Bedford Union Armory recreation center officially opens in Crown Heights
Photo credit: Brett Bayer
The transformation of a former armory in Brooklyn into a recreation center is now complete. Located in Crown Heights, the Major R. Owens Health & Wellness Community Center opened its doors on Wednesday, bringing a new 60,000-square-foot community center with an indoor swimming pool, three basketball courts, a soccer field, dance studios, and space for local nonprofits to the neighborhood. The long-awaited project also includes 415 units of housing, expected to open in 2023.
“Investing in our people and communities, especially in ones that have often been overlooked, is how we build a recovery for all of us,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “The Major R. Owens Health and Wellness Community Center will provide New Yorkers a place to thrive and grow for generations to come.”
Stretching a full block between Bedford and Rogers Avenues and Union and President Streets, the Bedford Union Armory building was designed in 1903 by Pilcher and Tachau and opened in 1908. The structure was created for Calvalry Troop C and accommodated space for troops to train, equipment storage, horse stables, offices, rifle range, and a swim tank.
The city took over the armory in 2013 after it was decommissioned for military use. The city’s Economic Development Corporation later selected BFC Partners as the developer and Marvel as the architect. In 2017, the City Council approved the project.
Marvel was able to preserve 84 percent of the original armory building, while incorporating sustainable features to reduce energy and water use.
Now open, the wellness center costs $30 per month for a standard membership, $10 per month for those earning below the 200 percent federal poverty level, and $8 per month for youth memberships. And 50 percent of memberships will be discounted to $10 per month for residents of Community Board 9.
Notably, just 500 memberships will be offered during this first year, as The City reported earlier this month. A 99-year-lease with BFC Partners and the city’s EDC allows this limit to continue throughout the term, according to the website. This results in just 250 memberships offered at $10 per month. According to The City, 45,000 people in Community Board 9 qualify for the discount.
And the beginning, controversy surrounded the project’s affordable housing component. Housing advocates and some public officials argued the project was not affordable enough for the neighborhood, especially since over 160 units will be market rate.
Of the 415 new apartments opening next to the community center, 250 of them will be affordable to households earning at or below 60 percent of the area median income. Additional units will be available for households earning between $20,000 for an individual and $28,000 for a family of four, as well as homes set aside for formerly homeless New Yorkers.
A housing lottery launched in June for 55 of the “deeply-affordable” units at the site, which range from $367/month studios to $1,472/month three-bedrooms.