Henry Street Settlement Announces $20 Million Renovation; Firehouse, Amphitheater Revamps Planned

Rendering of new Neighborhood Resource Center, 269 Henry St. Architect: Beyer Blinder Belle.

Rendering of new Neighborhood Resource Center, 269 Henry St. Architect: Beyer Blinder Belle.

The Henry Street Settlement is preparing a major upgrade of its Lower East Side facilities, including the renovation of an historic firehouse, creating a new Neighborhood Resource Center, and the transformation of the amphitheater at the Abrons Arts Center.  Fundraising for the project, which now carries a $20 million price tag, is nearly complete. Henry Street is a little more than $3 million away from achieving its goal.

In a recent interview, Executive Director David Garza outlined the plans, which are aimed at making sure the historic social service agency’s buildings match the quality of its programs. Here are the highlights.

The firehouse at 269 Henry St., was closed following the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. Engine Company 15 was moved to Pitt Street. For the better part of a decade, efforts have been made to transfer the building from the city to the settlement house, which has its headquarters right next door. After that occurs, Garza said a $5.5 million renovation will take place, creating a new, highly visible facility in the 1884 firehouse building.  The design from architectural firm Beyer Blinder Belle emphasizes street access. The 5,000 square foot building will become Henry Street’s “front door.”  Services offered will include food stamp enrollment, legal services, the parent center, child care rooms and a community gathering space.

The firehouse in its current state.

The firehouse in its current state.

Rendering: Neighborhood Resource Center rendering.

Rendering: Neighborhood Resource Center rendering.

Rendering of Abrons Arts Center amphitheater by Ennead Architects.

Rendering of Abrons Arts Center amphitheater by Ennead Architects.

Abrons Arts Center, last week.

Abrons Arts Center, last week.

On Grand Street, the amphitheater will be redesigned as a more open, accessible and welcoming community gathering spot.  The Abrons Arts Center building, opened in the 1970’s, has always been a bit foreboding and institutional. The revamp by Ennead Architects will include moving the wall of the second floor gallery out toward the street and installing floor to ceiling windows. There will be new landscaping and resurfacing and a ramp in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.   The current entrance just to the west of the amphitheater will be eliminated and a more obvious entryway created at the top of the theater steps. The project also includes repairs to the building exterior to prevent future water damage and upgrades to the adjoining 1915 playhouse, a national historic landmark.  The arts center improvements are expected to cost $7 million.

A few years ago, rumors circulated that Henry Street was entertaining offers from developers to sell air rights at Abrons Arts Center for possible condos.  Garza said he couldn’t comment directly about that, but added that the organization’s investment in the facility is a powerful statement of support for the reinvigorated arts program, which, he said, has “tremendous momentum.”

Rendering of main lobby at 301 Henry St . by the David Grider architectural firm.

Rendering of main lobby at 301 Henry St . by the David Grider architectural firm.

At 301 Henry Street, the youth center will also be getting some TLC. The lobby will be remodeled, a new kitchen will be installed and the lower level gym will be renovated.   In addition, the organization’s headquarters will receive upgrades for energy efficiency. The historic row houses at 263 and 265 Henry Street were selected by the Municipal Art Society for a “green building” demonstration project. Some improvements have already been made, with more to come.

The capital campaign began in 2012 with the goal of raising $12 million. Foundations, all with representatives on the Henry Street Board of Directors, came forward with major gifts right away.  The Louis and Anne Abrons Foundation, the Burch Family Foundation, the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Foundation and the Source of Hope Foundation all contributed $1 million or more.  There were gifts from other foundations, corporations and individuals, and government entities came up with another $3.3 million. The gifts allowed Henry Street to launch an even more robust fundraising campaign. $16.75 million has been pledged so far. There are naming opportunities for each of the individual projects.

Garza said it will take about three years to complete the projects. A public review process to give Henry Street ownership of the firehouse is about to get underway.