Children’s Museum eyeing SPURA site

Excavation work at Site 2 of the SPURA project is underway, above. This site will be home to the future tallest building of the development project, and will also house the relocated Essex Street Market. Photo by Yannic Rack

BY YANNIC RACK  |  The Lower East Side will soon get an injection of youth, if plans for a new museum inside the Essex Crossing development are approved.

Andy Ackerman, executive director of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, said the institution is eyeing a relocation to Site 4 of the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area project, at the southwest corner of Delancey and Clinton Sts.

“We’re in conversation with the developers. It’s not a done deal yet but it’s what we’re trying to do,” Ackerman said last week.

The museum currently occupies a 37,000-square-foot space on the Upper West Side but would almost double its size to 70,000 square feet on the Lower East Side, according to Ackerman.

Since Essex Crossing, a nearly 2-million-square-feet mixed-use development at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge, was announced two years ago, details of prospective tenants have continued to trickle out.

A Splitsville bowling alley, a Regal cinema and a Planet Fitness gym have all been announced for various locations, and a deal for an extension of N.Y.U.’s Langone Medical Center is currently being finalized.

The children’s museum would replace an outpost of the Pittsburgh-based Andy Warhol Museum, which was originally slated for a different site in the project but bowed out earlier this year. Last month, Isaac Henderson, a senior project manager for the developer, told The Villager that they were still looking for a replacement.

The children’s museum would get considerably more space, however, which Ackerman said would be used for major new features, like a multi-story climbing structure and a water installation, among others.

“We’d also continue doing cultural exhibits, a major early-childhood floor, continue our focus on health and so on,” he said. “We believe the museum would be transformative to the Lower East Side, vibrant and full of life.”

Ackerman said the museum currently attracts around 375,000 visitors a year, including 65,000 children who visit as part of a school group or through one of the museum’s community partners.

“That’s a huge amount of people for this building, and they come from all over — the five boroughs, the metro area, national and international,” he said. “So the demand is certainly there for a larger children’s museum.”

CMOM, which originally opened in Harlem in 1973, offers a range of interactive exhibitions and programs aimed at early-childhood education, fostering creativity and inspiring a healthy lifestyle.

The developers of Essex Crossing, Delancey Street Associates, wouldn’t confirm whether the museum would move into the area.

“We are talking to a number of world-class cultural institutions about coming to Essex Crossing,” a spokesperson wrote in an e-mail last week.

But Ackerman said the museum’s board has been in serious discussions with the developers for about nine months, though he added that there was no prospective opening date yet.

“It’s certainly not before three years, and most likely some time thereafter,” he said.

The location he mentioned for the museum, Site 4, is part of the development’s second phase and won’t begin construction until 2017.

Ackerman said the accessibility of this part of the Lower East Side, together with its diversity, make the area a dream location.

“We love how quintessential New York the Lower East Side is, how it embodies the American Dream in terms of immigration,” he said. “And we think it’s exciting to be part of a neighborhood that’s developing.”

More from around NYC