New — and cheap — concert space near BAM

New — and cheap — concert space near BAM

Music lovers will get to hear the likes of Lou Reed, Ben Folds Five and Dan Zanes — and not spend much money to do it — at a new concert hall being opened near much pricier venues near the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

The group that 30 years ago founded the popular “Celebrate Brooklyn” summer concert series in Prospect Park is planning a 250-seat performance space for year-round “Celebrate Brooklyn–like” performances that won’t cost much more than a movie ticket.

“In a neighborhood where King Lear tickets can be scalped for $900, we’re going to be providing an affordable, quality performing arts experience,” said Leslie Schultz, the executive director of BRIC (Brooklyn Information & Culture), which is housed in the century-old Strand Theater, the Fort Greene building on Fulton Street and Rockwell Place that was originally built for vaudeville shows, but which now houses BRIC’s TV studios, and Urban Glass, a glass-blowing collective.

Given BRIC’s track record, patrons should get a lot for their money. Celebrate Brooklyn — its free Prospect Park summer series — regularly draws significant musicians, like Joan Osborne, the Hold Steady, the Neville Brothers, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, The Hold Steady and Manu Chao.

The performance space, which is slated to open in 2010, is part of a $17.3-million renovation of the Strand Theater building, which sits adjacent to the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater, now hosting “Macbeth” (with tickets starting at $30) and just down the block from the Forte, a luxury high-rise condominium.

The mayor, City Council and borough president are footing the cost of the renovation of the building, perhaps the least-heralded of the four projects that comprise the current phase of the so-called “BAM Cultural District,” the city’s vision for an borough-based counterpart to Lincoln Center.

“It’s an incredibly important project, because it is taking an established, Brooklyn-based group that does great things and helps them increase their programmatic capacity,” said Joe Chan, the head of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, which is also overseeing the Cultural District.

The Strand renovation will more than double the size of BRIC’s headquarters, where Brooklyn Community Access Television is produced, and will add a fourth TV studio and a ground-floor art exhibition space. It will also give Urban Glass more space on the first floor.

The city is expected to announce an architect for the project in March, and construction should begin in 2009.

The other four projects in the pipeline for the BAM Cultural District include:

• the Frank Gehry and Hugh Hardy–designed home for the Manhattan-based Theater for a New Audience at Lafayette Avenue and Ashland Place. Construction should begin in the first half of 2008.

• a “Grand Plaza” bounded by Flatbush, Lafayette and Ashland avenues. Construction should begin in late 2008, early 2009.

• a mixed-use residential building and headquarters for the Manhattan-based modern dance troupe, Danspace, at Fulton Street and Ashland Place. Construction should begin in early 2009.

The Fort Greene home of Brooklyn Information and Culture — BRIC — will undergo a huge expansion and modernization to create anew performance space, more studio space for BCAT and more blowing room for Urban Glass.
The Brooklyn Paper / Jeff Bachner