Island Lord. Governors Island awards leases to three tenants

By: Scott Henson

Governors Island, the once sleepy military base, has been evolving rapidly in the last five years—transforming into a hub of cultural activity, educational facilities, and lush parkland. And now, the next phase of the $260 million redevelopment plan will add a mix of spa services, classrooms, and artist studios.


Last December, the Trust for Governors Island issued a request for proposals seeking ideas for creative, educational, or commercial uses for over 40 historic structures, which had previously provided residential quarters, administrative offices, and other communal functions. And while the exteriors of these 19th and early-mid 20th century wood and brick buildings are landmarked, the interiors are not, and can be renovated to accommodate a variety of tenants with different spatial requirements.

After considering 15 proposals, the Trust announced the selection of its three finalists last week, two of which already occupy space within the island’s historic buildings: Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC), Quadratec Spa, and the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School (Harbor School). These tenants will move into five buildings, and take over only 30 percent of the historic district, leaving much of the area open for further redevelopment.

“Governors Island is a unique shared public resource for all New Yorkers. Now, with the completion of the first phase of the park and announcement of new tenants, the island is fulfilling its potential as a lively year round destination,” said Trust president Leslie Koch. “These tenants will bring new recreational educational and cultural activity and much needed resources to the Island.”


The Quadratec Spa will take over three historic buildings, which will include indoor facilities, saunas, a light café, and outdoor pools with panoramic views of Manhattan.


Next door, LMCC, a non-profit dedicated to arts and culture, will occupy all of Building 110. The organization already operates over 20 studios and exhibition spaces in the building, and now plans to build additional studios, a digital media lab, more gallery space, and a screening room.

For over three years ago, the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School (Harbor School) has lived in Building 550. Now the public high school, which fittingly offers a curriculum based on environmental conservation and water-related issues, has the green light to take over Building 555, the 25,000 square foot, former Coast Guard and Army structure. This new expansion will enable the school to grow its student body from 435 to 755 students.


The Trust is also in negotiations with CIEE Global Campus—an organization providing international education and exchange programs—to retrofit two existing structures—Building 12 and Pershing Hall—into classrooms and dormitories for over 250 international students.

As Governors Island transitions from a seasonal to a year-round destination, the Trust will do away with the free ferry rides and charge a $2 fare on weekdays and weekend afternoons to help subsidize operations.

Tenants are slated to begin construction in 2014 and move into their new quarters by 2016. Over time, the Trust plans on releasing more RFPs, and introducing new programmatic uses and redevelopment plans to the 172-acre island.

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