One-hundred-year-old, hulking brick fortresses that once housed gigatons of gunpowder, dynamite, and rifles built by the military are sprinkled throughout New York City. They’re hard to miss. You may have stumbled across one flâneuring the tree-lined streets of Park Slope or Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn; or Park Avenue in Manhattan.
With them no longer in use, what should we do with them? Last week, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) announced plans for the adaptive reuse of the Kingsbridge Armory in the northwest Bronx; the largest armory in the United States. It was built between 1912 and 1917 during World War One and was owned by the military until 1996 when it was handed over to the city. For decades, it has sat dormant.
Recently, state and city officials paired up with WXY architecture + urban design, Buro Happold, AKRF, Toscano Clements Taylor, Jablonski Building Conservation, artist Manuel Miranda, and the nonprofit Hester Street to participate in a feasibility study and community engagement process to reimagine the Bronx castle.
The Kingsbridge Armory is a 570,000 square foot open-air vault that takes up several city blocks. The $200 million project backed by the NYCEDC, Governor Hochul, and local community leaders is part of Mayor Eric Adams’s Rebuild, Renew, Reinvent: A Blueprint for New York City’s Economic Recovery, a plan which prioritizes job creation in the Bronx. In the past nine months, project officials engaged over 4,000 people to inform the Together for Kingsbridge Vision Plan. The NYCEDC claims that the project could create 1,800 jobs, including 1,100 construction jobs, and deliver $10 billion in economic impact.
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“From the onset of our administration, we said we were committed to working with our community partners to reimagine the Kingsbridge Armory, and we are now one step closer to doing just that with the ‘Together for Kingsbridge Vision Plan’,” Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson said in the press release. “It is exciting to see so many of our residents, merchants, elected officials, and community leaders participate in this process as well as their shared interest in making this a space that can not only benefit Kingsbridge Heights but the entire borough.”
To date, other armories in New York City have enjoyed second lives. The Park Avenue Armory is one of the most popular art spaces in the city, having hosted performances by world-renowned artists and serving as the annual venue for the Salon Art + Design show. The Park Slope Armory in Brooklyn was converted into a YMCA after World War One. In 2022, the city hired Freeform Deform and Urbane to help transform the Bed-Stuy Armory on Marcus Garvey Boulevard, built in 1894. In the years prior, the Bedford Union Armory in Crown Heights was transformed into a community center.
Until August 25, the public can tour the Kingsbridge Armory every Friday on scheduled visits. The NYCEDC invites local developers and organizations to get involved in its transformation. More information about the project can be found here.