Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced the first details of a landmark project to transform an underutilized area in the heart of Harlem into the Urban League Empowerment Center, a hub for arts, culture, retail and community use.
The project, which was approved by the Empire State Development Board of Directors, will be led by the Hudson Companies, BRP Development Corporation and the National Urban League and will transform a currently underutilized 42,000-square-foot swath of property, located on 125th Street between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X Boulevard, into the Urban League Empowerment Center. Once complete, this center will include New York State's first-ever civil rights museum, as well as the new national headquarters for the National Urban League, a state-of-the-art conference center, and space dedicated to housing, retail and public parking.
The Center is a key piece of Harlem's ongoing renaissance providing neighborhood and cultural amenities, and will create jobs and economic activity in the area.
"This project will play a key role in Harlem's ongoing renaissance," said Governor Cuomo. "It will create jobs, build on the community's rich arts and cultural history, and attract new investments and opportunities. As a result of this project, I am proud to say that Harlem will be home to the State's first-ever civil rights museum and that vibrant institutions, such as the National Urban League, will stay and grow here in New York."
"Since our rezoning of 125th Street in 2008, we have witnessed this central corridor continue to grow as a vibrant hub for arts, culture, entertainment and retail in Harlem," said Mayor Bloomberg. "The Urban League Empowerment Center will be an important piece of the area's ongoing revitalization, celebrating Harlem's rich history while generating critical economic activity that will ensure its even brighter future."
The project is the result of a Request for Proposals (RFP) issued by Empire State Development and New York City's Economic Development Corporation in May of 2012 to expand arts, culture and economic opportunities along the 125th Street Corridor. After a thorough evaluation and assessment process, ESD and EDC determined the National Urban League/Hudson/ BRP Development Corporation project best met the goals outlined in the RFP.
"New York City is where the National Urban League was founded in 1910 and has remained our headquarters since that time," said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. "While we've been approached with offers to relocate our headquarters to other cities, the heart of the National Urban League is here. As we undertake our own building project in Harlem, we feel even more closely entwined with the city that we love. We are grateful for the support of Gov. Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg and numerous elected officials and community leaders in this endeavor."
"No community in the nation is more closely associated with African American history and culture than Harlem and we are proud and inspired to help create jobs, contribute to the community and participate in the revitalization of 125th Street," Morial said.
"Hudson is honored and excited to help National Urban League build its new home for the next 100 years and develop the new Museum of the Urban Civil Rights Experience. The inclusion of mixed-income housing and multi-level retail makes this one of the most exciting and compelling new projects in the country," said David Kramer, Principal, Hudson Companies.
Morial also thanked Meredith Marshall, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of BRP Development Corporation and his team for their efforts in putting the proposal together.
The National Urban League, Hudson Companies and BRP Development Corporation will begin development of the site to create a vibrant, mixed use development that will include:
National Urban League headquarters: National Urban League, which was founded in Harlem over a century ago, will move their permanent headquarters to this location on 125th Street after their current lease in Lower Manhattan expires in 2017. The National Urban League is a historic civil rights and urban advocacy organization that advocates on behalf of African Americans and other disadvantaged urban residents, and against racial discrimination in the United States. The National Urban League had previously considered relocating its headquarters to Washington, D.C.
Museum of the Urban Civil Rights Experience - the new, world-class civil rights museum -- the first in New York State -- will focus on the impact of urban civil rights, using Harlem as a lens through which to view the wider civil rights experience in cities across America. Additionally, the museum's welcome center will be designed to serve as a gathering and meeting place for Harlem's visitors, where they can learn about the landmarks, organizations and significant locations throughout the neighborhood.
Urban League Conference Center - the state-of-the-art conference space will be used by the Urban League for its nationwide training, and made available for use by community groups and organizations for civic, cultural and social activities.
Retail, affordable housing, public parking -- the project will help further energize the 125th Street corridor with signature retail space designed for a large department store or major national retailer. The project will also include 114 rental units, 50 percent of which will be affordable. Following HPD guidelines, at least 30 percent of the residential units will be leased to households with an income of less than 130 percent of Area Median Income, and at least 20 percent of the residential units shall be leased to households with an income of less than 50 percent of Area Median Income. A public parking garage with at least 225 spaces will also be included.
The project will allow New York City to retain the 100 jobs at National Urban League headquarters and is expected to produce thousands of construction and permanent jobs. The executive committee of the National Urban League will vote on the project when they meet next week.
"I am very excited by the plan put forward today by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The new Urban League Empowerment Center in our very own Harlem would not be possible without their vision and leadership. The revitalization of this property has the potential to bring much-needed jobs and new investment to the cultural center of Harlem by bringing the headquarters of the National Urban League to 125th Street and creating the first civil rights museum in New York," said Congressman Charles Rangel.
"I have just been apprised of Empire State Development's approval of the National Urban League's proposed project on 125th Street. Hopefully, this project will grow our economic base and provide job opportunities and affordable housing to community residents. I believe it will attract tourism dollars, which is significant factor in building a sustainable economic base. It is quite appropriate that New York State's first Civil Rights Museum will be located in the Village of Harlem. I am pleased that one of the foremost advocates of the urban agenda, the National Urban League, will be returning to the community where it was initially established. Furthermore, this public/private sector project will produce an attractive cultural bonus that will reinforce and enrich Harlem's international reputation as one of the major worldwide cultural destinations," said Council Member Inez E. Dickens.
The RFP released in May of 2012 laid out a series of goals in order to bolster the area's role as an arts, entertainment and retail hub, as well as a commercial corridor primed for new development. The Hudson-National Urban League-BRP project best captured those goals, which included: physically and economically activating the street; strengthening the critical mass of local arts, cultural and entertainment venues; fostering uses that complement the existing attractions and extend visitors' stays; creating construction and permanent employment opportunities through the development of retail business; and demonstrating a clear relationship to the rich cultural history of the local community.
At nearly half a million square feet once fully developed, the Urban League Empowerment Center will be Harlem's largest mixed-use development, and will continue to advance the reactivation of 125th Street Corridor.
The project is expected to break ground in 2015.