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Take a tour inside the new Renaissance Harlem Hotel

Apollo Theater set to expand as it celebrates 90 years
Apollo Theater set to expand as it celebrates 90 years 02:13

NEW YORK -- The Apollo Theater is expanding as it celebrates 90 years.

The developer recently gave CBS New York unprecedented access, showing how the development blends the past, present and future of Harlem.

Harlem's tallest building now stands at 28 stories. Towering above 125th Street is the Marriott's Renaissance Harlem Hotel. The foundation was formed by the historic Victoria Theater, now an expansion of the Apollo a few doors down.

"It's exciting being in a new space because it's an opportunity for us to explore another piece of our mission, and that piece is this idea of new work generation," said Kamilah Forbes, the Apollo Theater's executive producer.

To recreate the Victoria's varnish, the development team took painstaking effort to scrape layers of paint to match the lobby's original luster, and sourced exact materials to re-erect the grand staircase. The Art Deco decor seamlessly extends into an all-new space.

Behind the design is third generation Harlem native Steve Williams.

"Because this is the second Harlem renaissance, we want to pay homage to the first Harlem renaissance," Williams said.

The fifth floor lobby bar inside the Renaissance Harlem Hotel. CBS2

His team, Danforth Development Partners, won the rights to the state-owned site more than 15 years ago, with cash from Exact Capital alongside Lam Generation, the group behind the Renaissance Hotel in Chelsea.

"People felt that Harlem was a tertiary hotel market and that no one wanted to come to Harlem, and what we found is that there was really a repressed desire, particularly on the part of Europeans, who wanted to come to where the Harlem renaissance was," Williams said.

The result is unmatched attention to detail in every direction, opening global doors for the neighborhood.

"The work ethic is there. The opportunity is not, so we changed that," Williams said.

"Because this is the second Harlem renaissance, we want to pay homage to the first Harlem renaissance," designer Steve Williams said.   CBS2

The hotel provides 400 permanent jobs, not counting Apollo staff and other businesses opening on lower levels. And in addition to the 211 rooms, attached you'll find 199 apartments, 40% available at rates below the area median income. Ballrooms are being booked and a rooftop restaurant and bar with unmatched views will open soon.

"In our household, it was more than just making money. It was about supporting our neighborhood and our neighbor, so I'm glad we could do this," Williams said.

As for what's next, Williams wants to shift to consulting on a smaller scale, helping homeowners fulfill their own dream designs.

"This is my trophy project, Harlem's trophy project," Williams said.

Inviting guests drift off dreaming of the renaissance.

The Renaissance Harlem Hotel is booking rooms right now -- and the Victoria Restaurant is accepting reservations for dinner and drinks.

Have a story idea or tip in Harlem? Email Jessi by CLICKING HERE.

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