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The owners of the Grand Prospect Hall, one of Park Slope’s most venerable institutions, want to build a massive hotel on top of its Prospect Avenue parking lot — and they’re holding the neighborhood hostage for support for the controversial project.
Owners Michael and Alice Halkias want to construct a 150-room, 11-story hotel — called the Hotel Grand Prospect and designed by Brooklyn-based Doban Architecture — that would include a 400-space garage. But a structure that tall needs a zoning variance.
On the eve of his first presentation to the community, set for Jan. 12, Michael Halkias talked about the “exciting” project — but at the same time, he was circulating a two-page, doomsday scenario of what would happen if the project does not go forward. For one, the “elegance and grandeur” of the 120-year-old wedding and banquet hall would be replaced by a new campaign to keep the building filled with partiers, no matter who they are.
“Grand Prospect Hall has the capacity of drawing large crowds of people and all types of events, from all parts of the city without being particular,” states a flier circulated by the Halkiases. It adds that the new strategy would be to “cater to a low-end clientele with limited budgets, limited options, but with large numbers.”
Some locals were appalled by the flier.
“It sounds like a threat to me, and I don’t like being threatened,” said 16th Street resident Bo Samajopoulos. “What is he saying, that he is going to bring lowlifes here on purpose just to screw with us?”
Halkias, whose DIY commercials for the hall are a part of local lore, has yet to submit an application, but he made the preliminary presentation at the behest of Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), who praised the businessman for coming to the community before officially filing with the city.
“Given that this is in the very early stages, this is the opposite of an effort to sneak this through,” Lander said.
Still, the scheme is already raising eyebrows, as residents said the banquet hall, whose motto is, “We make your dreams come true,” could be creating a traffic nightmare for the neighborhood.
“It’s a little bit of a head-scratcher,” said Greenwood Heights resident Aaron Brashear, who said he fears an overflow of cars. “I wish him the best of luck, but I don’t think an 11-story building is the best idea for that block. But I’m sure it’s a very good idea for Michael’s business plan.”
Hotel Grand Prospect could join the areas growing list of hotels, including the Best Western Prospect Park Hotel on 25th Street and Fourth Avenue, Hotel Le Bleu, on Fourth Avenue and Third Street, and the soon-to-open La Quinta on Third Avenue at 12th Street.
Halkias said he is hoping to draw business that would otherwise migrate elsewhere because of its lack of overnight accommodations.
“We are larger than many hotels in the city in terms of meeting and conference space,” he said. “But we don’t have the sleeping space.”
The Grand Prospect Hall has attracted the famous, such as presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan and the actress Mae West, and the infamous — mobster Al Capone used to frequent the hall’s speakeasy. Halkias’s family took over the business about 30 years ago, he said.
The Hotel Grand Prospect presentation to Community Board 7 will be at PS 10 [511 Seventh Ave. between Prospect Avenue and 17th Street in Park Slope, (718) 854-0003], Jan. 13, 6:30 pm.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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