It's renovate time at the Apollo

Walk of Fame, expansion key in theater's restoration

Harlem's venerable Apollo Theater will get its own Walk of Fame and a major space expansion and restoration as it plans to raise another $44.5 million in the public phase of a multiyear capital campaign launched Wednesday.

The moves are designed to position the Apollo as a showcase for new talent and give it a heightened profile in the Big Apple's entertainment system as a state-of-the-art venue.

Apollo Theater Foundation and Time Warner chairman Richard Parsons, Apollo president and CEO Jonelle Procope and artists Wyclef Jean and Leslie Uggams were on hand Wednesday as the theater's leadership unveiled these and other new initiatives during a luncheon at TW Center.

Jean said the Apollo must be cutting-edge to ensure that it retains its key musical-discovery function at a time of growth in digital music usage.

"True talent will always surpass everything" as long as it gets a proper stage, he said.

Parsons is leading the financing campaign — which has so far brought in $51.5 million — with Quincy Jones and Alfred Liggins, head of urban broadcaster Radio One.

Parsons said the money will help "the continued revival of this uniquely American cultural treasure" and "bring this venue back to a state-of-the-art form."

He said its role has been and should remain to be a place "where stars are born and legends are made and culture is disseminated."

One key initiative unveiled Wednesday will see the Apollo close for renovations and an expansion in early 2010 until that year's late fall.

After restorations in recent years, the theater will reclaim more than 4,000 square feet to expand its lobby and in-house space for special programs by relocating its administrative offices. Procope cited expanding audiences and the need to provide cutting-edge services, including improved backstage accommodations and a lobby cafe, as key reasons.

The Apollo also will build an archive with its historic collection of documents, photographs, audio and video recordings and memorabilia.

It also plans to further raise its stature via new partnerships with Carnegie Hall, New York City Opera and other institutions and artists.

The Walk of Fame will feature brass plates with the signatures of stars in the Apollo Legends Hall of Fame, including Ella Fitzgerald, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Little Richard and James Brown.