A few days ago I received an email from a friend and colleague of Henry Weinstein, who is the owner of the Old Bronx Courthouse, about what my thoughts as well as the community at-large would be on what should be done with the Old Courthouse while keeping in mind that SELLING IS NOT AN OPTION. I capitalize this for emphasis as that is not up for discussion but I am opening this discussion to all of Melrose and The Bronx since we are all in this together. For decades this old structure on 161st and Third Avenue has been a symbol of urban decay and collapse and now the time is right for it to become a new symbol. A symbol of renewal, a phoenix literally rising from the ashes of the neighborhood it once proudly served.
Sometime in the next week or so, I have been asked to take a walking tour with Mr Weinstein and his representative to talk things through and as humbling of a request that is, I cannot do it without YOUR input so this entry is specifically for YOU to sound off on the issues…let us know what you think should be there. Do keep in mind to keep it realistically because it is something that needs to be viable for the individual who will be developling the property as well as the future tenants of the building and the residents they will serve.
One of the ideas that I have for it (and the credit for this goes to Irwin Cohen, the mastermind behind the Chelsea Market) is to create a Bronx version of the Chelsea Market. Now as early as 2005, I read in a Q & A from the Center for an Urban Future where Mr. Cohen would like to develop such a mixed use project that is so successful in Chelsea – but with a Bronx twist and flair where the ethnic vendors displaced by the creation of the Gateway Center Mall would have a home. My idea as well as some locals who I’ve spoken to would be try and convince to have as an anchor in that building a Barnes and Noble open up because
- 1. We do no not have anything remotely that is a bookstore in the Bronx outside of Barnes and Noble at Bay Plaza in Co-op City yet neighborhoods such as the Upper East Side on 86 and Lexington had TWO Barnes and Nobles within 3 blocks of each other.
- 2. People are tired of having to go to places as 86th and Lex and go out of their way to buy books. Many residents are clamoring for one…just not to the right people…until now.
- 3. A bookstore will more than attract business, Boricua Village, once completed, will open up 700 apartment units bringing in at least 1500 new residents to just that ONE block alone where the Old Bronx Courthouse sits and that is not counting the 2,000 students plus 200+ faculty and staff that will be housed in Boricua College.
Just those three points alone should be enough incentive for Barnes and Noble to want to invest in Melrose and the South Bronx as a whole. The 161st Street/3rd Avenue corridor is a transportation rich corridor with a Metro North Station at 162nd and Courtlandt, the 2/5 train at 3rd Ave/149th Street, a plethora of buses, 4, 15, 21, 19, 6, 44 just to name a few! Much better connected for those who rely on public transportation than Barnes and Noble in Co-op City.
And Barnes and Noble or a similar book store would only be the anchor. The rest of the facility could house mom and pop markets, like the Chelsea market and the upper levels can give way to offices who knows? Maybe even Department of Motor Vehicles would like to take shop up there…aren’t we being touted as Downtown Bronx anyway? Maybe the Bronx Chamber of Commerce can also have new digs there…the options are endless and Mr. Weinstein is not opposed whatsoever to even donating space for the arts or maybe even a gym for local community children.
So I leave you with this: Please comment away publicly or privately. You all have my email if you rather would discuss this privately. Just hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org !