Lenny Balkissoon

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Lenny Balkissoon
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Born (1957-09-15) September 15, 1957 (age 64)
British Guyana
OccupationProperty Developer
OrganizationStichting Sannat
Children2

Lenny Balkissoon is a developer of residential and commercial property in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Early life

Balkissoon was born in British Guyana on 15 September 1957. He grew up on his grandmother’s farm. He moved to The Netherlands as a teenager to pursue dance classes and try a career in dance, mainly ballet and jazz dance. Balkissoon is of Indian descent and is a Hindu.

Artistic career

He successfully danced and taught Jazz and Ballet in Amsterdam [1], including with Amsterdam Dance Theater and continued taking class with

  1. REDIRECT Template:Interlanguage link

David Hutuely, while improving his network in the dance world. Along with David Hutuely and fellow students they formed a social group who met regularly for food and drinks after class in Amsterdam. During this time he also developed a passion for architecture and design. Spending less time on dance, he now focusses on renovating old buildings.

Renovation projects

  • Chassé Church

In 2011 Balkissoon bought the Template:Interlanguage link Chassékerk at Chasséstraat 62-64 in Amsterdam for €1.2 million [2]. The buildings - church and pastor’s house - had been in disuse and were sold by property managers Ymere. After purchase a technical report showed contamination and rot in the foundation of the building. A full removal and sanitation was necessary before reconstruction could proceed. Ymere agreed to pay a damage relief contribution toward the total sanitation costs. The development was realized with Balkissoon’s private money [3]. His plan was to turn this disused church into a dance school, where people could meet again, this time for dance and to enjoy social and creative pursuits together. The design and layout of the interior is Balkissoon's own concept, realized with his construction team and the support of contracted architects and builders. It includes a café and a hotel as well as the dance school, a fitness room, changing rooms and large gymnasium, which is also used by neighboring schools [4]. City of Amsterdam civil servants were involved in discussions around the plans so that agreements could be reached with the community regarding operating times. The complex attracts local and international visitors and now has a thriving community. The repurposed church and extensive renovations were featured in a Dutch book, “Gods Huis in de Steigers: religieuze gebouwen in ontwikkeling”, Oskar Verkaaik, in Chapter 7: "De waarde van verlaten kerken, by Daan Beekers" [5].

  • Chassé Dance Studios

The dance school, Chassé Dance Studios, [6] offers classes in various styles for adults and children with a weekly schedule. There are 8 fully equipped dance studios. The studios are also rented out to independent dancers and dance teachers, dance companies, creative movement teachers, fitness coaches, auditioning companies and various others. It is the home of Henny Jurriëns Stichting dance school and European School of Ballet. Opening the large studio complex has enabled some successful commercial dance proposals including rehearsals and auditions[7], as well as renting to a TV dance show, from 2015 to 2019, called Template:Interlanguage link, the Dutch version of Dance Dance Dance the British TV program

  • Chassé Hotel and Café

The hotel, Chassé Hotel, was opened early 2017 and has 55 rooms. The café opened in July 2017. Later, the café was exploited by private business entrepreneurs under the name Sjas, starting in 2019.[8] During development, the neighborhood showed initial concern regarding the creation of a hotel and café in a residential area. The residents feared noise and increased traffic [9]. Concerns for student safety and congestion were voiced by local school regarding outside activities. These concerns were discussed in meetings hosted by the city council of Amsterdam West in the presence of Balkissoon, his supporting team, members of the public as well as dissenters. These meetings had the purpose of finding common grounds regarding operating hours and usage [10]. Having heard eachother out, agreements were reached, and with the support of the city of Amsterdam, the license for development of the project was granted [11]. The entire Chassé complex now exists as an important cultural center for the neighborhood and Amsterdam [12]. The hotel also attracts local and international visitors on online booking sites.

  • Christus Koning Kerk

During the reconstruction of the Chassé Church, Balkissoon bought another church in need of renovation in 2012 at James Wattstraat 56-58, in the east of Amsterdam. It's original name is the Template:Interlanguage link Christus Koning Kerk. Balkissoon’s vision for this building is a 600 seat theater, restaurant and boutique hotel. Next to the church he is building an entirely new structure for a hotel with 77 rooms. The site is still under construction. Architecture and design are based on Balkissoon's own imagination. This development also faced concerns from interest groups and neighbors regarding the new purpose for the church. These concerns were addressed by Balkissoon and city officials in official discussions. Securing a license for construction was delayed several times due to bureaucratic and legal obstacles. [13]. Work was permitted again recently in 2020.[14]

  • Other projects

Balkissoon renovated the building of Amsterdam Dance Center, when it was housed at Bellamystraat 49. He also created a home for a yoga studio and health food shop, Unlimited Health, Van Ostadestraat 234, Amsterdam. He owns residential property in Amsterdam.

Impact of COVID-19 pandemic

Due to COVID-19 the businesses, including the dance school, were forced to temporarily close their doors for 3 months from 16 March 2020, and then opened up with occupancy limits, social distancing and hygiene rules from 6 July 2020. The studio held one week of online dance classes in June during which it asked for donations to support and pay teachers. Full re-opening is expected when the threat of COVID-19 infection is no longer considered grave enough by the RIVM to keep limitations on businesses in Amsterdam, and The Netherlands in general. The concern for the survival of this artistic business is a well-founded [15]. There isn't sufficient current income from dance classes at Chassé Dance Studios, which relies solely on class payments and memberships for operations and is supported financially by Balkissoon. Plans for the future however, include a fusion with Amsterdam dance school De Toverfluit in August 2020 [16]. This should increase student numbers and allow for program development.

Ambitions in Architecture and Design

It is Balkissoon’s ambition to renovate old buildings and give them new life. The buildings of Amsterdam Dance Center at Bellamystraat, the Chassé Church in De Baarsjes borough and the Christus Koning Church in Watergrafsmeer had been in disuse for decades. During this time, neither the owners, local councils, nor interest groups had found a solution for the future of these old church buildings. They were expensive to renovate. Dismantling the structures was too costly. Neighborhood residents and former users had emotional ties with them as places of worship and didn’t want to see them disappear. While realizing that leaving these disused buildings empty would lead to deterioration, the different interest groups did not manage to make an acceptable financial plan for development. The buildings were left in disuse and finally put up for sale [5].

This is when they came to the attention of Balkissoon. He claims that he saw immediately what needed to be done with them. Balkissoon deems himself a visionary developer and treats these architectural structures as special projects. He goes to work taking care to maintain the original structure, but refurbishes it completely, thereby giving the building a coherent new design and re-establishes its use for the community [17]. For these projects he is not only the builder and property developer, but also the architect, designer and project manager.

His construction concept inside the Chassé Church allowed for three new floors and an attic with rooms right under the roof, above the ceiling. The top floor which is now a gymnasium shows this domed ceiling along with the original painted images. The entire inside structure, made of steel and concrete, sits within the brick walls of the church and rests on posts secured solidly into the ground and foundation of the building.

The dance school boasts large studios, without pillars cutting through the middle of the dance spaces. The entire building, hotel and café interior, includes colorful tiles, wood, bamboo and marble furnishings, modern fittings and elegant furniture, sourced internationally. The design is eclectic and colorful, giving the whole complex a unique look.

The hotel is promoted as a boutique hotel and has been praised online and in person by customers who stay there, as well as other visitors and the press for its beautiful design.

Charitable work

Part of Balkissoon’s attention has always been focussed on helping less fortunate people. He visited Africa several times for charitable projects. He donated 250 tricycles to the region of Morogoro for people with physical disabilities in Tanzania. [18] The tricycles were received for distribution by Morogoro former regional commissioner, Joel Bendera. Balkissoon is currently involved in the building of a playground at a school in Morogoro, Tanzania. Work is in progress but has been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hand-over of the new premises is planned for October 2020.

Personal life

Lenny has two children. His first son was born in 2006. His second one in 2008. He lives by the philosophy of peace and harmony, helping others who are in need, and believes that material gain is irrelevant, as he says one takes nothing with oneself in death [2]. He considers his projects to be orientated towards community enhancement.

References

  1. Giskes, Han (1990-05-03). "Jazzballetklas De Inval". Sports (in Dutch). Landsmeer, The Netherlands.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link) CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link) CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Huisman, Jaap (2017-11-29). "Indrukwekkend: Chassékerk nieuw leven ingeblazen". Het Parool (in Nederlands). Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  3. Brugman, Ruben (2014-11-24). "Hoe een danshuis in Amsterdam nu wel lukt". Cultuurpers (in Nederlands). Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  4. Westkrant, redactie De (2015-04-13). "'Chassékerk ook voor de buurt'". De Westkrant (in Nederlands). Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Verkaaik, Oskar (2017). Gods Huis in de Steigers: religieuze gebouwen in ontwikkeling (PDF) (in Dutch). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. pp. Chapter 7: De waarde van verlaten kerken, door Daan Beekers. ISBN 9789048533596.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  6. "Chassé Dance Studios". Dans Magazine (in Nederlands). Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  7. Vente, Martine de (2016-05-21). "Vogue als Madonna | Nieuws". De Westkrant (in Nederlands). Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  8. Jacob, Patricia (2019-11-16). "Bij Sjas stroomt liefde door de zaak | Nieuws". De Westkrant (in Nederlands). Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  9. Mooyman, Richard (2015-03-25). "Buurt vreest hinder horeca Chassékerk". De Westkrant (in Nederlands). Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  10. Redactie (2013-05-07). "Buurt voert actie tegen horecaplannen Chassékerk". Het Parool (in Nederlands). Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  11. Borren, Bien (2015-12-18). "Groen licht voor horecaplannen Chassékerk in West". Het Parool (in Nederlands). Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  12. Amsterdam, Vrije Tijd (2020-04-17). "Chassé Dance Studios: "Dansschool met buurtfunctie in Chassékerk"". Vrije Tijd Amsterdam (in Nederlands). Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  13. Boland, Rosa (2018-01-05). "Theaterdroom Koningkerk ligt stil door Wij Zijn Hier". Het Parool (in Nederlands). Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  14. Parool, Het (2019-02-22). "Verbouwing Koningkerk mag doorgaan". Het Parool (in Nederlands). Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  15. "Chassé Dance Studios". Hoe nu verder? Cultuur na corona (in Nederlands). 2020-04-08. Retrieved 2020-07-05.
  16. Amsterdam, Vrije Tijd (2020-04-17). "Chassé Dance Studios: "Dansschool met buurtfunctie in Chassékerk"". Vrije Tijd Amsterdam (in Nederlands). Retrieved 2020-07-21.
  17. "Altijd in beweging – zalenboer Lenny Balkissoon". Theaterkrant (in Nederlands). Retrieved 2020-07-21.
  18. Correspondent (2012-03-06). "Benefactor donates tricycles to people with disabilities in Moro". The Guardian, Tanzania. {{cite news}}: Cite has empty unknown parameter: |month= (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)

External links

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