Vacant Armory purchase price assessed at $17 million, says KNIC
In the last year, progress at the Kingsbridge Armory, which was expected to house a large ice skating complex by next year, has stalled with nary a shovel in the ground.
A lawsuit by developers of the Kingsbridge National Ice Center (KNIC) against the New York City Economic Development Corporation prompted the stall. Attorneys for KNIC have since regrouped with a new tactic to settle the case: an offer to buy the landmark Armory.
In a two-page letter obtained by the Norwood News, KNIC, the developer picked by the city in 2012 to repurpose the Armory into an ice skating center complete with nine rinks and a 5,000-seat arena, explained its latest proposal to NYCEDC can “jumpstart the Armory project so the significant benefits on the community can finally be underway.”
Developers have appraised the market value of the property at $17.6 million. The project’s budget is still projected to cost $350 million, and would not lift the Armory’s landmark status, confining KNIC to only remodel what’s inside the Armory.
“We are confident that EDC appreciates what a generous offer this is, and how an outright purchase simplifies things regarding project development and administration going forward,” wrote William A. Brewer III, lead attorney for KNIC.
By buying the property, KNIC frees itself up from the ongoing court drama with NYCEDC. Since March, the two sides have argued over finances tied to the project. Earlier this year, two state agencies approved a $138 million loan to KNIC so it can begin building the first half of the ice center. The funds came in the form of a loan commitment, which raised red flags for NYCEDC, the city’s realtor, which wanted the full $158 million needed to fully fund the first phase. At present, KNIC has received $15 million from the state. The Empire State Development Corporation (ESD) and Public Authorities Control Board, the two panels that okayed the loan, need to see an active lease before it can disburse the funds, according to KNIC’s attorneys.
According to the KNIC’s escrow-locked lease, a stipulation exists allowing KNIC to purchase the building outright. But that provision is contingent upon the activation of the lease. One of the original terms in the agreement was KNIC paying the city rent of $1 plus a portion of yearly revenue KNIC would produce.
Should the city continue its aggressive stance on keeping the property in its portfolio, it would have to issue another Request for Proposals, putting the property out for bid while adding another layer of delay for development. The RFP could go out to other bidders who may be interested in purchasing the property. It would also have to go through another Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, a process that takes months and involves approvals of the community board, borough president and New York City Council Member whose district covers the property.
Or the NYCEDC may release the lease, activating it and allowing KNIC to purchase the property altogether.
The last time the two sides met in Bronx Supreme Court, presiding judge Ruben Franco told attorneys he was unsure if he could continue hearing the case. Still, both sides have met outside of court to negotiate a way to mutually advance the project. The city has not budged over its position of releasing KNIC’s lease, which remains in escrow.
Anthony Hogrebe, a spokesman for NYCEDC, declined to comment over whether the city would consider KNIC’s proposal because of ongoing litigation.
The proposal hasn’t quite been met with much outright support from legislators who had once swooned over the prospect of an ice center, viewing it as a major game changer for the Bronx.
A spokesperson for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., a booster of the Armory project whose support has toned down over the last year, merely said he would evaluate the proposal if they saw it. The same went for Senator Gustavo Rivera, another strong supporter of the Armory, whose 33rd Senate District overlaps with the Armory, according to his spokesperson.
A spokesperson for Councilman Fernando Cabrera, whose 14th Council District also overlaps with the Armory, declined comment. Cabrera these days has been vocal opponent of the Armory. During his run for the 33rd Senate District currently occupied by Rivera, Cabrera expressed in a televised debate his preference to see the project re-start.
“If [KNIC] cannot come up with the funding…then it should be opened up again,” Cabrera said. “Don’t hold back the community.”
As of press time, it’s been 1,024 days since the New York City Council approved the Armory be turned into an ice center.