New York City’s network of cultural institutions initiated $1.3 billion in new construction, renovation and alteration projects during the five-year period from 2010 through 2014.
In addition to restoring and improving existing facilities, these investments have also added nearly 700,000 s/f of new cultural space within the five boroughs, according to a New York Building Congress analysis of construction data from Dodge Data & Analytics. Cultural construction starts reached $208 million in value in 2014, up from $142 million in 2013.
The best year of the past half-decade was 2011, when projects totaling $491 million in value were initiated. The start of the Whitney’s new museum project largely accounts for that total.
Construction starts reached $218 million in 2010 and $215 million in 2012.
The data used in the report encompass all project starts by cultural institutions between 2010 and 2014, including brand new construction as well as alterations and renovations to existing structures.
The data reflect the total estimated value of each initiated project through the entire period of construction.
One area where investment seems lacking is the City’s library system, which has more than 200 branches throughout the five boroughs.
For the five-year period, just $52 million in construction projects were initiated, and about half of that total was devoted to one project — construction of a new public library in Elmhurst, Queens, which is expected to open later this year.
“Thanks to generous individual, government, foundation, and visitor support, New York City’s cultural institutions are investing heavily in the facilities that house their programs, many of which are located in the City’s most historic and iconic venues,” said New York Building Congress President Richard T. Anderson.
“These investments are producing thousands of design and construction jobs, stimulating the overall economy and further strengthening the City’s world-renowned cultural assets.”
Of the $1.3 billion in construction projects over the past five years, 80 percent were initiated by private institutions.
While facilities owned and operated by the City, State, and federal entities accounted for just 20 percent, it is worth noting that many of the privately-sponsored projects have benefitted from government contributions, most notably through the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs.
Approximately 55 percent of the cultural projects over the past five years were initiated by cultural institutions located in Manhattan. Brooklyn was next with 30 percent, followed by Queens at 9 percent, Staten Island with 4 percent, and 2 percent in the Bronx.
Museums and historic houses accounted for $584 million (approximately 46 percent) of cultural construction starts between 2010 and 2014.
In addition to the Whitney’s new home, some of the more notable investments during the five-year period included the Queens Museum of Art expansion in 2011, the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum upgrade in 2010, and the plaza renovation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2012.
Public and private theaters, a category that excludes those located within educational institutions, ranked second with $220 million in construction starts.
According to the data, Brooklyn was home to four of the top five theater projects, highlighted by the 2013 renovation and expansion of the former Loew’s King Theatre in Brooklyn and construction of a new home for Theatre for a New Audience in the Brooklyn Academy of Music cultural district.
Centers of culture and performing arts combined for approximately $218 million in construction starts over the past five years. Highlights include major renovations to Carnegie Hall, the redevelopment of the Park Avenue Armory, and multiple projects at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center located on an 83-acre preserve on Staten Island.
Botanical gardens/zoos/aquariums generated $180 million in construction starts – largely due to the start of construction for the New York Aquarium’s $157 million shark exhibit early in 2014.
An additional $21.4 million in investments were made by owners and operators of a range of art studios and galleries, as well as dance and music studios.
The outlook is bright for continued investment by cultural institutions in New York City. Major upcoming projects include a $500 million renovation of Avery Fisher Hall, the American Museum of Natural History’s $325 million addition, and the New York Public Library’s $300 million renovation of its main branch. In addition, both the Frick Collection and Museum of Modern Art are in the planning stages for additions of about 40,000 square feet of gallery space apiece.
Upgrades are also planned for the historic music hall at Snug Harbor on Staten Island, the Bronx River Art Center, and the Brooklyn Museum.
Cultural investments, however, are not limited to existing institutions. Work is expected to begin later this year on the $360 million Culture Shed in Manhattan’s burgeoning Hudson Yards district, and an architect is in the process of being selected for a WTC performing arts center, which will be built in the location that currently houses the temporary PATH station. Both venues are intended to host a wide range of performing arts.