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Italian American Museum Puts Its Home on Market for $13M

 The Italian American Museum has puts its three buildings at 185-189 Grand St. on the market for $13 million.
The Italian American Museum has puts its three buildings at 185-189 Grand St. on the market for $13 million.
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Massey Knakal Realty Services

LITTLE ITALY — The Italian American Museum has put its home up for sale — but the cultural institution isn't going anywhere.

The three buildings at 185-189 Grand St., which contain the museum as well as residential units and storefronts, recently hit the market for $13 million, with the condition that the museum remain on site.

The museum hopes that whoever buys the three-story buildings will tear them down and build a structure that's twice as large — which is allowed under the zoning — giving the museum the chance to double its space as well, said Joseph Scelsa, president of the Italian American Museum.

Scelsa intends to use the money raised by the building sale to create a new high-tech 4,000-square-foot museum with audio and visual exhibits telling the story of the neighborhood's Italian immigrants.

"The best way to do it is to partner with someone who is willing to develop the rest of the building so the museum can expand and become a state-of-the-art facility for the 21st century," Scelsa said.

"The [new] facility itself will be something that can handle the infrastructure of the technology, which is something we can't really do right now."

The museum, which opened in 2001, purchased the three buildings in 2008 but they became too much of a financial burden, triggering the decision to sell, according to a New York Times article.

The current buildings have about 10,000 square feet of space, while a new development on the site could be more than 22,000 square feet, according to Massey Knakal Realty Services, the broker handling the sale.

Scelsa estimates that it will be at least two to three years before construction could begin, so the museum has not begun thinking about a temporary relocation plan.

"We have plenty of time to figure that piece out," he said.