kingsbridge armory-bronx-nyc-untapped cities-010Artist rendering of the new Kingsbridge National Ice Center, via NYCEDC

This spring, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Economic Development Corp. announced plans that would transform the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx into a world-class indoor ice mecca. The planned Kingsbridge National Ice Center (KNIC) would repurpose the building that takes up a 5-acre block nestled alongside the 4 train on Jerome Avenue. Vacant since 1996, this 575,000 square-foot landmark building has not been used for military purposes in over two decades. The decision comes as the mayor and the City Council reached an agreement about the living wage and the Ice Center’s effect on business in the surrounding neighborhood.

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The Kingsbridge National Ice Center is a $275 million capital project that will feature nine regulation ice rinks on multiple levels inside the castle-esque structure–with an entranceway complete with a dried up moat. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. is hopeful for this project saying it “gives people a chance to re-examine the borough. It’s going to bring in tourism, anywhere from a million-and-a-half to two million people a year.” The Romanesque structure by architect Lewis Pilcher is expected to be accessible to the public 365 days of the year upon its completion, effectively changing the facade of an otherwise marginalized Bronx block.

The Kingsbridge Armory plan caught a snag in 2009 when it was the center of a stalemate between the City Council and the Mayor’s office. BP Diaz also admits that the road to finalizing this development has been difficult, “Mayor Bloomberg and I put our differences aside,” which mainly stemmed from disagreements about the “living wage” which is a standard above the working minimum that is often required by labor unions. Diaz, Local Community Board 7, and the City Council were firm in their expectation of $10 per hour with benefits or $11.50 without–numbers that in 2009 made the Mayor and various other developers strongly consider the other option for the Armory: a mega mall proposed by Related Companies (the corporation behind the development of the Hudson Yards West Side Complex). Former council speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn was critical of the mall plan saying, “We cannot approve a project that will bring more people to an area that is already choked with traffic and pollution.” BP Diaz was also concerned the effect a mall would have on the neighboring Bronx businesses along the nearby Fordham Road shopping strip.

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Artist rendering of the new Kingsbridge National Ice Center, via NYCEDC

Groundbreaking for this project is anticipated for the latter half of 2014, starting the first of two phases. The first phase will consist of the first five rinks on ground level, 50,000 square feet of community space and parking, with a expected completion in 2018, just as the building turns 101 years old. The second phase will take another year as they install the four elevated rinks.

kingsbridge armory-bronx-nyc-untapped cities-011Artist rendering of the new Kingsbridge National Ice Center, via NYCEDC

KNIC has plans to start a foundation modeled after the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation in Philadelphia with the goal of providing 12 hours of ice time each weekday during the school year and 9 hours each weekday during summer. BP Diaz, Jr. insinuates that when KNIC is completed, the New York Rangers will quite possibly have a new home practice arena.

Here are some more photos of the Kingsbridge armory as it stands today:

kingsbridge armory-bronx-nyc-untapped cities-003The steps of the Kingsbridge Armory, caged off from the public since 1996

kingsbridge armory-bronx-nyc-untapped cities-004The Romanesque facade of the Kingsbridge Armory

kingsbridge armory-bronx-nyc-untapped cities-005Today, ivy grows on most of the Kingsbridge Armory, which hasn’t been used for military purposes since 1993.