An upcoming 24-hour, dual-stage music venue and recording studio set to open in Long Island City in 2019 is already serving as a catalyst for the area’s evolving arts scene.
The under-construction 1930’s building, once a sushi factory, is currently being used as a performance space for local theater companies and production crews, before it was reborn as The Arc, a concert and recording studio aiming to remain open for jam sessions around the clock.
On a Tuesday afternoon, the warehouse’s exposed cathedral-like wooden beams and graffiti-marked walls even proved to be an ideal filming location for a micro-budget indie feature, “Blunderpuss.”
“It’s already in high demand,” says Richard Pawelczyk, chief operating officer of the upcoming venue that looks to serve as a “musical incubator” for the borough’s emerging local talent.
Pawelczyk, the former vice president of Webster Hall, brings more than two decades of experience in the city’s booming music industry to the budding Queens venue.
The Arc is set to become the first physical expansion of the online music community DMNDR — founded by South Ozone Park native John Belitsky in 2014 — when it opens its doors on 36th Street early next year. Belitsky was looking to create a studio to support DMNDR’s group of nearly 200 emerging artists, but it wasn’t until he stumbled upon the LIC space last fall that his vision truly came together.
“I had never seen anything like this,” he says, looking up at the building’s arched wooden ceiling as he rubs the sole of his shoe against the ground to create sound. The lack of metal or steel beams in the now open-concept venue creates an acoustic advantage Belitsky says can’t be found in other New York City performance spaces.
“I started to realize what was holding that sound was this really peculiar construction, which was not designed for this at all. This was designed for mass production,” he explains. “It was almost like someone created a Lamborghini and they were using it as a hot dog cart.”
The building, constructed in 1931, operated as a sushi factory for more than 25 years before relocating in July 2017. Its massive archway ceiling — fully discovered when construction began last fall — serves as the inspiration for the concept behind the upcoming concert hall.
“It’s actually the catalyst for the name,” Pawelczyk explains. “The wood itself is a prime mover in the story, and the building is coming on close to 100 years. It’s also in reference to the artists’ career arc.”
Up-and-coming local artists will have the opportunity to perform on a smaller stage located in the back of the venue. As their careers progress and fan bases grow, they’ll graduate to the 1,690-capacity main stage; hence, the arc.
And the raw space is already serving as “an arc” for the area’s local talent.
In October, a breakout pre-construction jam session ended with the creation of a new Queens band, named after the DMNDR community.
“This is where we had our first jam,” Belitsky says, standing near the warehouse’s entrance. “We had laid out a wood pallet, opened the doors and started playing. People started coming in off the street and jamming with me and then I just gave them instruments.
“That group sounded so good that people were coming by and asking who the band was. I said ‘These guys have never played together. They don’t even know each other.’ That’s when I realized we had to do this.”
Stretching a full city block, the venue is being used as a spot for DMNDR band jams and private small-scale concerts. Brooklyn group Lovehoney, a cappella singer Madison McFerrin are among those who’ve graced The Arc’s 389-capacity stage.
Once open, the venue is projected to “attract the most relevant talent in music,” Belitsky says, noting that competition among the city’s existing popular music spaces, from Brooklyn Steel to Terminal 5, isn’t much of a current concern.
“We’re already seeing a flood of initial interest,” he says, explaining that the venue’s location — just 12 minutes from midtown — is key. “But I don’t even think midtown is the story anymore. I think our community is here already, just like the house band that just popped up here.”
The Arc is still facing months of construction before it can be fully operational. You can follow its progress at x.dmndr.com/the-arc.