Governors Island officials are looking for a developer to turn one of the island’s historic buildings into a hub for sustainability programs and businesses.
The Trust for Governors Island, a nonprofit organization that operates the popular attraction on behalf of the city, said Wednesday it is inviting developers and operators to submit proposals to redevelop one of the island’s waterfront buildings. The project is the first step of a broader initiative, announced last month with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, to rezone the southern portion of the island and attract a cluster of academic, commercial and cultural tenants dedicated to researching and developing solutions for climate change.
Clare Newman, president of the trust, said Governors Island offers the right landscape for trying out new technology and working with the environment. Business accelerators and incubators would be particularly well suited for the space, she said.
“When you come to Governors Island, you have a sense of retreat and a feeling that you can think big and imagine new ideas,” Ms. Newman said.
Governors Island, a former military base located in New York Harbor and a short ferry ride from lower Manhattan, attracted nearly 1 million visitors last year. The Trust has been working for years to lease out its more than 1.3 million square feet of space across 52 historic buildings.
There are currently four year-round tenants on the island, including an art gallery and artist residency program, a public high school focused on maritime education, the environmental and education nonprofit Billion Oyster Project and an Italian day spa, QC Termé. Governors Island also has about 20 food and beverage tenants during its public season, which runs from May 1 to Oct. 31, Ms. Newman said.
The 22,500-square-foot building that officials want to redevelop as a sustainability hub was built in 1934 and used as a school for children of soldiers and Coast Guardsmen stationed on the island. The property is “shovel-ready” after the Trust completed interior demolition and environmental abatement work.
When you come to Governors Island, you have a sense of retreat and a feeling that you can think big and imagine new ideas.
“You squint your eyes and you can just imagine small businesses and nonprofits and policy organizations making their home in there,” Ms. Newman said. “It’s a gorgeous historic building and to see it brought back to life will be a beautiful thing.”
The project would be eligible for a variety of economic-incentive programs, including historic-rehabilitation and industrial-development tax credits, officials said.
Pete Malinowski, executive director of Billion Oyster Project, said Governors Island is an ideal place to work on climate-change solutions, given its location in New York Harbor. Billion Oyster Project works to restore the harbor’s oyster reefs, which help reduce flooding and shoreline erosion.
“Over the next 100 years we’re going to have to change our relationship with nature and figure out what it means to incorporate water into the city and protect New Yorkers from rising sea levels and storms,” Mr. Malinowski said.
Working year-round on Governors Island has its advantages, such as more flexible space than is typically available in New York City, and disadvantages, including limited ferry service on weekends and in the winter, Mr. Malinowski said. The trust said it is working to increase ferry service to the island.
Write to Kate King at Kate.King@wsj.com
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Appeared in the October 22, 2020, print edition as ‘Governors Island Seeks Developer for Sustainability Hub.’
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