Biltmore renovation approval could open door to White Way

NEW YORK – Manhattan Theater Club had another busy week. On Jan. 22, the company was feted at Tavern on the Green, where Jujamcyn Theaters prexy Rocco Landesman handed over a $50,000 prize.

“We have always given this award to a not-for-profit theater institution, until tonight,” he joked, referring to the company’s two-going-on-three shows on Broadway this season.

The next day, the company moved a step closer to landing a permanent footing on Broadway, as its plan to renovate the Biltmore Theater won approval from the New York City Landmarks Commission.

The approved design by Greg Clawson, of Polshek Partnership Architects, calls for a reduction of the venue’s capacity from 900 to 650 seats.

There are still many hurdles to clear, however.

The renovation is contingent on the company’s developer partner, an outfit called the Biltmore 47, receiving approval to build an adjacent apartment building of some 62 stories. Current zoning only allows for 39 stories, and the developers have said that if they do not receive the allowance for additional floors, the funding for the theater renovation will not be available. As the proposal passes through community boards and city planning to the city council, negotiations over those extra 23 should be fierce.

MTC toppers Barry Grove and Lynne Meadow do not expect a final OK on the Biltmore renovation until late August or early September. That’s when the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) should be completed and the city council will take its binding vote on the project.

Biltmore 47 is not committed to pony up the entire $16 million to $20 million budget on the theater renovation. “The developer is responsible for the first $12 million,” said Grove, “and we’re responsible for the rest.”

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