lower concourse-waterfront-park-rendering-bronx-new york city-untapped cities-brennan ortiz

The Bronx has struggled to exude as much appeal as some of its sister boroughs have in recent years (looking at you, Brooklyn). Still, the change and renewal that The Bronx has seen today—from record low crime rates, to its boost in employment opportunities and housing—has warranted plenty of adoration from the media and the city alike. These advances may be evidence of the “New Bronx” that Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. so often touts. From better transit to shopping malls and parkland remodeling, here are 5 projects, both underway and under consideration, that will change the Bronx for the better.

1. The Kingsbridge National Ice Center

kingsbridge national ice center-knic-bronx-new york city-untapped cities-brennan ortizRendering of the Kingsbridge National Ice Center

Originally built to house the National Guard’s Eight Coastal Artillery Regiment in the 1910s, the Kingsbridge Armory also became the stage for exhibits, film sets, boxing matches and was even the temporary meeting place of the United Nations after World War II.  Following its military use, the armory sat unused since 1996.

Today, after evading previous plans to become a shopping center, the colossal structure will instead be converted into the largest indoor ice facility in the world. The Kingsbridge National Ice Center or KNIC, will feature nine ice rinks, a 5,000-seat arena, dedicated space for community activities, and a free after-school program with tutoring and skating lessons.

kingsbridge armory-bronx-nyc-untapped cities-010Rendering of KNIC’s interior. Rendering via NYCEDC.

This will undoubtedly change the Kingsbridge and Fordham Heights neighborhoods and benefit the borough as a whole, all the while adding to the existing sports presence in the borough. We can expect to strap on our ice skates by 2018 for the completion of the project!

2. Rezoning of the Lower Concourse into Waterfront District

lower concourse-waterfront-park-bronx-new york city-untapped cities-brennan ortizRendering of waterfront in South Bronx along the Harlem River

In a city of rivers, it is easy to see why the majority of boroughs have invested in waterfront parks. These sites typically feature public space and recreational facilities, high-end housing developments, and encourage the introduction of amenities in nearby neighborhoods. The addition of these waterfronts has proved a huge catalyst in economic growth, and now the Bronx will have a piece of this pie.

During his recent State of The Borough Speech, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. announced his ambitions to convert the stretch of Exterior Street in the Lower Concourse area between 138th and 149th streets into a mixed-use waterfront district highlighting a prime waterfront destination à la Brooklyn Bridge Park that is to connect to Mill Pond Park.

lower concourse-waterfront-park-rendering-bronx-new york city-untapped cities-brennan ortizArtist rendering of South Bronx waterfront esplanade and properties

The vision has been designed in part by a recent planning report released by the non-profit South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation or SoBro, who revealed that the area can accommodate more than 2,000 units of housing, 1.5 million square feet of commercial space, and 500,000 square feet of community facility space, public parks, and waterfront access.

The project is still in its very early stages. Waterfront access has been a long denied asset for the Bronx, but taking into account the attention this proposal has received, it’s safe to say we may soon see the Bronx hold its own. Similarly, the Department of City Planning has released a report presenting the conversion of The Bronx’s Sheridan Expressway into a pedestrian friendly boulevard that will provide waterfront access to The Bronx River, and support retail growth along with housing and park space.

3. Extension of the Metro-North Railroad into The East Bronx

metro north-east bronx-bronx-transit-new york city-untapped cities-brennan ortizMap displaying the proposed Metro-North line route via Railway Gazette.

During his State of the State address, Governor Andrew Cuomo reported that the MTA will build four new stations to bring transit options to underserved East Bronx communities, granting direct access to and from Penn Station. The proposed route would divide from the New Haven line and stop at Co-op City, Morris Park, Parkchester and Hunts Point. Not only will the project provide Bronxites with direct access to Manhattan, but also to Connecticut and vice versa.

The completion of these stations will also encourage new businesses catering to commuters. Although the Cuomo administration is currently seeking the funds, estimated to average upwards of $1 billion, Cuomo reassured his audience and the city that the proposal is definitely a priority.

4. Retail Galore

mall at bay plaza-shopping-bronx-new york city-untapped cities-brennan ortizRendering of The Mall at Bay Plaza Entrance via The Mall at Bay Plaza.

The Bronx has long lacked the kind of retail variety that some of the other boroughs offer, prompting Bronxites to travel to Westchester or the other boroughs to shop. This will no longer be the case after 1.4 million square feet of retail space comes to the borough. The Bronx is bound to become a retail oasis with at least five shopping centers scheduled to open soon. This sudden growth in retail has been spurred by the success of the Bronx Terminal Market just south of Yankee Stadium. Retailers have already claimed space in some of the anticipated developments.

riverdale crossing-shopping center-bronx-new york city-untapped cities-brennan ortizRendering of Riverdale Crossing via Real Estate Weekly.

Among the many locations set to open is the Mall at Bay Plaza, which will be New York’s first enclosed shopping mall in nearly 40 years and will also debut the Bronx’s first H&M, among other chains such as Michael Kors, American Eagle and even an Olive Garden. The Mall at Bay Plaza will be an expansion of the existing Bay Plaza Shopping Center, and will house all its retailers under one roof. It is expected to be completed by summer this year.

There’s also the Broadway Plaza Shopping Center in Kingsbridge, whose developer sought to increase its size by 33,000 square feet. We can expect to see German supermarket chain Aldi, along with TJ Maxx and other smaller businesses in the center to open during the second quarter of 2015

Other shopping centers include Riverdale Crossing set to open this coming June and The Crossings at Southern which will open its doors in the fall of 2015. These are just a few of the many retail developments bound to sweep the borough.

5. The Master Renovation of Van Cortlandt Park

printThe Van Cortlandt Major Project Plan released by NYC Parks. Photo via The Riverdale Press.

Few people know that the Bronx is the greenest borough of New York City, with  the greatest amount of parkland relative to its size. Though Pelham Bay Park in the East Bronx takes the prize as New York City’s largest city-owned park (three times the size of Central Park), and Bronx Park is home to the notable Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden, Van Cortlandt Park has been the subject of a Master Renovation Plan introduced via a conceptual map by the Planning and Parklands Division in October of 2013. The unveiling will be the park’s first undertaking of its kind since 1888.

Led by parks department urban planner Charles Mckinney, the concept is the result of a year’s worth of meeting with neighbors to gather their suggested input regarding the park’s improvement. Though the master plan will span twenty years, it includes numerous upgrades, such as the construction of three pedestrian bridges over highways in the style of Central Park, removing Tibbetts Brook from the sewage system and placing it aboveground so that it becomes a pleasant water feature, and the inclusion of more pedestrian and bike friendly paths. The project is still preliminary, but these proposals will surely mean that Van Cortlandt Park can be rejuvenated at a level akin to Manhattan’s Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

Get in touch with the author: @Brennan_NYC