BRAC will renovate and move throughout Bronx

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For at least the next two years the Bronx River Arts Council will be bringing new art to the community. Literally.

The renovation of BRAC’s decaying headquarters at 1087 East Tremont Avenue will begin soon, and to ensure that services remain strong, galleries and workshops will be held in different art centers and schools around the borough.

“We’re really going to be out there and doing things in various locations around the Bronx,” said Gail Nathan executive director of the Bronx River Arts Center. “We thought that was appropriate because it affords us greater exposure to the community, so that when we come back we’ll have friends from all over that will want to come back with us.”

The project will be starting in September and construction is estimated at about $7 million. The nearly 100-year-old building frame will remain intact, but everything else will be completely gutted and replaced. Additional work on the building will include a rooftop garden, and officials are looking into putting up solar panels or wind turbines to reduce the building’s energy demand.

While the main purpose of the project is to modernize the 16,000-square-foot facility that houses the 23-year-old non-profit arts center and to help it to run more efficiently, the bold green, black and white neon graphics that will be stamped across the building from top to bottom as part of the new design will also help to attract more patrons to the galleries and programs.

“It’s striking, so nobody is going to miss us,” Nathan said. “Want to keep waving the flag that we’re here. We feel it’s very important not to go silent, but to make an even bigger boom with this project.”

The loud design was one of 13 projects that recently received special recognition from Mayor Bloomberg and the Public Design Commission of New York as one of the city’s top designs.

During the renovation, which is expected to take at least two years, most of BRAC’s services will be moved into a command center on Boston Road, around the corner from the current location. The temporary facility will be large enough for a digital media lab and is where most of the programming will take place.

For the galleries and classes, the center will work with schools and community centers in the program officials are calling “BRAC on the Block”. The art center holds about five galleries each year, and offers about 40 classes a year for teens and adults.

Therenovation, which includes about $1 million in additional design and engineering work, is being funded through Mayor Bloomberg, City Council allocations, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and the city Cultural Affairs Department.

BRAC will also be taking over ownership of the building, which is currently leased from the city.

“We’re finally going to be owners, so this will be stabilizing this institution, which is already stable in the community,”Nathan said. “It really secures our presence here for the next 100 years and beyond.”

Updated 5:17 pm, October 21, 2011
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