With all the NYU real estate hubbub going on around LaGuardia Place in Greenwich Village, it’s refreshing to hear of a quiet transaction between two locals. This week, the AIANY signed the lease for 532 LaGuardia, an empty retail space owned by local lumber magnate Guy Apicella just one door south of the AIANY’s current home, the Center for Architecture at 536 LaGuardia.
AIYNY will take occupancy as of August 1, and plans are already afoot to nail down design concepts. “We’ll benefit from the best design advice in the city,” said AIANY executive director Rick Bell. Rogers Marvel has been hired as the architect and Mary Burke will head up AIANY’s Premises Committee.
The floor plate of the new building is about 1,200 square feet with about another 800 square feet available in the basement. All three levels at the Center’s current space net about 12,000 square feet, so the extra 2,000 will add about 10 percent more space, helping ease the strain of hosting more than a thousand programs each year. Also included in the deal is small garden space out back, on which the director hopes the Horticulture Society of New York will leave their green thumbprint.
Bell jokingly compared the growing horizontal street presence to that of Uptown’s Zabar’s or Downtown’s J&R Music, both of which expanded storefront by storefront, eventually claiming an entire block. Perhaps NYU’s gallery space at 528 LaGuardia will be next? An architects’ row perhaps? But for all the extra sidewalk frontage, Bell said that the organization has no intention of bringing in any retail. “If Olympia (Kazi) were to get out of the business, maybe we’d reopen the discussion, but we don’t have plans for any,” he said, reiterating AIANY’s steadfast support of VanAlen’s recently opened architecture bookstore.
This is not to say that the Center will eschew commercial endeavors altogether, quite the opposite, actually. Bell said the “robust conference center” would be very attractive for corporate rentals—to say nothing of weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs.