Phantasy Theater renovation into Studio West 117 begins

RenderingThe Fieldhouse at Studio West 117th

Rendering of what The Fieldhouse at Studio West 117th could look like when its renovation is completed in the spring 2022. Other phases of the Phantasy Theater complex will come on line into 2023 (Groundswell).
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Construction fences are up. Work crews are on site. And a $75 million vision for the rebirth of the Phantasy Theater complex, 11794-11814 Detroit Ave. in Lakewood, into Studio West 117 is starting to come to life.

But if you ride by the site on Detroit, you might miss the bulk of the early activity. The reason is the visible work is occurring behind the Phantasy Theater in a structure at 1384 Hird Ave. most recently used by Mack Products Co.

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That structure is called The Fieldhouse by developers Daniel Budish and Betsy Figgie. It’s actually three connected structures totaling 29,298 square feet that will host a gym and a South American steak restaurant, Stone oven pizza kitchen and rooftop tapas bar lead by Yanira Llanos and her wife Yasmeen Desiree. The gym will host fitness classes and sports leagues.

Budish, president of Gaslamp Capital LLC which specializes in historic renovations, said he hopes that renovation work on former Mack Products structures, some of which date back to 1905, will wrap up in the spring.

Mack Products building on Hird Avenue

In the past week, construction fences went up around the former Mack Products building on Hird Avenue, just north of Detroit Avenue and the main part of the Phantasy Theater complex at the east end of Lakewood (KJP).

“This is very exciting for us,” Budish said. “Work on the Fieldhouse at Studio West 117 should be complete by the end of April. We are saying spring of 2022 just to give some added cushion in case there are any construction delays. We expect to have a major grand opening and Pride celebration in June of 2022.”

Budish, son of Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, along with Betsy Figgie who owns Your CFO Resource to provide financial assistance to nonprofit organizations, acquired the Phantasy Theater complex and Mack Products properties last year. Figgie also led the creation of the West 117 Foundation to “support entrepreneurship, arts, culture, health, and human services to create a hub for Cleveland’s LGBTQ+ ecosystem.”

At around the same time, they acquired properties at 11600-11618 Detroit on the Cleveland side of West 117th Street. It’s a mixed-use building with five businesses on the ground floor, including My Friends Deli, with eight apartments upstairs that will gain more of an LGBTQ+ presence as existing leases expire.

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The duo also joined forces with the Foran Group for a $14 million renovation of the 80,000-square-foot Astrup Awning plant as the Pivot Center for Art, Dance and Expression in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood. Tenants include the Cleveland Museum of Art, Intermuseum Conservation Association, Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, Cleveland Missing, Inlet Dance Theatre and LatinUS.

Phantasy Theater preceded in name by the Homestead Theater

For more than 100 years, the Phantasy Theater, preceded in name by the Homestead Theater, stood in the 18000 block of Detroit Avenue. Now the property will gain a fresh new purpose and appearance as part of a $75 million redevelopment (KJP).

“Other elements of Studio West 117 continue to progress well,” Budish added. “Margie’s Closet opened in one of our spaces back in June of this year. We hope to also have some of the Phantasy retail open for next summer as well. The full Phantasy renovation is still expected to be completed in 2023.”

As for the total dollar investment when all phases and components are completed over the next couple of years, the $75 million figure may hold true.

“That would be a good estimate for now, with the understanding that some of these project elements still have to be flushed out further,” Budish said.

“I’m thrilled about it — not only for the mission of the organization, but for what it will mean for the east end of Lakewood,” said Lakewood’s Ward 4 City Councilman Dan O’Malley who is also council president.

Phantasy Theater property

Daniel Budish, left, and Betsy Figgie look over the Phantasy Theater property including an alley that will be repurposed as an entryway into a part of the former entertainment complex (KJP).

“This project will be a game changer,” he added. “I’m also happy that the developers are using local labor and paying prevailing wage.”

The 56,000-square-foot Phantasy Theater complex began its life in 1915 as the Homestead Theater, a live performance and large movie house back when going to the movies was an all-day affair. The theater continued to show movies until 1979.

A couple of years later, it began its next life as a live music venue, hosting up-and-coming new wave, punk, industrial and goth bands like Devo, Exotic Birds, The Pagans, VNV Nation and was the debut location for Nine Inch Nails.

Established musicians performed in the Phantasy and in the adjoining Chamber club as well, like Iggy Pop, Joan Jett with Michael J. Fox, Jesus and Mary Chain, Marilyn Manson, The Pogues, The Psychedelic Furs and the Ramones.

Site plan for The Fieldhouse

Site plan for The Fieldhouse at Studio West 117th, located on Hird Avenue (Larsen).

Budish and Figgie envision six entertainment spots, a podcasting studio, co-working and retail spaces with low rent to help new businesses get their start. The goal is to offer a safe and comfortable location for LGBTQ-owned businesses gain a foothold and create a site for social interaction and business incubation.

“I think you’re going to see a cascading effect with other development projects in the neighborhood for years to come,” O’Malley said.

That may extend to nearby properties that include closed or under-utilized buildings like the former Vedda Printing, National Tire & Battery and others. O’Malley said there are always parties interested in redeveloping those properties but nothing was ready for publication at this time.

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