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Governors Island will turn 1870s military building into permanent arts space

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The Arts Center at Governors Island will debut in September

Zachary Tyler Newton

When Governors Island opens for its 2019 season in just over a month, a building that’s very familiar to visitors—a huge munitions warehouse just off of the Manhattan Ferry Landing, perhaps best known at this point for having public restrooms—will be in the midst of a major transformation.

The Trust for Governors Island and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council announced today that by the end of summer, the building will be transformed into a massive new cultural center—the island’s first permanent, dedicated hub of its kind. The 40,000-square-foot space, due to open in September, will have galleries, studio space for artists, and a cafe.

The structure, known currently as Building 110, dates back to the 1870s and is part of the island’s historic district, meaning its exterior will stay largely intact. The interiors will be revamped by PEI Cobb Freed & Partners and Adamson Associates Architects, which will be carried out to the tune of $12 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The first season of programming will focus, fittingly, on themes of ecology, sustainability and resilience. Moroccan artist Yto Barrada will explore how those themes play out in three locations (NYC, Tangier Island in Virginia, and Tangier in Morocco); Michael Wang, meanwhile, will produce “Extinct in New York,” which will showcase plant life that no longer exists in New York City.

Zachary Tyler Newton

“The Arts Center on Governors Island will be a place for artists across the city to deepen their practice year-round while inviting hundreds of thousands of visitors each season to witness the creative process and groundbreaking works first hand,” Michael Samuelian, the CEO of the Trust for Governors Island, said in a statement.

The transformation of Building 110 is part of a larger push to open more of Governors Island to the public, and for longer periods of time, with the goal of turning it into a year-round space. Last year, Collective Retreats debuted glamping on the island, and a long-planned spa and hotel is finally under construction close to LMCC’s forthcoming arts center. The island is also gearing up to start the city’s uniform land use review procedure (ULURP) to eventually rezone parts of the island. That could lead to the construction of office space, hotels, and other new developments in the future.