Mott Haven’s 20 Bruckner Boulevard is perhaps best known to New Yorkers as the History Channel building, even though the 15-year-old billboard was replaced by an iHeartRadio sign last summer. But the former sign’s legacy has endured, both in the minds of New Yorkers, and within the building itself.
Since February, this former ice factory has been in the midst of a conversion and restoration so it can be marketed as an office space to tech companies. Curbed recently had a chance to tour the five-story building, which is located right next to the entrance of the Third Avenue Bridge.
The project is being developed MADD Equities, led by Jorge Madruga, along with one of the owners of the property, Drew Katz. It’s part of an onslaught of new development taking place in the South Bronx. In August, the Chetrit Group and Somserset Partners broke ground on their seven-building complex at 101 Lincoln Avenue and 2401 Third Avenue, on the Harlem River waterfront—it’s the borough’s largest private development ever.
But all that change doesn’t come without controversy; Bronx residents have raised concerns about the impact of these developments, and questioned who they’ll actually cater to. Katz insists that the 20 Bruckner Boulevard project is targeted toward Bronx residents and business owners with developers offering the space at affordable rents, and encouraging locals to open businesses in the retail portion of the building.
While 20 Bruckner Boulevard hasn’t yet secured a tenant, the owners are hoping to deliver it vacant to a tenant who can customize the space as they wish. The building has been owned by the same family for a few decades now, and revenue alone from the billboard allowed them to hold on to the structure until the right development opportunity arose.
Even in its raw state today, some of the building’s most appealing features are still visible. The developers have held on to the History Channel sign and will likely repurpose it within the new space; the building also comes with anywhere between 17- to 22-foot ceilings—in one former ice-making annex, the ceiling height is a staggering 60 feet.
There are also massive arched windows that flood the space with light, many of which were added during the redevelopment process. The developers are planning to create a rooftop deck for future tenants, and in August they told the Commercial Observer that if the building rents to a school, the roof could be used as a playground.
20 Bruckner Boulevard also has an interesting history: The structure was built at the turn of the century by American brewer Jacob Ruppert, who is perhaps best known as the second owner of the New York Yankees, and the man who built the original Yankee Stadium.
When the scaffolding on the building comes down later this month, it will be the first time in nearly two decades that the building will be fully visible to the neighborhood, according to the developers. Construction work isn’t too far away from wrapping up, and conversations with potential tenants are ongoing.