NYC commits $170M to preserve Chinatown’s historic 70 Mulberry Street after fire

October 6, 2021

Map data © 2020 Google

The city will nearly double its investment in the restoration of a historic Chinatown building that was destroyed in a fire last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday. After committing $80 million last July to the rebuilding of 70 Mulberry Street, a former public school constructed in the 1890s, the mayor said the city will tack on another $90 million, for a total of $170 million. In January 2020, a fire significantly damaged the site, forcing out five nonprofit organizations. According to the city, all of the groups will be welcomed back as tenants.

On January 23, 2020, a five-alarm fire broke out on the top floor of the five-story building and caused the roof to collapse. Following the fire, the third, fourth and, fifth floors were removed, with the brownstone base, brick second story, and brick stair tower remaining, according to the city’s preservation assessment.

The restoration project includes preserving 70 Mulberry’s historic facade, adding two floors, and making available 50,000 square feet of space for all of the tenants forced to temporarily relocated following the fire, including the Chen Dance Center, the Museum of Chinese in America, United East Athletics Association, the Chinese-American Planning Council, and the Chinatown Manpower Project.

“Today we’re announcing that we’re doubling this investment to $170 million,” de Blasio said during a press conference Tuesday. “This will allow us to actually not only preserve the historic facade of the building that is so emotionally important to the community but adding two additional floors of space for community events, for community gatherings, for community organizations, the nonprofits that were displaced, that were so important to the community, they’re all coming back.”

“We’re going to turn a horrible tragedy into a triumphant moment for the Chinatown community.”

Plans also include a new multi-purpose room that could serve as a gym or an auditorium, 6,5000 square feet of office space, and necessary building upgrades, like an elevator. The project will likely wrap up in 2027, according to the city.

The plan announced Tuesday came after over a year of feedback and planning with the community. The next steps include starting a public bidding process and reviewing proposed designs.

Designed by architect C.B.J Snyder, who also served as the Superintendent of School Buildings for the city’s Board of Education, 70 Mulberry Street opened in 1893 as Public School no. 23. Constructed in the Romanesque and Renaissance Revival style, the building has a pressed brick masonry facade with a brownstone base. In the middle of the 1970s, PS 23 was decommissioned as a school and became a community center for Chinatown.


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