August 7, by Nathaly Pesantez
The Chocolate Factory Theater, an award-winning experimental performance center that has been operating out of rented space in Hunters Point since 2005, has bought a building in the Dutch Kills section of Long Island City, ending a years-long search to find a permanent home.
The location, at just over 7,500 square-feet, will be at 38-29 24th Street, near the Museum of the Moving Image and United Artists Kaufman Cinemas. The space is 5,000-square-feet larger than the building it rents at 5-49 49th Avenue, according to building records.
“It’s been a very, very long process,” Sheila Lewandowski, co-founder and executive director of the Chocolate Factory Theater said. “There was no one phone call, there was no one funding source.”
The first streams of funding came from former Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, followed by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and then by current Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Lewandowski said. The building was purchased for $3.8 million, according to the Times.
“The Department of Cultural Affairs and the Economic Development Corporation were incredible in helping us negotiate this,” Lewandowski said.
Lewandowski said she became aware of the building after a real estate broker called her on a whim three years ago, asking if she knew of an arts group that would be interested in occupying the space—not knowing that she was already deep in search for a potential facility.
The new venue, which has taken years to find, was a milestone moment for Lewandowski and her team.
“I cried—a number of people cried,” Lewandowski said. “It was very emotional.”
Lewandowski does not have a date for the big move yet, as the new location will need to be revamped. It will, however, be used as rehearsal space in the meantime.
“Queens is the place for innovation and creativity,” Lewandowski said. “So we’re psyched.”
The Chocolate Factory Theater, an Obie-award winning venue, has hosted artists specializing in an array of disciplines, including dance, music, and drama, through residency packages that include salary and a spaces for multiple weeks at a time.
For information on the current season and upcoming news on the new venue, visit the Chocolate Factory Theater site.