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Brooklyn Lyceum Arts Venue to Become Condos With 12-Story Rental Next Door

By Leslie Albrecht | January 23, 2015 10:44am | Updated on January 26, 2015 8:39am
 Greystone will bring two side-by-side residential developments to Fourth Avenue and President Street.
Brooklyn Lyceum Arts Venue to Become Condos With 12-Story Rental Next Door
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PARK SLOPE — The landmarked Brooklyn Lyceum arts venue will be transformed into condos, and a 12-story rental building will rise next door, a developer announced Friday.

Greystone, which bought the historic Lyceum building at Fourth Avenue and President Street at a foreclosure auction in October, closed a deal Tuesday to acquire the empty lot next door to the Lyceum for $12.5 million, a Greystone spokeswoman said.

The developer will restore the ornate exterior of the Lyceum — a former public bathhouse that's been a performance and arts venue for the last several years — and convert the ground floor into retail space. Two to three condos will be built within the existing building.

"The building itself will not be changing on the outside," spokeswoman Karen Marotta said of the Lyceum. "We'll be restoring it and it will be very beautiful. The building has a rich history and people will be able to have a piece of that history with the condos. We're excited to be part of this historic corner.”

Next door, at 225 Fourth Ave., Greystone will build about 70 rental units in a 12-story building, Marotta said. The ground floor of that building will house a 3,500-square-foot retail space.

"Intended as a complement to the adjacent landmarked structure, this building will offer a number of separate luxury amenities for its residents, including a fitness room, bike storage and roof deck with views of downtown Brooklyn and the Manhattan skyline," Greystone said in a statement.

The rough target date for completing the rental project is the fall of 2016. The restoration of the Lyceum will probably take longer because the process will require the approval of the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission, Marotta said.

Greystone has completed several projects in Brooklyn, including condos in Vinegar Hill with their own wine tasting room.

The former owner of the Lyceum, Eric Richmond, declined to comment on the condo plan, saying that he hasn't given up his lengthy legal dispute over the building and the lot next door. "As we are working to reach a just result we can't at this point say anything," Richmond wrote in an email.

The Lyceum building first opened in 1910 as Public Bath No. 7. It was intended to promote cleanliness and public health and to serve "the densely populated tenement neighborhood" around the Gowanus Canal, where residents frequently didn't have access to bathing facilities, according to the building's landmark designation report.

Later in the 20th century the building fell into disrepair and became a haven for squatters, junkies and crime.

Richmond bought the building in 1994 when it was a rundown eyesore, and transformed it into an arts venue that hosted a wide range of events, including concerts, a comics convention, holiday markets and wrestling. The last public production at the Lyceum was a sold-out run of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" in December 2014.

The 8,000-square-foot venue will be sorely missed among artists, said Cole Rosner, co-artistic director of Ugly Rhino Productions, an experimental theater company that had a residency at the Lyceum from 2010 to 2013.

Rosner said the Lyceum's cavernous, unfinished space and minimal cost provided a vital resource for emerging performers. Ugly Rhino was able to keep ticket prices low because the Lyceum could fit 100 to 200 audience members. But the company also made enough money to pay the Lyceum and its actors, she said.

"Even if there was no staff, and no toilet paper in the [bathroom] one day, it felt open and creative in a way that space in New York hasn’t felt in a while," Rosner said. "It was an amazing opportunity for us."

She added, "It's just a shame that certain neighborhoods are going to switch over and lose art and experience-based work and places for kids to see 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' and go all the way over to being just expensive condos and expensive coffee."