NYC Seeks Developer For Jazz Museum In Harlem

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Jazz Museum

NEW YORK — New York City is planning to build a new home for the National Jazz Museum in Harlem across the street from the legendary Apollo Theater.

The complex will include an art house movie theater and a satellite office of the city’s tourism agency.

The city’s Economic Development Corp. on Monday issued a request for proposals for developers to bid on the project, which will be a further step in Harlem’s growth as a tourist destination.

“Harlem more than ever has become sort of a global icon for the city,” said George Fertitta, the head of NYC & Co., the tourism agency. “It’s a magnet for visitors from all over the world.”

The project will occupy a city-owned lot on Harlem’s main commercial strip, 125th Street, in front of the Apollo, the famed theater that became a venue for aspiring black performers who were routinely turned away at other sites in the 1930s.

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Through its legendary Amateur Night, the Apollo is famous for propelling the careers of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Stevie Wonder, James Brown and others.

The National Jazz Museum in Harlem is housed in smaller quarters on 126th Street but will be able to expand its offerings in its new home.

Executive Director Loren Schoenberg said museum exhibits will incorporate live musicians, and there will be real and virtual instruments for visitors to play.

“Jazz really gets the endorphins going, and we want the museum experience to replicate that,” Schoenberg said.

Others in the jazz world said they look forward to the reborn jazz museum.

“It’s wonderful that they’ve finally found a site,” said Dan Morgenstern, director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University and a former board member of the Harlem jazz museum. “Harlem is certainly a place where there should be a permanent representation for jazz and its history.”

Harlem has in recent years attracted growing numbers of guidebook-toting tourists. European visitors line up around the block for Sunday services at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, and on weekdays they may see former President Bill Clinton heading to his office on 125th Street.

Soon, more of them will be able to stay in the neighborhood if they want to. The city this month awarded $19.8 million in tax-exempt financing to a partnership including American football great Emmitt Smith to build a 200-room luxury hotel, also on 125th Street.

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