Majora Carter and STUDIO V to transform a 1908 Cass Gilbert train station for Bronxlandia, an event and performance space. The Architect's Newspaper, Feb. 24, 2023.
For the past two years, urban revitalization strategy consultant and community-based developer Majora Carter has been operating Bronxlandia as a site for temporary events in a decommissioned Cass Gilbert–designed Hunts Point train station. Within the remains of the 1908 French Renaissance New York, Westchester, and Boston Rail (NYW&B) line stop, the MacArthur Award–winning Bronx native and author of Reclaim Your Community has hosted everything from under-the-radar music concerts and book events to pro wrestling matches and TED talks. Now Carter is launching the venue’s next phase as a restored and updated landmark designed around its latest function as a South Bronx-focused performance space.
Working from a theory of real estate investment Carter calls “restorative community development,” she acquired the Hunts Point rail station from Amtrak in 2016 with the initial aim of turning it into a food hall for local restaurant startups like Ghetto Gastro’s Black Power Kitchen. The Hunts Point station had a particular resonance for Carter, as her father worked as a Pullman porter. He was part of a generation of Black middle-class train attendants who had been at the forefront of the civil rights movement. He won $15,000 in a horse race and purchased a house nearby in the Bronx, which Carter grew up in.
Carter’s office also overlooks the station, which has been closed, along with passenger service on the NYW&B railway, since 1937. Commercial rail service continued on the track, now operated by Amtrak, which had leased the storefronts to the owner of the El Coche strip club from the 1970s through the 1990s. A nail salon and fried chicken takeout place sublet the other spaces for many years. In 2017 Carter started a café, Boogie Down Grind, a block away as one of her first developments in response to her inability to find high-quality coffee in the area.
Led by architect Jay Valgora, STUDIO V took on the Bronxlandia project in 2021 as a labor of love. He was inspired by Carter’s vision. Her core message of restorative development is simple: People in what she calls low-status communities—“places where inequality is assumed by people both inside and outside, where you feel like you need to measure success by how far you get away”—don’t have to move out of their neighborhoods to live in better ones.
“Our approach to real estate development was about creating the kind of spaces that folks could see themselves in—because they were the ones filling them,” Carter told AN. “Suddenly they were the draw, they were the reason why people would even want to come to or stay in the neighborhood, to see themselves literally being showcased. It was super exciting and still is, and we’re about to go into construction now.”
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