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ABC No Rio arts center reconstruction expected to break ground on Lower East Side next spring

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | ABC No Rio is getting closer to rising once again on the Lower East Side.

A nonprofit countercultural arts center, ABC No Rio was founded in 1980 in a squat at 156 Rivington St. However, the dilapidated building needed extensive repairs. Rather than do a costly renovation of the structure, the decision was eventually made to rebuild.

In 2016, ABC No Rio moved out of the space with plans to construct a new, state-of-the-art, ultra-energy-efficient facility on the site. The total price tag was not cheap, $8 million.

Steve Englander, ABC No Rio’s director, said architect Paul Castrucci recently had to redesign the project after it was decided to leave a 5-foot-wide lane between their planned new building and an existing one to the west of it owned by developer Ben Shaoul.

Basically, as Englander explained it, ABC No Rio would have been required to protect Shaoul’s building from damage, such as by erecting a scaffolding or netting. As part of this process, the arts center would also have had to pay Shaoul a fee under what’s known as a standard “construction access agreement.”

Despite Shaoul’s reputation as ruthless, Englander said the developer offered the nonprofit a fair rate, not charging as much as would be typical for a for-profit project.

The design for ABC No Rio’s new building has been tweaked a bit but no functional interior space was lost.

In the end, though, the director said, it was decided just to move the western wall of the ABC No Rio project in by 5 feet, which will leave a small alleyway between the two buildings. Castrucci was subsequently able to redesign the project — such as by shrinking areas outside bathrooms and such — that no functional interior space was lost.

The revised plans will be submitted within the next few weeks for review by the Department of Buildings. There will, no doubt, then be some back and forth with D.O.B., which will ask for tweaks and adjustments to the plan, Englander predicted.

The expectation is that ground will be broken on the project in spring 2022, he said. The first phase will see the first floor and basement constructed, which will allow ABC No Rio to put on events and start raising additional revenue for the project. Phase two will see the construction of the building’s second through fourth floors.

As designed, the new ABC No Rio building, as compared to the former structure, would have twice the amount of gallery and performance space, plus a green roof.

The building’s super-energy-efficient “passive house” design is in keeping with ABC No Rio’s institutional values.

“We will show New York City and the world that sustainable design is not just for massive office buildings or luxury condominiums, but also for smaller grassroots spaces open and accessible to the public,” the organization’s Web page states.

The nonprofit says it has 80 percent of the total project’s funding in place, including $1.5 million from private fundraising, more than $5 million from New York City and $275,000 from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, funded through Community Development Block Grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

One Comment

  1. Old lady Old lady October 11, 2021

    Nice to see that some of our nyc taxes are going to a true public-benefit community art center.

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