Ambitious, Long-in-the-Works Plan to Turn Gowanus Batcave Into Artists Haven Is Back On

Photo by Hannah Frishberg

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In a move that may come as a surprise to many, permits were filed on Wednesday for the long-in-the-works conversion of the 113-year-old Gowanus coal-burning MTA powerhouse at 153 2nd Street, better known as the graffiti-filled Batcave, to an arts center.

Powerhouse Arts, the nonprofit behind the project, plans to add three stories on top of the already existing three stories and to double the square feet from roughly 74,000 to 143,000, as the Real Deal was the first to report.

In the early 2000s, the space was known for its informal community of squatters and artists.

brooklyn development gowanus batcave

Photo by Susan De Vries

The architect of record is New York-based firm PBDW, whose projects include the New York Historical Society. According to a story in the New York Times in March, starchitect hotshots Herzog & de Meuron, who first made a name for themselves with London’s Tate Modern, are also involved. The two firms previously worked together on the Park Avenue Armory.

Joshua Rechnitz, the bike-loving philanthropist who established Powerhouse Arts, first toured the Batcave site in 2012, according to the Times. It was the artist Randy Polumbo, who has a studio nearby with a camper on the ceiling, who first told Rechnitz about the cavernous building.

That same year, Rechnitz attempted to bring a velodrome bicycle racing track to Brooklyn Bridge Park. Eight months later, after much scrutiny, he withdrew his proposal.

But not all dreams are lost. The reborn Batcave will house a number of spaces for artists who work in ceramics and metal, as well as room for a banquet hall; the graffiti-filled walls will not be removed.

The estimated cost of the project is a staggering $74 million. How much of that do you suppose is for decontamination?

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