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City Asks Developers to Transform Crown Heights' Huge Bedford Armory

By Sonja Sharp | August 15, 2012 7:23am | Updated on August 15, 2012 1:51pm

CROWN HEIGHTS — After years of dreams, schemes and sweat,  a plan to develop 50,000 square feet of Crown Heights' Bedford-Atlantic Armory finally went to potential developers Wednesday.

Possible uses already envisioned include a climbing wall, a concert venue or an ice-skating rink.

"It's a long road ahead, but we're very excited to get to this point," said Seth Diamond, commissioner of city's homeless services department.

"Today is really the beginning of the process."

A portion of the century-old building, whose imposing red brick turrets jut up from the intersection of Atlantic and Bedford avenues like the spires of a medieval castle, has long served as an assessment center for the department.

Hundreds sleep there each night, while the enormous drill hall is used for storage. 

City officials and community advocates yearn to see that storage space opened up to the community, much like the Eighth Avenue Armory in neighboring Park Slope.

City Councilwoman Letitia James, Speaker Christine Quinn and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz have all thrown their weight behind the project. 

Now, after years of advocacy and elbow grease, they may soon get their wish. Wednesday's request for proposals was put out jointly by the New York Economic City Development Corporation and the DHS.

"it’s a state and a national landmark, and it’s really an historic opportunity to do something with a very important building," Diamond said. "The point right now is to see what people might be able to do, what their dreams are for the space."

In June, Markowitz released a report full of potential uses for the nearby Bedford-Union armory, ranging from a rock-climbing gym to a theater. Proponents hope that with its nearly 100-foot-tall ceilings and prime location at the intersection of Crown Heights, Prospect Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, the Bedford-Atlantic armory will inspire equally creative uses.

The city will host a site visit for potential developers on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. The submission deadline is Oct. 19.