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The Grand Concourse, the “Champs Elysées” of the Bronx, at Landmarks

On Tuesday, June 22, 2010, MAS will testify before the Landmarks Preservation Commission in support of the designation of a proposed Grand Concourse Historic District in the Bronx. The proposed district is comprised of 73 buildings running roughly along the Concourse between 153rd and 167th Streets.

In response to the LPC’s hearing, MAS President Vin Cipolla said: “The Grand Concourse is one of the Bronx’s most majestic thoroughfares and one of its great treasures.  The designation of a Grand Concourse Historic District  by the Landmarks Commission is the perfect way to celebrate the 100th year of the boulevard and protect this street and the buildings along it.”

Popularly considered the “Champs- Elysées” of the Bronx, the Grand Concourse was nominated to the Census for Places that Matter for its cultural and architectural history.  Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the Grand Concourse was the stylish address for residents escaping crowded areas of Lower Manhattan, in favor of the spacious, light-filled apartments equipped with modern amenities. However, like many other parts of the Bronx, the area surrounding the Concourse fell into decline during the 1960s and ’70s.

Despite its tumultuous history, this dynamic boulevard promises a rebirth. To mark the centennial of the Concourse in November 2009, the Design Trust for Public Space, in collaboration with the Bronx Museum of Art, held a design competition for revitalization and future of the Grand Concourse, addressing what the Bronx of the future need its grandest boulevard to be. The over 250 entries proved the Grand Concourse remains a source of pride for the borough’s residents and an inspiration for designers and planners alike.

Architecturally, the Grand Concourse stands out for  its  examples of Art Deco and Art Moderne residential architecture. The proposed Grand Concourse Historic District would  encompass these residences as well as some of the earliest examples of middle-class “garden apartments” found in the city.  If the Landmarks Preservation Commission approves the designation, the Grand Concourse Historic District will serve to highlight the architectural and cultural history of the Bronx, which has relatively few historic district’s compared to Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Sam Goodman on the Grand Concourse from the Design Trust for Public Spaces