Homeless since its creation in 1984, the Museum for African Art will finally have a permanent home in a new $80 million building designed by Robert A. M. Stern, on Fifth Avenue between 109th and 110th Street. The structure will have 90,000 square feet, including 16,000 square feet of exhibition space and 115 luxury condominiums with views of adjacent Central Park. The condos are being built by a partnership between the museum and two developers, Brickman and Sidney Fetner Associates.
In addition to arranging for the sale of the site to the museum, the New York City Economic Development Corporation has pledged $12 million to the project. It will be the first new construction of a museum on Museum Mile since the Guggenheim opened in 1959. While the museum doesn’t actually own any art, it promises it will pick some up before the opening of the $80 million structure in 2009.
Construction preparation has sparked a series of protests over the loss of a community garden on the site. Opponents of the plan argue that the city has essentially given away one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in New York City to the developers for building luxury condominiums outside of the competitive bidding process and without proper community, environmental or legal oversight.
They argue that the project is “deceptively described” as a Museum of African Art because the museum has no collections and will house a few small rooms for lectures. Protesters have promised to file an injunction to stop construction.