The South Bronx nonprofit Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco) has received a $2.5 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to complete construction of the Bronx Music Hall. The 14,000-square-foot music hall will be the first newly constructed music performance venue to open in the Bronx in more than a half century.
“We are beyond grateful for the Mellon Foundation’s support, which will help bring this decade-long project to fruition,” said Davon Russell, WHEDco’s president. “This grant will allow us to complete the theatrical fit-out of a venue where Bronxites and visitors from near and afar can enjoy live, top-notch performances and connect to the deep history, influences, diversity and majesty of Bronx music. The Bronx Music Hall will be a permanent state-of-the-art community cultural asset that responds to historic inequities in resources that support true, innovative, community development.”
The Bronx Music Hall is located at 438 E. 163rd St. within Bronx Commons—WHEDco’s newest award-winning mixed-use affordable housing development that dedicates a half-city-block to affordable housing, education, culture, health and small business supports. The music hall, opening later in 2022, will offer a variety of flexible indoor and outdoor spaces for concerts, film, dance, live theater and spoken word events, as well as music and dance classes.
In addition to the 250-seat performance theater, the Bronx Music Hall includes a green room, studio, multi-use classroom, lobby to host exhibits, receptions and events, and amphitheater-style seating in two adjacent plazas for outdoor performances. It will serve 20,000 in-person audience members and students annually at full capacity post-pandemic.
“The Bronx Music Hall is the culmination of more than a decade of advocacy, engagement, and planning by Bronx historians, musicians, planners, designers, and community stakeholders. WHEDco’s investment in cultural infrastructure within their broader neighborhood development and stewardship work will provide the space and opportunity to maintain and elevate the art, heritage, and culture of a wide variety of local and diaspora communities,” said Mellon Foundation Humanities in Place program officer Justin Garrett Moore.
Funding from the Mellon Foundation will allow WHEDco to finish the main elements of the $15.4 million Bronx Music Hall, which will open later in 2022. Specifically, the support will fund back-end lighting, theatrical power, rigging and audio control; fixtures and equipment including projectors and instruments; appliances, furniture, scissor lift, doors and walls; canopy/marquee, plaza truss and pagoda; acoustical treatments for the main assembly and lobby; portable seating risers, stage riser and accessories; audience seating and comfort; architecture and theatrical project management including start-up and dry-tech. These elements will complete the Bronx Music Hall and provide a state-of-the-art venue for a wide variety of humanities-focused interdisciplinary programs.
“The Bronx Music Hall is the product of hundreds of hours of conversations with neighborhood residents, their elected representatives, friends and fans of this storied place,” said Nancy Biberman, WHEDco’s founder and president emerita. “Historians documented each wave of immigrants who settled in the Bronx spanning more than a century. The traditions and rhythms they carried have endured and inspired new generations and new forms of music. Inside and out, the Bronx Music Hall was designed to reflect and showcase today’s diverse contemporary culture. Places like this Music Hall, designed for cross-cultural and civic engagement, are essential for dialogue, healing and democracy.”