Gov. Kathy Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams and other local elected and economic development officials opened a new chapter for the Kingsbridge Armory Tuesday. And it comes with $200 million in city and state funding.
With city Economic Development Corp. president and chief executive Andrew Kimball by their side, the officials announced during a press conference at the cavernous beleaguered venue, the guiding principles for a vision plan called “Together for Kingsbridge” or “Juntos para Kingsbridge.”
The plan outlines next steps for a process that will include the redevelopment of the historic and long-underutilized Kingsbridge Armory and the creation of new economic opportunities in the Bronx. Rooted in community priorities and drawing on growing industries, the vision plan focuses on creating family-sustaining, local jobs and improving the quality of life for residents of Kingsbridge Heights and neighboring Bronx communities.
Specifically, Hochul announced some of the redevelopment would include using the site for vocational training, a small business incubator, retail, food and beverage establishments and Bronx arts and culture space. Also, preferred industries for the venue include film and television, sustainable manufacturing, emerging technologies, and urban agriculture.
“After years of dwelling on the history of the Kingsbridge Armory, we are finally looking ahead to its remarkable future,” Hochul said. “I know how critical the future of the armory is to this community and to the entire borough of the Bronx, which is why I prioritized locking in $100 million in state funding that will allow this transformative project to move forward.
“Working with local leaders and our partners in the City of New York, the Kingsbridge Armory will anchor this neighborhood, address longstanding community needs, and boost the local economy and I anticipate a project labor agreement to create good-paying union jobs at this site as we work to bring this project to fruition.”
There will be a release of a request for proposals next month for the redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory — the largest armory in the nation — providing guidance to interested private partners on what the community and NYCEDC will look for in a future activation. The redevelopment effort could deliver more than 1,800 jobs, including 1,100 construction jobs, and up to $10 billion in economic impact to the Bronx based on initial estimates.
Empire State Development president, chief executive and commissioner Hope Knight is thankful for the efforts of the electeds and residents involved in the vision planning process.
“Kingsbridge Armory has a storied past, and now — finally — a bright, community-focused future,” she said. “Thanks to the personal commitment and public investment led by Gov. Hochul and Mayor Adams, Bronx residents can look forward to the armory being a long-overdue source of economic opportunity and development for both the neighborhood and the entire borough.”
Of course, the armory has been at a similar juncture before. After it closed in 1996, there was a plan put forth for an ice skating rink.
However, that idea died on the vine. It led to a vision planning process that has taken nine months to produce the new plan.
“Today’s announcement marks the end of a nine-month public community engagement process and the beginning of redeveloping the Kingsbridge Armory guided by Bronxites, for Bronxites,” said U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat.
“I also commend Council Member Pierina Sanchez for allocating $12 million from the New York City Council for capital improvements, maintenance, and other purposes.”
Espaillat was glad to report the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development involvement in securing federal funding for capital improvements for the Kingsbridge Armory to ensure the space is waterproof, free of hazardous materials, and structurally reinforced.
“The Kingsbridge Armory is a majestic, incredible structure that could be activated to deliver so much to our community and the Bronx.
It could represent a catalyst for economic transformation in one of the neighborhoods hardest hit by the pandemic and that was already struggling economically prior to the pandemic. It could represent hundreds of good-paying, union jobs,” Councilmember Sanchez said.
Planning efforts for the Kingsbridge Armory date back nearly three decades and include two requests for proposals that failed to advance through the City Council or obtain necessary financing.
Over the last decade, the armory has served as an emergency supply and food distribution center following Hurricane Sandy, at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, and after the Twin Parks fire.
The “Together for Kingsbridge Vision Plan” is the result of an extensive, community-driven process that kicked off in November 2022 and included a series of public workshops and engagement opportunities designed to develop a shared vision for how this tremendous public asset can support the neighborhood and the community’s economic development priorities.
As part of the approach, engagement was guided by community working group of neighborhood leaders, community-based organizations, key institutions, federal and state elected officials, and others — led by Sanchez and Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition executive director Sandra Lobo.
The nine-month community engagement process reached over 4,000 people and consisted of:
• More than 1,000 participants across four public workshops
• More than 900 survey respondents
• More than 500 community members touring the armory
• Nine community board meetings
• Sixteen small group discussions
• Three public information sessions
• Feedback from more than 75 industry stakeholders on the armory’s potential.
In the engagement process, community members identified two key sets of priorities, which aim to shape proposals, for the future of the Kingsbridge Armory. The first is a set of guiding principles — actionable goals for the project in response to the community’s strengths and needs.
The community’s guiding principles include prioritizing youth, welcoming older adults, fostering intergenerational relationships, creating jobs and wealth for existing workers and communities, growing a regenerative local economy, maximizing community ownership, and putting the Bronx on the map.
The second is a list of priority uses for the armory — outlining industries and potential activations that could advance the community’s economic development priorities.
Within the priority uses, community members identified a series of preferred industries that would allow the armory to attract major private investment enabling the transformation of this public asset into a sustainable economic engine for local jobs and wealth.
The Kingsbridge Armory opened in 1917 and was used by the U.S. military until 1994 before reverting to city ownership in 1996. The armory was designated as a New York City Landmark in 1974 and placed on the National Register for Historic Places list in 1982.
More recently, during the Covid-19 public health crisis, it served as a temporary food distribution center and, early last year, was used by Bronx borough president Vanessa Gibson and local officials to store supplies for those impacted by the Twin Park North fire.
The last development proposal that would have transformed the armory into an ice-skating center had a projected budget of $350 million.