CROWN HEIGHTS — The planned Bedford-Union Armory redevelopment has its first tenant lined up.
The organizers of the neighborhood’s famous West Indian Day Parade will move their headquarters to the city-owned former military building on Bedford Avenue, set to be repurposed by developers at BFC Partners, the group said Tuesday.
The West Indian American Day Carnival Association, currently operating in a small Rogers Avenue storefront, has agreed to a 10-year lease in the armory’s “head house” — the two-story brick outcropping located on the Bedford Avenue side of the 138,000-square-feet building, representatives of BFC said.
The agreement is contingent upon the city approving the project through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, a months-long process that requires separate approvals from the City Council and mayor.
If completed, eight to ten community organizations will use 25,000 square feet of space in the building set aside for “locally based nonprofits,” said BFC principal Don Capoccia.
“We think that it can become a real focal point for the community,” he said.
Offices will be offered to the organizations at below-market rental rates, he said; WIADCA’s space costs approximately $6 per square foot — well below the going rate of about $20 to $25 per square foot for office space in Crown Heights, according to local commercial real estate experts.
“Securing a permanent home for West Indian cultural leadership is a huge victory for our Crown Heights community,” said William Howard, president of WIADCA, in a statement provided by BFC. “We commend BFC Partners for their commitment to providing truly affordable office space that will enable us to keep celebrating and sharing our traditions for generations to come.”
In recent months, the plan for the armory — unveiled by the NYC Economic Development Corp. in December of 2015 — hit some snags. In August, activists and housing advocates protested one of the developers chosen by the EDC for the project, Slate Property Group. Soon afterward, Slate dropped out of the armory redevelopment, followed quickly by Knicks star Carmelo Anthony who had promised to support the armory's athletic programs through his foundation.
In October, four local elected officials in Crown Heights signed a letter demanding 100 percent of the armory’s housing be affordable. Currently, the plan calls for half of rentals to be built on the site to be set aside for low- and middle-income residents.
The city and BFC have said they are moving forward with the project. A spokesperson for EDC said the city is open to a variety of affordability options and "will continue to work with the community and their elected officials to ensure the community’s needs are reflected in the final proposal."
Capoccia stressed “ULURP would not influence the actual layout or the space" set aside for WIADCA and others. But all leases, and the entire project, depend on city approval and if BFC doesn’t get that, “we’re not going to be able to give anybody anything," he said.
In addition to office space and affordable rentals, the armory redevelopment includes market-rate rental apartments, a recreation center and 24 market-rate condominium townhouses to be built on the building’s President Street side.