Last summer, Melrose’s landmarked courthouse was rumored as a site for the Universal Hip Hop Museum, but that plan eventually fell through. Now a concrete plan to transform this long-vacant building has finally emerged. Come August 2018, the Old Bronx Borough Courthouse will be home to the Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts, the Wall Street Journal has learned.
Once the restoration and renovation of this iconic structure is complete, it will be able to accommodate 1,200 students. In addition, Success Academy has plans to create a fabrication lab for science and computer programming in the building, along with a lecture hall, and galleries for student art work.
Success Academy has brought on Biber Architects to design the new space and Robert Silman Associates (who did preservation work on the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.) to restore some of the historic details of the building.
Built during the early part of the 20th century, this building initially housed three courtrooms, a coroner’s office, and a jail in the basement. In the 1930s, the city moved the services from this building to a larger space, and the structure started to decline subsequently. A criminal court was the last tenant in the building and left the space in 1978. It’s been vacant ever since.
The courthouse was purchased in an auction in 1998 by real estate firm, Liberty Square Realty. Since their takeover, the space has served as an art venue from time to time, and the firm has spent $10 million over the past few years to restore some of the historic details of the building.
Now this beloved structure will get a new lease on life in the form of a school. Success Academy has signed a 20-year lease on the building for now, according to the WSJ. The project was made possible in large part from a contribution by billionaire hedge funder and philanthropist, John Paulson.
“Forty years ago, this building housed prisoners waiting for trial,” Eva Moskowitz, the CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools, said in a statement. “That space will be transformed into beautiful, modern classrooms and a historic house of learning. Success is quite literally transforming the school-to-prison pipeline to a school-to-college-and-prosperity pipeline.”