Fort Greene

Landmarks Preservation Commission okays renovation of shuttered Paul Robeson Theatre

The Fort Greene property's next tenant might be a community theatre

October 17, 2017 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This is what the shuttered Paul Robeson Theatre will look like after it is renovated. Rendering by DXA studio via the Landmarks Preservation Commission

The Landmarks Preservation Commission gave a thumbs-up to renovation plans for the building that housed the now-closed Paul Robeson Theatre — whose next tenant might be a community theatre.

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On Tuesday, the city preservation agency approved renovation plans for the former playhouse at 40 Greene Ave. in Fort Greene. The building is actually a Rundbogenstil, or Round Arch-style, church that was constructed around 1864.

The planned renovation is all about “getting the building ready for its next life,” Jordan Rogove, a partner at architecture firm DXA studio, said at a public hearing at the Lower Manhattan headquarters of the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The hearing took place prior to the commission’s vote.

The building is going to remain a community facility, said Rogove, whose architecture firm is working on the renovation. The building’s owner is speaking to a number of prospective tenants, the architect said  — including community theatres.

The fix-up work that the LPC approved includes the restoration of the building’s stained-glass windows.

The Paul Robeson Theatre, which was named after a prominent actor and civil rights activist, was a venue for staging African-American artists’ works for more than three decades.


Its founder, Dr. Josephine English, died in 2011. She was a community activist, and the first African-American woman in New York State to be licensed as an obstetrician-gynecologist. She delivered Betty Shabazz and Malcolm X’s six children.

The vacant theatre building was put onto the rental market in 2015.


An LLC headed by Oren Evenhar is the co-developer

The landmarked property belongs to 375 Stuyvesant Avenue Realty Corporation, whose president and sole shareholder is Ira Barry Sheppard, city Finance Department records indicate.

That’s the corporate entity through which Dr. English bought 40 Greene Ave. and two nearby residential buildings for a combined total of $40,000 in 1980, Finance Department records show.

The seller of the three buildings was St. Casimir’s Roman Catholic Church, which had used 40 Greene Ave. as a house of worship for many decades.   

In 2016, Sheppard made an agreement with Pinestone Greene LLC, with Oren Evenhar as managing member, “to work together, collaborate and jointly develop 40 Greene Ave.,” a memorandum filed with the Finance Department says.

Evenhar is the chief executive officer of Pine Builders Corp., a construction and development firm based in Windsor Terrace.  

According to the LPC’s designation report about the Paul Robeson Theatre, the original occupant of 40 Greene Ave., back in the 1860s, was the Church of the Redeemer.

The building was later converted into a synagogue by Temple Israel.

In 1890, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn purchased the building and enlarged it, added a steeple and turned it back into a church — namely St. Casimir’s.


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  1. Kevin W Thorbourne

    I walked past the theater today and work has not been done. It’s my hope that this magnificent structure will be returned to the community so great cultural work can continue.