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BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | A health clinic will be sharing a building on W. Eighth St. with Jimi Hendrix’s famed Electric Lady Studios — but the new facility won’t be for rehabbing rock stars.
Doris Diether, co-chairperson of Community Board 2’s Landmarks Committee, said a representative from Beth Israel Medical Group/Continuum Health Partners attended the committee’s Monday night meeting to announce the plan. Committee members — mistakenly believing the whole building was going to be given over for medical use — were thrown into a “purple haze.”
“They said they’re going to put up a big sign saying ‘Beth Israel Medical Group’,” Diether said. “I think everybody was just stunned. I think we were all bewildered by it.”
The three-story building at 52 W. Eighth St. is within the Greenwich Village Historic District, so any exterior changes will need approval by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. The Beth Israel representative told the C.B. 2 meeting that, beyond the signage, they only plan some minor exterior changes, and the committee gave its unanimous approval, according to Diether. The building previously had a stucco guitar sculpture that projected onto the sidewalk, but it has been gone for some years now.
Diether said that on Tuesday, as she was walking through Washington Square Park, she mentioned the news to some acquaintances and they practically went into a “manic depression.”
“Several people said, ‘What? You can’t do that!’” she said. “They said the ghosts of the musicians will come back and haunt the place.”
However, in a telephone interview on Wednesday, Tom Poole, vice president for Continuum Medical Groups, said the health facility — slated to open February 2013 — would only lease 4,000 square feet on the building’s first floor. The recording studio is in the basement, and will stay there, along with the studio’s administrative offices on the second and third floors, he said.
The space the clinic will be in was the city’s first silver-screen movie theater in the early 1920s, he said. The clinic will start with six doctors and offer internal medicine and a family medical practice. It will also have a small radiology center, giving it walk-in, urgent-care capacity — for chest X-rays or to check out broken ankles and the like. The clinic will operate seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Architects at WASA/Studio A, which is handling the exterior changes, have designed a new canopy for the medical center’s entrance.
A woman who answered the phone at Electric Lady this week confirmed they aren’t going anywhere.
A narrow, 4-foot-wide, ground-floor head shop at the property’s western end will also be staying, since it has a long lease.
Hendrix is widely considered the greatest rock guitarist of all time, ranked No. 1 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the top 100 rock ax players.
He lived for a time on W. Eighth St. According to Electric Lady’s Web site, in 1968, the guitarist and his manager, Michael Jeffery, bought the Generation Club, but due to mafia pressure to pay fees to compete in the neighborhood, they instead converted it into a highly specialized, custom-built recording facility.
“Designed specifically for Hendrix, the studio had round windows and a machine capable of generating ambient lighting in colors to fit any mood,” the Web site says. “The studio provided a creative space for Jimi to draft and perfect his songs.”
The recording studio’s opening party was held Aug. 26, 1970. Before flying to London to perform at the Isle of Wight, Hendrix created his last-ever studio recording at Electric Lady — an instrumental known only as “Slow Blues.” Less than a month later, on Sept. 18, 1970, he died in England after overdosing on sleeping pills and choking on his own vomit. He was 27.
Albums that have been recorded or mixed, either fully or in part, at Electric Lady include Patti Smith’s “Horses,” AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” David Bowie’s “Young Americans,” the Rolling Stones’ “Some Girls,” The Clash’s “Combat Rock” and Stevie Wonder’s “Talking Book.”
Other clients of the W. Eighth St. studios have ranged from Led Zeppelin, John Lennon, Aretha Franklin, Guns N’ Roses, Lou Reed and Prince, to The Roots, Arctic Monkeys and N.E.R.D.