Harlem knew this was coming. Now an illustration for the National Urban League’s new Headquarters and Civil Rights Museum to be built on 125th Street near Lenox Avenue, bringing the League back home, where it was founded in 1910.
The $242 million, 17-story, mixed-use building will be home to not only the National Urban League, but also house New York’s first civil rights museum. The 425,000 square-foot building will also include 171 mixed-income units, with an entrance on 126th Street, and 90,000 square feet of retail space in addition to the 70,000 square-feet for offices, with entrances on 125th Street. Two non-profits will occupy space in the new building ~ Jazzmobile and 100 Black Men. The National Urban League will be signing a 99-year lease for the State-owned land.
In addition, Target announced that they signed a lease for a 44,000 square-foot space as part of the new 17-story project. The new, smaller space will be tailored to serve the surrounding population.
The Civil Rights Museum will be the first in New York State, and will be designed to tell the story of civil rights advocacy in the North.
Comments from a few of the speakers at the press conference on Thursday, July 18, 2019.
“Equitable economic development means investing in every neighborhood and in organizations like the National Urban League that work every day to uplift others,” Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said.“We are proud to support this project that will keep NUL in New York and continue Harlem’s renaissance.”
RuthAnne Visnauskas, Commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal said: “The National Urban League holds an important place in our history, breaking down barriers and fighting for economic and social justice across the country. HCR is proud to see the organization’s headquarters return to its original home in Harlem, bringing with it quality affordable housing for more than 170 New Yorkers. This will move Governor Cuomo’s $20 billion Housing Plan forward and contribute to Harlem’s rebirth.”
“Harlem is where our work began more than a century ago and is very much our spiritual home,” National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said. “We are grateful to Governor Cuomo and the local elected officials who helped to make this possible. We are elated to be joining the vibrant Harlem community and moving into the next phase of our ever-expanding mission of advocacy and service.”
“Bringing the National Urban League’s headquarters back to Harlem while maximizing the move to bring a host of amenities and a museum online will embed critical resources in the community,” said NYCEDC President James Patchett. “The epicenter of the Harlem Renaissance, this iconic New York City neighborhood has helped to define black culture in America and is most fitting to be the home of New York’s first civil rights museum.”
On Thursday, July 18, 2019, Empire State Development’s Board of Directors voted to approve a modified General Project Plan for the development and two grants from the New York City Regional Economic Development Council and the Restore New York Communities Initiative totaling $4.5 million for the project. New York State Homes and Community Renewal is also expected to provide financing to support the creation of affordable housing.
On July 15, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed into law, authorizing the State General Services Commissioner to transfer state-owned lands and property in New York City to Empire State Development for an amount less than fair market value to allow this property to be used for the National Urban League Headquarters (New York, NY) and Conference Centerand the Urban Civil Rights Experience Museum. The $270 million project also will increase the city’s affordable housing stock by approximately 170 units, supporting the Governor’s $20 billion plan to combat homelessness and create affordable housing for New Yorkers. Additionally, the land transfer will allow for below-market and rent-free space for local non-for-profits, including One Hundred Black Men, Inc. and Jazzmobile, Inc. The bill takes effect immediately.
To make this project a reality, the National Urban League is partnering with BRP Companies, Taconic Investment Partners, L+M Development Partners, Dabar Development Partners and The Prusik Group, as well as 100 Black Men and Jazzmobile. Designed by Beyer Blinder Belle and developed by BRP Companies, the mixed-use project will yield a total of 414,000 square feet and rise 17 stories. Additional components include 170 affordable housing units, 70,000-square-feet of Class A office space, and 110,000 square feet of retail.
“Harlem has a rich history and culture that should be celebrated, protected and enhanced for future generations,” Governor Cuomo said. “By signing this measure into law, we will help preserve Harlem’s history, create more affordable housing and provide a home for not-for-profit and civic organizations like the National Urban League and 100 Black Men which do important work every day for communities of color across New York.”
Senator Brian A. Benjamin said, “I’d like to thank Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation, which will give the National Urban League a home on 125th Street, the central corridor of historic Harlem, so they can continue their work advocating on behalf of African Americans and for economic justice. This headquarters, along with a civil rights museum and low-income affordable housing are important additions to the Harlem community. I am proud to be the Senate sponsor of the legislation that made this possible.”
The current two-story site was home to a number of wonderful small shops, almost all relocated, and a second floor parking garage. Construction is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2020, with an anticipated completion date of 2023.
Take a look at 125th Street in East Harlem ~ a work in progress.