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Could International Center of Photography Be Coming to Essex Crossing?

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Essex Crossing Site 6. Credit: Dattner Architects.
Essex Crossing Site 6. Credit: Dattner Architects.

The developers building the Essex Crossing project updated community members on their progress last night and answered questions regarding construction issues. We’ll have a full report later today. There’s one tidbit that we’ll share now, however, since there’s likely to be some rumormongering about it today.

In reviewing progress on Site 6, located at Broome and Attorney streets, a construction manager mentioned that one of three major commercial tenants would be the International Center of Photography (ICP). The development team quickly retracted the statement during the meeting. Later, Essex Crossing spokesman James Yolles reiterated that there’s no signed lease, telling us, “we have been in discussions with a number of organizations about the educational facility at site 6.”

The building at 175 Delancey St. will include 100 rental apartments for seniors, a 55,000 sq. ft. NYU Langone medical center and a senior center operated by Grand Street Settlement. There’s also 24,000 sq. ft. set aside for an educational facility. In its original plans, the development team was counting on a dual generation school from Educational Alliance, but that institution pulled out of the project.

Later this year, International Center of Photography will open a new exhibition space at 250 Bowery. ICP’s school is still in Midtown, but its lease expires in 2018. Executive Director Mark Lubell has suggested he’d like to find a Lower East Side location for the school.

The ICP rumors have actually been circulating for months. In an article about the future of the esteemed school this past fall, Art News floated the idea of an Essex Crossing move. The story included interviews with a number of key players at ICP:

“I think what they are doing right now (moving the museum to the Bowery) is an interim solution,” said a former board member on the condition of anonymity. “But that’s not the long-term solution because long-term it isn’t enough space to get the institution together.” Indeed, while 250 Bowery will provide exhibition space, there is no room for the school… Also, staff offices and the archive have now been moved to Mana Contemporary, a cultural center in Jersey City, where ICP has 15,000 additional square feet at an unnamed additional cost… Though Lubell did an admirable job raising over $20 million for the new building and renovation, that figure falls far short of the $100 million to $150 million estimated to be needed to find a space big enough for the school, archive, offices, and galleries. It is possible that Lubell might turn a profit by selling 250 Bowery and putting the revenue toward a bigger plan—something in the $1.1 billion Essex Crossing development planned for the Lower East Side, for example. (A Warhol Museum satellite was supposed to move into the space as its cultural component.)

The space on site 1 that was going to house the Warhol Museum is only 10,000 sq. ft., about the same size as ICP’s new Bowery location. Warhol backed out of the project in the middle of 2015.

While it’s possible ICP is looking at a major presence within Essex Crossing, the institution would need to be scattered across two or three sites. There is no single commercial space big enough for the museum, school, offices and archive. Stay tuned.


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