Bronx Council on the Arts’ dream of a new headquarters on Westchester Square almost became a nightmare recently when the property’s owner refused to allow the non-profit adequate time to pull its financing together to purchase the site.
The vacant building, formally a Washington Mutual Bank branch, is perfectly situated for the arts organization. BCA had notified the property’s owner, J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, that they were interested in acquiring 2700 E. Tremont Avenue, during the fall of last year. It looked like a done deal, until J.P. Morgan Chase Bank insisted on selling the spacious building before the end of 2009.
After a call from Councilman James Vacca to Congressman Joseph Crowley, the congressman contacted the bank and got them to agree to wait until July, 2010 for the BCA to close the deal. A City Council grant arranged by Vacca for $630,000 will be used as a down payment on the new headquarters, but won’t get the deal done by the bank’s deadline. The funds will be available after July 1, the start of the City’s fiscal year. Crowley said he is continuing his efforts to have the bank extend the time to complete the sale.
“Councilman Vacca was able to commit $630,000 to making the building the new home to the Bronx Council on the Arts,” Crowley said. “The problem is that the bank that owns the building needs to sell it. We were able to step in and convince them to postpone an aggressive marketing of the property to other potential buyers for now.”
Councilman Vacca made the grant his number one member item request for the Fiscal Year 2011 budget, essentially ensuring it would be funded, and Crowley has been assured by Chase it will wait for the financing to be arranged.
According to the president of Bronx Council on the Arts, Bill Aguado, the BCA is taking a big leap by moving its headquarters to the new building, which already has the wiring in place to operate the council’s new computer-based arts programs. It also has a large open lobby and more open space in its basement, perfect for artist’s exhibitions.
“If this happens and we get the building, it would be a godsend for us,” Aguado said.
BCA managing director Deirdre Scott said, “The building is pristine in terms of its wiring; I could not hope that a better building would fall into our lap” she said.
Scott said the new BCA headquarters would complement the non-profit’s existing writers center and serve as a hub for the Square’s renaissance.