City reopens proposals for Kingsbridge Armory site

January 27, 2012 5:55:16 AM PST
Military use of the Bronx Kingsbridge Armory ended in 1996, and since then, it has sat vacant.

A plan to convert it to a retail mall was rejected a few years ago, but now, the city has re-opened the proposals.

The armory was built in 1910 with an interior so large, you could fire a cannon at one end and not hit the other end. It's that kind of size that is both a positive and a negative when it comes to finding a company or an organization to take it over.

The Kingsbridge Armory covers five acres, making it possibly the largest in the world. It is nine stories tall, with stellar brick work, and the inside has a 10,000-square foot drill hall and an 800-seat auditorium, just waiting for new life.

The plan for the retail mall was rejected in 2009, in part because local leaders were concerned it would kill smaller businesses nearby. Now, the city is launching a new request for proposals.

"We want it so that we can create jobs, so that we can have it as a destination place, and so that the people around this neighborhood and around the Bronx can enjoy this majestic building," Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz said.

One proposal is to construct an indoor cycling track called a velodrome. Local cycling enthusiasts say a 250-meter track could lure international events to the venue.

"This building would work great, but more than that, we're developing an overall plan that would be much wider in scope than just the velodrome," said Michael Green, of the Century Road Club Association, which is the largest bicycle racing club in the U.S. "And it would meet the needs of the local community, the city and do for the Kingsbridge neighborhood similar things to what the track and field armory has done for Washington Heights."

The Washington Heights Armory was transformed from a homeless shelter into a world class track and field facility. It is a shiny example of the right idea at the right time. The $50 million renovation began in 1993 and now the venue hosts more than 100 events a year. There's even a waiting list.

But the New Balance Track and Field Center is not for profit. Whatever goes into the Kingsbridge Armory will have to create jobs and be a good neighbor, a tall order to fill.

The deadline for the armory proposals is March 22. They will then be reviewed to pick a winning submission.

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