BRONX — The Kingsbridge Armory redevelopment project, which promised to be an economic shot in the arm for the area before it was dropped over wages, is expected to get a new shot at coming to fruition when Mayor Michael Bloomberg gives his State of the City address Thursday.
Two years after the Fordham-area project came to a standstill, the mayor is expected to announce that the city’s Economic Development Corporation will issue a request for proposals to groups interested in redeveloping the historic Armory building, which dates to 1917, aides revealed.
“We are launching a new effort to bring jobs to the most talked-about empty building in the Bronx: The Kingsbridge Armory,” the mayor is expected to say in his speech, which will be delivered Thursday afternoon at the Morris High School Campus in the Bronx.
“We’ve heard from a variety of interested parties and we are putting aside our differences to do what’s best for the City. That’s what leadership is about. It’s not about a series of running arguments – it’s about getting things done.”
The long-vacant armory had been slotted for development in 2006 when Related Cos. was supposed to build a retail complex.
But the project crashed to a halt in 2010 when the City Council mandated that workers be paid more than the minimum wage.
The announcement comes after months of heated debate over the potential adoption of a new "living wage" bill that would force developers who receive big city subsidies to pay their workers more than minimum wage.
While many in the City Council have been pushing the legislation, the mayor has warned it would be a job killer. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has the power to call a vote, has yet to weigh in.
The officials' change of heart comes after unsolicited interest from several companies interested in developing the building, on Kingsbridge Road and Jerome Avenue.
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who had been a staunch opponent to the former plan, said he believes the city will see “significant” interest, given the number of groups that have approached the Kingsbridge Armory Task Force to discuss ideas.
“The usage of the Kingsbridge Armory has been a major priority of my administration and this new RFP will allow the City to seek developers from a wide spectrum of potential uses, allowing us to bring a project that will enhance and compliment the surrounding neighborhood to this historic structure,” he said in a statement.
The RFP, which will be released Thursday, will offer options for both purchase and long-term lease of the building, which they hope will become a destination space. While the city is open to commercial, retail, entertainment, and community uses, suburban-style big-box stores, like Walmart, will be discouraged by the RFP.
The deal will also require any future owner to restore and preserve of the Armory's historical facade. Reportedly the largest armory in the world, the 575,000 square-foot landmark, which spans more than a city block, looks like a sprawling fortress, with Romanesque arches, vaulted ceilings and battlement towers.
The inside features vaulted steel trusses and a sub-basement that includes old offices, a garage and rifle and pistol ranges.
The building was once home of the 258th Field Artillery and has since been used for everything from military parades and exhibitions, to rodeos bike races and as a movie set since then.