French Charter School Opening at Former Alhambra Ballroom Building in West Harlem

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The New York French American Charter School (NYFACS) snagged 13,500 square feet to open a second school in the building home to the Alhambra Ballroom in West Harlem, Commercial Observer has learned.

The lease covers the entire third floor of the six-story 2108-2118 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, known for its history as a vaudeville theater visited by jazz icons Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington, according to Helmsley Spear, whose team of Brett Zelner and Dawn Chartoff represented NYFACS in the deal. Asking rent was $48 per square foot in the 15-year lease, according to CBRE’s Paul Walker, who represented the landlord Jem Realty Management in the deal.

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NYFACS’ new location will allow the school to give teachers a better workspace and offer after-school programs to students like drumming, academic programs, sports and potentially a French honor society, Dr. Bertrand Tchoumi, the school’s principal and director, told CO.

“This location is giving us the opportunity to expand our fifth through eighth-grade [program],” Tchoumi said. “Having this space will give us the opportunity to provide more after-school programming and use the space more creatively. … The area is [also] giving us more visibility.”

NYFACS will have its own dedicated ground-floor entrance at the property between West 126th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, which will open in time for the fall 2022 school year, according to Helmsley Spear. The space will be equipped with classrooms, administrative offices and a cafeteria in the more than 100-year-old building.

“This facility is a great educational asset to the Harlem community and the entire city,” Kent Swig, Helmsley Spear’s president, said in a statement. 

NYFACS was founded in 2010 to serve the city’s francophone community by educating its students in both French and English. Its other location, at 311 West 120th Street, is just six blocks away from its new space, where it will sit above the Shop Fair Supermarket

The newly renovated space was a good fit for the school and didn’t require too many adjustments by the landlord, said Walker.

“The landlord recently completed a full renovation of the building to include a new lobby, two new elevator cabs [and] a new facade,” Walker said. “It only required modest modifications [and] the landlord was able to give [the school] a private entrance.”

The former vaudeville theater became the Alhambra Ballroom wedding venue after the Great Depression forced the performance space to close, CO reported. When its current landlord, Jem Realty, purchased the space for $21.5 million in 2014, it moved the wedding venue to the top floor. 

Alongside Walker CBRE’s Jordan Donohue represented Jem Realty in the deal. ​​NYFACS and Jem Realty did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Update: This story has been updated to include a comment from Paul Walker and Bertrand Tchoumi.

Celia Young can be reached at cyoung@commercialobserver.com.