Overhaul Update: The Latest on the Transformation of Astor and Cooper Square

IMG_0003Sarah Darville Water main construction at Cooper Square.

The steel beams of 51 Astor Place now loom over the entrance to the 6 train. High school students will soon be attending class at Cooper Square. And city contractors are still tearing up asphalt to repair a vital water main.

Here’s a roundup of the latest news on four projects that will transform the gateway to the neighborhood.

New 51 Astor Place BuildingCourtesy of Sciame Construction Corp A rendering of 51 Astor.

51 Astor Place

In May, Commercial Observer reported that Hult International Business School was negotiating to take the second floor at the black-glass tower being built at the corner of St. Marks Place and Fourth Avenue. But William Lyman, Vice President of Global Development at the school says it is no longer pursuing the space. That deal would have satisfied a requirement that the building host at least one educational institution. Who will occupy the rest of the space remains a mystery. Microsoft and IBM have previously been rumored to be interested in moving in.

IMG_4238Sarah Darville A sneak peek inside of Grace Church High.

Grace Church School

One block south at 46 Cooper Square, construction workers are putting the final touches on the high school division of Grace Church School, which just completed its first round of renovations. On Monday, contractors were painting a hallway bright green, washing windows and delivering furniture in preparation for the school’s first class of ninth graders, who will start this fall.

A spokeswoman for Grace Church said that ground-floor space for classrooms, a library, and a cafeteria are now complete. Construction will continue on the building’s third floor as the school builds a gym, theater, and more classrooms for future students.

The space outside the school’s front doors will eventually become a triangular pedestrian plaza maintained by the school, but that construction is part of yet another separate, city-run project that involves the complete overhaul of the streets around Astor Place and Cooper Square.

Astor Place, Cooper Square Redesign

A spokesman for the Department of Design and Construction, Craig Chin, said that the designs of the reconfiguration are being finalized, and that the city will soon solicit bids for the project. Construction could begin in December or January at the earliest, he said.

The redesign will close Astor Place between Lafayette Street and Cooper Square to traffic, turning the space south of the Astor Place cube into a pedestrian plaza. The traffic island surrounding the uptown Astor Place subway stop will be enlarged, as will Peter Cooper Park, which will get more greenery and seating. The western portion of Cooper Square that feeds into Fourth Avenue will become a single-lane bus loop, eliminating car traffic in front of Grace Church High.

Water Main Repairs

South of Peter Cooper Park, water main repairs are still underway, though city officials said they would be finished first in the fall of 2011 and then spring of 2012. Last year, the operating engineer blamed those delays on the number of utility lines in the ground, and Mr. Chin said today that was still causing delays. Now, the job won’t be complete until November or December, he said.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 2, 2012

An earlier version of this post misstated that Hult International Business School had announced that it was taking space at 51 Astor Place, and linked to a broker’s listing that said the school was a tenant. No such announcement was made. The school was also misidentified as the Hult School of Business. It is Hult International Business School.