Plans to renovate an iconic structure in the borough’s Little Italy recently received a boost.
Over $1.1 million in funding was announced to restore the historic Arthur Avenue Retail Market during a press conference that heralded the borough’s economic progress on Friday, July 20.
Frank Franz, Belmont Business Improvement District board member and past director, said that the repairs to the physical plant at 2344 Arthur Avenue in the heart of the borough’s Little Italy are very much needed.
The market, which currently houses about 10 businesses, has not had a complete renovation since it opened in 1940, only receiving a patchwork of repairs over the years, he said.
“There has been a hodgepodge of electrical and plumbing work and it really doesn’t meet current requirements,” said Frank, adding “The market is in a bad state of disrepair.”
The announcement of funding, which includes $1 million from Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and over $100,000 from Councilman Ritchie Torres, came during a presentation of a report about the economy of the borough by NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
The facility, Franz said, is owned by the city through the NYC Economic Development Corporation.
He added that based on his understanding the mayor is supporting the project as well.
“The infrastructure needs to be improved and so could the aesthetics of the market,” said Franz.
Diaz couldn’t agree more.
“The Arthur Avenue Retail Market is one of the crown jewels of our city’s epicurean culture, and this funding will help renovate and modernize this historic structure and keep it vibrant and attractive for locals and residents alike,” said Diaz.
The borough presidents’ allocation came on the heels of a report by the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation in 2017 called the Arthur Avenue Market Study.
Marlene Cintron, BOEDC president said she believes Diaz’s funding can help expedite many of the improvements the study revealed.
Torres said that the market is a food-lover’s haven, and also a social gathering space, entertainment hall, economic engine, and serves countless purposes for both visitors and residents.
“This funding will ensure the market is able to upgrade its infrastructure to meet the needs of its many visitors,” said Torres.
Mayor Fiorello La Guardia opened the market to move pushcart vendors off Belmont’s streets, said Franz, who said that at one point the market had 50 to 60 vendors who would rent a stall the size of a pushcart by the week.
The stands are still rented by the week, he said, but currently larger businesses lease more than one.
“You are not going to bring back 10’ by 10’ stands,” he said, adding “I think having more business as a throwback to an earlier concept would be a good thing.”
Franz said he believes that EDC will work with the markets existing merchants.
Franz added it is always great to see investment in the market, whether public or private.
“Together with the city’s investment, (Diaz’s) generous allocation will greatly support the modernization of the market and pay homage to its rich history,” said James Patchett, president and CEO of EDC in a statement.