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First look at Little Italy’s revamped Italian American Museum

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The museum will shutter for 2 years and return six times larger than the current space

Courtesy of op.AL

Work is about to get underway on the new Italian American Museum in Little Italy, and with that the museum has unveiled the first set of renderings for the revamped space, which will be six times larger than the existing space at the corner of Grand and Mulberry Streets.

The museum will be part of a 12-unit apartment building that’s being developed by the Oved Group and Nexus Building Development Group. The developers purchased the museum’s home at 185-189 Grand Street in February last year for just under $15 million. As part of that sale, the museum will get to occupy the basement of the overall structure and a portion of the ground floor, rent-free, in perpetuity.

Demolition plans for the buildings at 185-189 Grant Street were filed last week, YIMBY reported, so construction shouldn’t be too far in the offing. As plans stand right now, the museum’s four levels will include permanent and temporary exhibitions, and a 50-seat auditorium that will be fit for film screenings, lectures, theater performances, dance recitals, and meetings.

The museum will have a separate entrance on Mulberry Street, and will open into a central atrium with a 20-foot-tall ceiling, the architect on the project, Jonathan Scelsa, of the architecture firm op.AL, explained in an email. The lower levels of the museum will get natural light in the form of a central skylight on the ground floor. A museum gift shop will also be located on this floor.

The building that houses the museum was once the home of the Banca Stabile, a financial services institution that started serving the Italian-American community in the late 19th century. The museum now plans to incorporate artifacts from this bank into a lower level gallery.

The Italian American Museum was founded in 2001, and the hope is that this expansion will anchor the space permanently in Little Italy, and also be a place to celebrate the legacy of Italians in America.

Construction on the building is scheduled to wrap sometime in 2019. The museum will remain closed for the duration of construction. Once the new space opens, the museum’s facade will be illuminated at night.