The Local, July 14, 2010
The BAM cultural district, which was originally planned a decade ago and has been making slow progress ever since, is moving forward. Some changes have been made — to plans as well as to the parties involved — but six elements of the project are breaking ground this year.
While the earliest stage of the plan was implemented in 2004 with the renovation of 80 Arts, the most recent project to get underway is the Fisher Building, which broke ground in May. The structure will house a 250-seat theater and a 1,400-square-foot rehearsal and education space. The Theater for a New Audience, which has moved a few times over the past five years, will finally have a permanent home on Rockwell Place, which they will break ground on in December. The theater was originally designed by Frank Gehry and Hugh Hardy. Mr. Gehry has since left the project, leaving it in the hands of the H3 Hardy company.
Some parts of the initial plan are on hold indefinitely. The Brooklyn Arts Tower, which was going to offer about 100 affordable housing units, has been tabled. Robert Perris, district manager for Brooklyn’s Community Board 2, said the project is on hold because it would not be economically viable in the current housing market. The Visual and Performing Arts Library has also been eliminated. The Brooklyn Public Library was planning on funding the library, but they could not raise enough money and had to back out of the project.
This year BAM will break ground on several plaza spaces, designed by Ken Smith, who also created the rooftop garden space at the Museum of Modern Art. Mr. Perris said that the purpose of these spaces is to blur the lines between the street and the institutional buildings. They could potentially house outdoor performances and provide a place where people can relax without spending any money, he said.
These plaza sites have shifted several times, due to the changing footprint of the plan. Smaller plazas are planned throughout the district — at Fulton Street and Lafayette Avenue, between Flatbush Avenue and Rockland Place, and in front of the Theater for a New Audience on Ashland Place. There will also be a large space known as the Grand Plaza running along Lafayette Avenue between Flatbush Avenue and Ashland Place.
The renovation and construction process may also lead to a bit of upheaval — BRIC Arts|Media|Bklyn has signed a two-year lease for a space in DUMBO, removing some of their operations from the soon-to-be-renovated Strand Theater, which it shares with Urban Glass.
In 2007, the New York Post reported that the total cost for the cultural district was estimated at $650 million. That figure included the projects that have since been scrapped, however, so it is no longer accurate. We don’t currently have a more up-to-date final price tag, but we are continuing to gather economic information about the project and will report the updated figures when we get them.
Since this plan is massive and has the potential to significantly change Fort Greene, the Local will be producing a series of pieces looking at as many different aspects of the cultural district as possible. There are a lot of moving parts here and we want to know what’s on your minds. So tell us — what do you want to know about the BAM Cultural District?
Thomas Chan contributed to this report.