2005-06-30 / Top Stories

Plans Set To Convert Canarsie Theater Into A Church

The unsightly Canarsie Theater and store next to it will be replaced — finally.   The unsightly Canarsie Theater and store next to it will be replaced — finally. By Charles Rogers

If negotiations taking place within the next few weeks go as planned, the Canarsie Theater, with an exterior that has been in a rotting state for more than a year and a half — will be turned into a church by next spring.

Rev. Rudolph Mitchell, spiritual leader of the Word Aflame Community Church, at 9530 Avenue L, who recently met with contractors and principles, told the Canarsie Courier that a purchase — “in the $1 million range” — is currently in the works.

“We looked at renditions and blueprints for the building, including the group of stores that had been associated, and showed some of them to our congregation at last Sunday’s services,” said Rev. Mitchell, “and they were not only very receptive, but they were blown away!

Artist’s rendering of new Word Aflame Community Church as proposed for the corner of East 93rd Street and Avenue L. Artist’s rendering of new Word Aflame Community Church as proposed for the corner of East 93rd Street and Avenue L. “During our meetings with the other principles, many other facets of what the building would house came up,” he said. “For instance, the store that was on the corner of East 93rd Street will be utilized as a Community Resource Center, where there would be social services provided, including administration of after school programs, youth activities and perhaps a day camp facility.”

The first phase of the construction, which would be completed by March, 2006, will include complete renovation of the front and side of the building. Within that phase, offices, a community day care and learning center and a sanctuary to seat 800 people will be constructed. A book store and community resource center will be completed by November, 2006. Other amenities will eventually be added, such as a banquet hall and conference rooms.

Rev. Mitchell said his wife, Dion, an assistant principal at Bushwick High School, is handling all the aspects of the learning center, including setting up the curriculum.

He said the Word Aflame Church is an Apostolic church and that the physical property of the church itself would be “medium-sized.”

“We have the support of a bank that has given us tentative loan approval pending a few minor negotiations and we are asking our parishioners and others to offer their support,” he added. “We are extremely excited about the project.”

While not an official landmark, the Canarsie Theater was once the center of community social life here. In recent years, however, it fell victim to a poor economy and falling patronage. The last feature movie, as emblazoned on its decaying marquee, was a remake of “Cheaper By The Dozen,” starring Steve Martin, which played there in December, 2003.

Charles Rogers

Rendering by Solid Rock Consultants

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