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The New Rochelle Armory – Crazy Enough? Let’s Hope Not

April 3, 2010

The following is a reprint of a commentary from Talk of the Sound on 7/6/09. We can see how one community appreciated the value of a community asset and built upon it to enrich their city as a whole.

 The Armory Series: Are We Crazy Enough to Tear Down Our Most Valuable Asset?

Submitted by John D on Mon, 07/06/2009 – 22:44.

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The world premiere production of Crazy Enough will not take place at the New Rochelle Center Stage at the Armory so it will not be weaving music and story into a ride through the darkest alleys and brightest vistas faced by the human mind. Instead, the Armory sits idle, awaiting Noam Bramson’s wrecking ball.

If we take a look at some stellar examples of the principles I spoke of earlier, we can use some imagination and apply some of their best ideas to the Armory. I often point to the Portland Center Stage Armory for many reasons but primarily for Portland’s approach to their project . At one point, the Portland Armory was to be demolished but it was saved at the last moment. In that particular case, salvation came in the form of a theater company looking for a home.

The engineering firm behind the reinvention of the Portland Armory as a theater space:

Its arched doorways and distinctive architectural style make it a magnet for visitors. To create new chapters in its rich history, it recently opened as a permanent home for Portland Center Stage. A sizable portion of the interior space was designed for the community to gather, learn, work and be entertained.

Portland Center Stage Armory space was larger than the New Rochelle Armory but the same principles apply.

This place is not only a revenue success , it is a complete neighborhood success story. Moving forward with New Rochelle’s Armory will stimulate growth that is sustainable but not overdeveloped . Setting the tone for a neighborhood of scale and density that is relative to the area surrounding it . There would be no need to forcibly develop housing for 3000 people , overcrowding and saturating the serene nature of the surrounding blocks . This would be in keeping with the “seamless weaving” of the area as put forth by Jim Freer who described the concept of the latest Echo Bay development. The quality of life for  Sutton Manor , Premium Point , the East End , and Sunhaven would be enhanced rather than encroached upon. There has already been talk of resident permit parking to control the overflow of traffic and the loss of parking on streets like Stephenson Blvd from the size of the Forest City plans. Is that a benefit for those around Echo Bay?

The state transferred the Armory to New Rochelle with the express condition it be maintained for public use unlike the sale of David’s Island which was not sold to the City of New Rochelle with any such provision. Public use means just that — the Armory as a site to engage the public whether that be through historical conservation, as a remembrance of the selfless contributions of New Rochelle’s generations, sparking the minds of thousands of children, a showcase for the best of what New Rochelle has to offer, a green/environmental showcase, a home for local performing arts groups like the New Rochelle Opera and more. Done right, the Amory can serve as a catalyst for growth in and around Echo Bay and make any Echo Bay development a more attractive place to live, work or play not less. To simply tear down a landmark facility so a real estate developer can increase density on a parcel of land is not just a failure of our local government but a failure of imagination all around.

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