Afro-Caribbean cultural center raises $7.5 M for the rebirth of long-vacant East Harlem firehouse

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The four-story fire station on E. 125th St. near Lexington Ave. was shuttered in 2003, but by November 2015 the 8,500-square-foot site is expected to be the new home base for the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, Jan Ransom reports for The New York Daily News.

The nation’s leading Afro-Caribbean cultural center raised $7.5 million to revamp a decaying East Harlem horse-and-buggy-era firehouse.

The four-story fire station on E. 125th St. near Lexington Ave. was shuttered in 2003, but by November 2015 the 8,500-square-foot site is expected to be the new home base for the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute.

The façade, which is landmarked, will be restored and the interior of the 1888 Romanesque Revival-style firehouse will be transformed into a “state-of-the-art cultural center,” renderings shared with the Daily News reveal.

“The idea is that the building transcends time: an old historical, beautiful, restored exterior welcomes you,” said Jorge Luaces, the director of design for CSA Group. “Then you walk through a delicate, elegant, transparent layer of glass doors and you are exposed to a modern, open interior with strong curve forms and art work.”

The building’s basement and ground floor will become multi-purpose spaces for exhibitions and will include rooms for music, literature, dance and film programs. There will also be a café, media center, gift and pantry shop.

One floor will include a small performance area with up to 75 seats and the top floor — once used to store hay, in the days before there were fire engines — will be reserved for the center’s offices.

A groundbreaking is slated for Sept. 16, and construction will kick off later this month.

“It’s an important moment for 125th St., for El Barrio and East Harlem,” said Marta Moreno Vega, the organization’s founder and president. “The east side has not been part of the cultural tourism matrix.”

“East Harlem has a history, a presence, and that needs to be celebrated as well,” she said.

The city selected the nonprofit, which was founded in 1976, to bring the old firehouse — the home of Engine Co. 36 — back to life in 2008 after the station and four others were closed in 2003 due to budget cuts.

The organization spent the ensuing six years planning the new center and raising the money to get it done. City and state agencies awarded roughly 75% of the funds, Vega said.

For the original report go to http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/uptown/long-vacant-east-harlem-firehouse-transformed-cultural-hub-article-1.1937069#ixzz3DA9ptTix

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