The once star attraction of the Bronx, Orchard Beach is now set for $87M renovation

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NYC Parks plans to begin an $87 million renovation of the Pavilion at Orchard Beach.
Photo NYC Parks/Malcolm Pickney

The Orchard Beach Pavilion was once the star attraction of “The Riviera of the Bronx,” and city officials hope the renovation of its once-dazzling 140,000-square-foot bathhouse pavilion will again make the landmark a summer destination for city beachgoers.

The $87 million Orchard Beach Pavilion project, a joint effort between NYC Parks and the NYC Economic Development Corporation, aims to restore the historic architecture of the landmarked building, provide greater ADA access, and provide welcoming and viable amenities for the community.

“To see $87 million invested in the needs of the Bronx is revolutionary and will not only bring back to life a cultural staple for our families and neighbors, but foster a new source of revenue for our tourism industry,” said City Councilmember Amanda Farías.

While city officials did not put forth a strict timeline, chief architects of the project, Marvel Architects, predicted a 2025 completion date.

The project is made possible with $24.9 million from the Bronx borough president, $24.7 million in funding from the mayor’s office, $20 million in state grants and $18 million from the City Council.

Mayor Eric Adams said that Orchard Beach has been underinvested over the years when compared to other boroughs’ beaches. “It’s high time that it pavilion was restored to its former glory,” he said.

The Bronx’s lone beach was a creation of the New Deal and later expanded on by controversial powerbroker Robert Moses, featuring a pavilion that was designed in 1937 and previously had been used as both a bathhouse and cafeteria space. Despite being a widely-used feature of the beach, the pavilion and promenade — reportedly one of Moses’ favorite projects — fell into decline.

As part of the restoration project, the historic structural concrete roofs will be reconstructed with additional exterior finishes; new accessible ramps for access to the upper level of the building will be added for the first time; and the historic concession spaces in the Loggias and within the pavilion will be prepared for build-out of new concessions.

The renovated Orchard Beach Pavilion will include multiple commercial tenant and concessionaire locations, along with new bathrooms, modernized support spaces, utilities and administrative offices. Rendering courtesy Marvel Architect

The project is also centering accessibility into its renovation and modernization as new ramps at both the land and beach sides of the pavilion is expected to make change in landscape more gradual.

After becoming landmarked in 2006, the pavilion became much of the chatter around Orchard Beach restoration ideas during NYC’s unsuccessful bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics, with initial plans to renovate the beach’s pavilion at a cost of $23 million.

Funding became available in 2016, before $50 million had been secured for a full renovation of the pavilion in 2017, and then finally, $75 million was earmarked in 2019, with then-Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. a major facilitator of the project.

However, COVID-19 put renovation plans on ice until Marvel Architects resumed planning for the renovation around May 2021.

“Today’s groundbreaking is a long time in the making, in repairing and reimagining the Orchard Beach pavilion,” Diaz Jr. said at Tuesday’s press conference. “Polishing off our Bronx crown jewel will bring back the majesty of our Bronx riviera. We thank all of the City and State officials involved, for investing not just in the brick and (mortar) of the project, but more importantly, in the future memories that Bronx and New York families will have – such as the ones that my family made at Orchard Beach.”

Orchard Beach is the only man-made beach in the city.

In late September, the Bronx’s only public beach was destined to become “Tent City” before one rainy October afternoon washed away the mayor’s haphazard plans to put migrant tents in the Pelham Bay area.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes