West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 11 | August 15 - 25, 2007

ABC No Rio will likely rebuild instead of rehab

By Albert Amateau

ABC No Rio, the arts group that acquired ownership of its four-story Lower East Side building from the city last year, hopes to rebuild from the ground up next year.

When the group acquired the building for $1 last year, the plan was to raise money for a gut renovation — essentially to construct a new building inside the shell of the old one at 156 Rivington St.

But over the past few months, after consulting with engineers and Paul Castrucci, a local architect, it became clear that the building wasn’t sound enough to do the gut renovation without major structural improvements.

“We found that the cost of a new building isn’t substantially more that the gut rehab,” said Steve Englander, executive director of ABC No Rio, which was founded in 1980. The preliminary estimated cost of a new building on the site is $1.85 million, as opposed to the estimated gut rehab cost of $1.65 million, Englander said. The group so far has raised $400,000 for the project.

ABC No Rio’s 10-member board of trustees is meeting on Wednesday night, Aug. 15, to formally ratify the decision.

“We’ll go back to the city when we have more definite plans,” said Englander. “I don’t know if we have to have city approval, but we want to keep them in the loop as a matter of courtesy at least.

“I hope we can begin soon, because the cost of construction in the city rises all the time about 1 percent a month,” he added.

The city Department of Housing Preservation and Development sold the building, located between Suffolk and Clinton Sts., to ABC No Rio under the department’s Community Works Program on condition that the nonprofit organization maintain the building.

The year 1917 is on the front of the 4,000-square-foot building, the date it was rebuilt on the foundation of the previous 1860 structure.

The new building would be essentially the same as the present building were it to be rehabilitated. The size of the current ground floor and basement gallery and performance space would be doubled, while the second-, third- and fourth-floor studios would be about the same size as the current ones. Steel reinforcement at ground level would allow adding an additional story or two in the future.

“We would have to close the studios and art-making resources during the construction,” Englander said. “We’d hold the performances and public events in other locations under the ABC No Rio name, but they wouldn’t be as frequent. We’ve been talking to some of the other arts organizations about it,” he noted.

The readings could be held at Tribes, the arts venue on E. Third St. The Saturday punk show could be at various other locations, but probably not weekly. ABC No Rio’s weekly Sunday night COMA (Citizens Ontological Music Association) concerts of experimental and improvisational music also could be held at other locations, but not as frequently as now, Englander said.

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