“Downtown” Bronx to Get a $10 Million Makeover

After almost a year of going over dozens of projects submitted to be considered for New York State Governor Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative for the South Bronx, the final projects have been revealed.

We were intimately involved with the details and offered insights and recommendations on this initiative and are excited to share them with you.

But first, where exactly is “Downtown” Bronx?

Generally speaking, Melrose is the unofficial downtown area of our borough stretching from The Hub at Third Avenue and 149th Street to the civic heart and courts along 161st Street (Melrose is, after all, where The Bronx was officially born in 1914 as the last county of NYS).

When the initiative was announced last year, the state had a much broader interpretation of the area which stretched down to Mott Haven and 138th Street and a little further north but that didn’t make sense especially when only $10 million is concerned.

Now it’s been narrowed down to roughly the greater Melrose neighborhood from 165th to 144th streets.

Here are the projects that are receive funding:

Expand the Andrew Freedman Home Cultural Art Center: Renovate the Andrew Freedman Home Cultural Art Center to accommodate theater, visual arts, music, dance, and other art productions, and space for workforce development and after-school programming. Refurbish and enhance the outdoor areas to increase public awareness of programming inside the historic center. ($1,720,000)

Convert the 149th Street Bridge into a Public Plaza: Create an expanded, programmable sidewalk plaza on the 149th Street Bridge that will connect the Lower Concourse to the Hub, and provide space for vendors, art, and other activities. ($2,592,000)

Beautify Streetscapes at the Hub and 149th Street: Invest in a series of streetscape improvements on Third Avenue, Melrose Avenue, and 149th Street to foster a stronger local identity, improve safety, and encourage private investment. ($1,040,000)

Create a Business Improvement Fund: Create a Business Improvement Fund available to business owners and property owners to fund façade and storefront improvements, upper-floor renovations, and development of full-service restaurants and cafés along the DRI area’s major commercial corridors. ($1,000,000)

Complete an Upgrade of the BronxWorks Public Swimming Pool Facility: Build on recent investment in a community swimming pool located at BronxWorks’ Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center on the Grand Concourse. Improvements to the pool area would include an air handling system, new ceiling tiles, and refurbished locker rooms. ($429,000)

Support the Opening of the Bronx Kreate Space Artist-Maker Hub: Provide gap funding to build out artist-maker co-working space in Mott Haven at the new Bronx Kreate Space. Planned improvements include gallery space, a café, low-cost workspace, artist studios and communal facilities. ($595,000)

Improve Community Gardens at Melrose Common: Improve three community gardens in Melrose Commons with solar power, enhanced lighting, wi-fi access, and rainwater harvesting to strengthen the area’s open space network, community resilience, and sustainability. ($630,000)

Activate the New Roberto Clemente Plaza with Outdoor Cafes: Install two outdoor cafes in the soon-to-be-completed public space at the Roberto Clemente Plaza to provide additional dining options for local workers and shoppers. One of the cafes will serve as an incubator for local food entrepreneurs. ($520,000)

Enable Construction of a New Pregones Theater Space: Demolish the existing, out-of-code, wood-frame house at 571 Walton Avenue to enable the Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater (PRTT) to develop a modern facility that will serve as an organizational headquarters and house artist rehearsal, studio, and performance space. ($260,000)

Expand Low-Cost Broadband Access in Melrose Commons: Create a point-to-multi-point, rooftop-based wireless broadband network serving residents, businesses, and visitors in Melrose Commons. The network would offer free wi-fi in and around select public spaces; free access to an internet-enabled local resource portal for residents within networked buildings; and low-cost broadband service for residents within networked buildings. Initial fiber access would be provided by Nos Quedamos at two buildings it owns. ($437,000)

Refresh the Bronx Walk of Fame with Updated Signs and Branding: Refresh the Bronx Walk of Fame by redesigning, replacing, and regrouping signs along the Grand Concourse between 149th Street and 167th Street, and creating a digital directory to draw visitors. ($250,000)

Create a More Welcoming Gateway at the 161st Street Station: Create a modern, attractive gateway to the Bronx outside the East 161st Street – Yankee Stadium subway station by enhancing existing concrete medians with improved plantings. This project will complement other investments in the area. ($227,000)

What do you think about these projects?

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.