Hudson Guild will undergo a $5 million renovation


By Albert Amateau

The Hudson Guild, providing the Chelsea community with recreation, health and educational services for 108 years, will begin a $5 million renovation next month of its main center in the Elliott-Chelsea housing development.

A 25-year rent-free lease from the New York City Housing Authority for the two and a half floors the Guild has occupied at 441 W. 26th St. for the past 38 years was signed earlier in October, said Janice McGuire, executive director of the Guild.

A groundbreaking ceremony at 10 a.m. Thurs. Nov. 13 will mark the beginning of the yearlong construction project intended to transform the old and awkward space into a welcoming and flexible center for the next generation.

“It took three years of negotiations with NYCHA for this precedent-setting lease,” McGuire said last week. “They were worried about us not being able to raise the money for what will be a virtual gut-rehab. They didn’t want us sitting there unfinished for 25 years like the Chelsea Recreation Center,” McGuire said, referring to the Parks Department’s Recreation Center on W. 25th St., which is only now nearing completion after standing half-built since the city fiscal crisis in the 1970s.

The Guild, however, has already raised $3 million and has a matching-fund grant expected to generate another $1 million. “It’s all part of our $10 million goal for the renovation and an endowment to maintain the center and operate its programs,” McGuire said.

“We owe a big debt of gratitude to [City Councilmember] Christine Quinn who got us $1 million from the city and to [Assemblymember] Dick Gottfried who got us $100,000 from the state,” said McGuire.

“I’m honored to be able to help the Guild’s renovation,” Quinn said last week. “They [the Guild] are such an important and wonderful part of the community,” she said, noting that the appropriation was put into the city budget last June.

Gottfried, who was out of town last week, said in a statement that he was proud to help the Guild continue its important role in lives of Chelsea residents. The Community Capital Assistance program grant that Gottfried secured was used for planning and design, McGuire said.

A former member of the Hudson Guild board of directors, Emily Meschter, made a key donation of $100,000. Meschter, a former financial fund manager, has been associated with the Guild since 1978 and still is close to the organization even though she now spends most of her time in Arizona.

The Clark Foundation came across with a $500,000 grant to be matched by contributions by former Guild board members, McGuire said.

The renovation of the Guild’s 20,000 sq. ft. of space, designed by Stephan Yablon & Associates, is expected to take about a year. The Guild occupies the ground and second floors of a 12-story residential building for seniors. The reconstruction will include elevators to make the entire space accessible to wheelchairs in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act

“The design will reflect what we are,” said McGuire, “modern, flexible and welcoming. The glass-front entrance on 26th St. will be like a neighborhood street corner and there’ll be a direct access to 27th St. and Chelsea Park.”

During construction all Guild activities will be shifted to four other neighborhood locations, the Guild senior center at 119 Ninth Ave. in the Robert Fulton houses, the Guild education center across the street from 441 W. 26th St., the children’s center just west of the main center and the Guild’s Beacon program located in the city O. Henry Learning Center on W.17th St. west of Eighth Ave.

“It will be tight, but we can manage for a year,” McGuire said. “And there will be soundproofing, which we really need because we have so many things going on at the same time.

Activity rooms in the reconstructed center will be larger and administrative offices will be concentrated on the second floor. “We don’t have much room for expansion but there will be more space added to the front of the building at ground level,” McGuire said.

NYCHA, which has had a long relationship with the Guild, will continue to provide funds to maintain the exterior of the building while the Guild maintains the interior.

“NYCHA has been very patient with us,” said McGuire. “Our lease with them runs out in a few years and we needed a commitment because donors are reluctant to give money to a program that doesn’t have a home. And [NYCHA] wanted to be sure that we would be able to complete the project and run it. After all, we have an obligation to provide service to NYCHA tenants,” she said.

When McGuire came to the Guild 16 years ago, the location between Ninth and 10th Aves. was marginal. “People told me they didn’t think there was anything west of Ninth Ave.,” she said.

But with the development of the Hudson River Park two blocks west and the redevelopment of West Chelsea west of 10th Ave. proposed by the Department of City Planning, the Guild location has become central. “This is the place where we’ve been for 108 years and it’s where we want to be the center of a vibrant community,” McGuire said.