan is no longer pursuing that proposal, Bialek told DNAinfo. A neighborhood resident had also hoped to revamp the theater into a cultural space, but that vision wasn't realized either.

When the Metro opened in 1933, it was one of 18 such neighborhood theaters between West 59th Street and West 110th Street, according to a 1989 Landmarks Preservation Commission report. Most of those have now disappeared.