By Brian J. Pape, AIA, LEED-AP
At the corner of Gansevoort and Washington Streets, diagonally across the intersection from the Whitney Museum and the High Line Park entrances, a new mixed-use building has arisen where an old meat-packing structure once stood. The Meatpacking Historic District has undergone many drastic changes in recent years, transforming from the rough-and-tough shipping, warehouse, provisions distribution market area to a genteel retail and entertainment center.
When the Aurora Capital Group and William Gottlieb Real Estate proposed an 8-story commercial and residential development at 60-74 Gansevoort Street several years ago, designed by BKSK Architects of light-colored brick, marquee canopies, arched openings over large windows, and some necessary zoning amendments, neighbors proposed a new community space should be included in the plans.
The Community Board Two of Manhattan (CB2) Arts Advisory Panel Task Force, led by David Gruber, recognizing the pressing need for rehearsal space for the many theater, dance, music, and other arts groups in the neighborhood, has organized a new community rehearsal space at this location, with the cooperation of developer partner Jared Epstein of the Aurora Capital Group. This exciting prospect comes at a time when all arts organizations are preparing to refresh their activities after more than a year of pandemic lockdowns. To accomplish these goals, CB2 arranged for a 99-year lease of the space, called the Gansevoort Benefit Space, available for 24/7 use, for just $1/year!
WestView News and Mr. Gruber toured the space of this newly constructed building recently. We entered at 60 Gansevoort, one of two ADA-compliant elevator lobby entries at street level. At the lower level of 9’ ceilings, the raw concrete floors and walls typical of storage basements led to a large storage room of about 1700 sq. ft. in two long bays, already equipped with an ADA-compliant restroom, heat, venting and cooling, sprinklers and rudimentary lighting.
Final finishes are yet to be determined, but discussions for more electrical outlet drops and lighting, and how the open space is flexible for many potential arrangements, are ongoing.
CB2 is in the process of selecting a non-profit Master Tenant (MT) through an RFP (Request For Proposals, transparent, open to the public, advertised notices). While the MT need not be located in CB2, to qualify as the umbrella organization to sign the lease with building ownership, it will need a track record of stability and solvency.
The MT will administer the program for an initial term of 5-10 years, and will be required to sublet to small theater and performing arts groups that typically create and produce in spaces with no more than 99 seats, within our CB2 community. The clear preference is to establish a roster of independent theatre groups or performing artists signed up for short-term rehearsal use; it is not intended as a backup rehearsal space for a single theater entity, nor as a performance venue. The MT will be allowed to charge the end-users a small fee to cover maintenance, utilities, security deposits and general administrative expenses.
CB2 is anticipating that the program will begin late August or early September, and special acknowledgement is given to the efforts and leadership of CB2 former-Chair Carter Booth, Erik Bottcher of Cory Johnson’s city council office, and previously of the late Elaine Young.
Hopefully, this program will serve as a model of public/private cooperation on a true local neighborhood basis in the interest of the performing arts for the city.
Brian J. Pape is a LEED-AP “green” architect consulting in private practice, serves on the Manhattan District 2 Community Board Landmarks Committee and Quality of Life Committee, isco-chair of the American Institute of Architects NY Design for Aging Committee, is a member of the AIANY Historic Buildings Committee, and is a journalist who specializes in architecture subjects.