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Bronx Building That Opened 100 Years Ago Gets New Life As Hotel

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One hundred years after it opened as an entertainment center, a Bronx building is getting new life as a hotel. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.

It opened 100 years ago and was called the Bronx Opera House, although opera wasn't what people typically went there to see. Broadway shows stopped there after leaving Manhattan, and names like Harry Houdini and George Burns drew crowds.

"In between regular Broadway productions, they would have a regular Vaudeville show throughout the 1920s," said Lloyd Ultan, a Bronx County historian. "There might be a week in the year where they would actually have opera."

But by the '70s, and after a run as a movie house, it closed. Forty years later and with a nod to its past, the Bronx Opera House has reopened as the Opera House Hotel.

"We were able to restore the facade of this building, and we like buildings that have a history," said Douglas Brookman, operations director of Empire Hotel Group.

This is the first venture outside Manhattan for Empire Hotel Group, which owns seven other boutique properties. The 60-room hotel is described as affordable luxury, with rooms priced between $140 and $200.

"We just looked at it online, saw that it looked comfortable, looked clean, looked new, and they had a great price," said Derek Sauls, who was visiting from Texas.

Brookman said that Empire chose the Bronx because the company believes in the borough and wants to be part of its transition. It's good news for folks who live there.

"Living in the Bronx, particularly in the South Bronx, you're always confronted with the naysayers saying, 'Well, it will never happen,' or 'It's crazy for someone to come in there,'" said Ed Garcia, a Melrose resident. "So for me, it made me proud."

Garcia writes a blog about the Bronx. He said he's eager to see how the new hotel and its patrons will help the neighborhood. Because when those patrons walk out of the hotel, they're in the HUB, a business district with much to offer.

"We're like, 'Hey, let's get our souvenirs,'" said Christina Hager-Green, who was visiting from Baltimore. "Instead of spending tons of money in the city, we're going to shop and spend locally and give back to the community."

It's giving visitors who may not have considered the Bronx a reason take a look around, and hopefully, catch more in the borough than a Yankees game.

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