NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM PLANS NEW BUILDING, TAKING OVER PART OF ADJACENT PARK

theodore roosevelt park
The new building would be on the West side of the museum in what is now Theodore Roosevelt Park.

The Museum of Natural History is planning to construct a new six-story building to the west of its existing structure, taking over part of Theodore Roosevelt Park.

The $325 million new building would “feature exhibitions showcasing scientific topics, as well as labs and theaters for scientific presentations,” according to an article in the New York Times on Thursday.

The newspaper hinted at possible battles to come over the development. One of our readers, who had already heard wind of the plans, also expressed discontent: “The place they call ‘open space’ is a park. Can you imagine an institution with a mission to educate the public about the environment building on a park?”

“The vast majority of the open space on the west side of the museum, between 77th and 81st Streets, will remain open space when the project is completed,” said Ann Siegel, the museum’s senior vice president for operations and capital programs.

The Friends of Roosevelt Park, which helps manage the park along with the city parks department, is waiting to comment. The group told us: “We were informally briefed on this project, but will have no comment until after our January Board meeting.”

While there may be a battle ahead, the city already appears ready to support he project; a preliminary capital budget shows $15 million earmarked for the project.

The Times has more details:

“Over all, the addition would total 218,000 square feet, roughly the size of the new Whitney Museum of American Art downtown. Of that, 180,000 square feet would be new; the rest would incorporate existing space. The addition would improve visitor circulation throughout the entire museum, Ms. Futter said, and create spaces targeted to different age groups. There also would be food and retail areas.”

On the current timeline, it would likely be completed around 2019.

Leave comments with your thoughts below.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 17 comments | permalink
    1. Jenna says:

      Sounds like it could be interesting – much of the place is really due for a little reno.

      However, one thing I WISH they would do is redo the Hall of Gems and Minerals. It’s lucky the lights are low because that place is falling to pieces – the carpeting is SO dusty and dirty. It is a shell of what it once was – super sad given it was the “favorite” room of all of my friends and I growing up.

    2. Sam says:

      Inprove the inside first.the minerals and gems, the temp space for the butterfly exhibit. Keep the park and flowers and outdoors free and flowinG

    3. Paul says:

      My favorite museum just got favoriter!

    4. Erica says:

      i hope they keep the dog run.

    5. Jeff says:

      I’m willing to wait and see, but my impulse is to agree with Sam — the museum is already massive, and many of the exhibits are pretty long in the tooth. Seems it would be better to renovate the existing interior square footage than to take away from the exterior grounds.

    6. Christine E says:

      I have been a long time supporter of the museum but it is also one of the most disappointing in terms of management. It is not clear why they need to expand. They are not using their current space well — there is a lot of dead space in/around the space center (newest), the lower level overall, and the 3th floor SE corners, water terrace, adjoining corridors, as well as many permanent exhibits with scant visitors. The visitors don’t flow well now due to disorganized ticketing, terrible signage, broken elevators and bad connectivity from addition to addition. That will only worsen with another addition to add to the maze of bewilderment. They need to do a better job managing what they do have, take some oldies out of the rotation or make them stars again (I agree with Jenna and Sam, the gems and minerals hall is a disaster — no maintenance since the 1980s!), many displays broken in the new-ish evolution hall, and none of the displays work in the Rose space center — none! What is the point to add to the size if they cannot take care of what they have now. While absconding with beloved park space no less! If they are trying to monetize the space with “food and retail areas” they should note that some of the current cafes and shops are underutilized, open odd hours, limited visitors, bad menus… they need to manage these better and also add food/drink service at that hidden gem the water terrace. I would literally be in that terrace all day every day if you could just get a cup of coffee there! A building addition will not help at all. But it does explain why many of the downed trees from Hurricane Sandy were never replaced — apparently they were going to rip them out anyway to bulldoze for this addition.

      • AC says:

        More buildings and less park space seems to be the manta in the UWS of late. As noted in the above comments, the money could be used on well deserved interior renovations.

    7. denton says:

      So not only are they trying to steal our parkland, they want the taxpayer to pay $15 million for the privilege? Sweet.

    8. David says:

      Upper West Siders….not happy unless they are complaining about something…

    9. Janny says:

      I would object but for the fact that Central Park is across the street from the Museum. It appears some of Roosevelt Park will be left untouched. I’d prefer to keep as much park land as possible but Manhattanites are spoiled and inconsiderate when it comes to park space since they have so much of it unlike the other boroughs where many neighborhoods don’t have a pocket park. The Museum is a special place and it too requires our protection and growth. Sensible planning will help. But, what’s the big deal about croossing Central Park West and walking into one of the great public parks in this country?

      • Pedestrian says:

        1. Not much of Roosevelt Park will survive.
        2. As the Museum takes the view that it owns everything why is the City kicking in anything.
        3. There seems to be a trend. Can’t manage what you have; build something even bigger.

        Imagine the wonderful things that could be done inside the already great and beautiful building with 325 million but then the god wouldn’t be stroked with just improving the Museum they must have a building.

    10. Sassy Lou says:

      If you go inside the museum…you can find tons of examples of inefficeint uses of space.

      So….not sure why they are going to knock down a fantastic park/resting spot and trees where a lot of people rest and have lunch and get some fresh air!

    11. Sandra Arnold says:

      …I agree with many of the comments below…the space could be utilized so much better…. take a look at what the VA in London is doing. Don’t take the obvious route and add on to the open space.

    12. webot says:

      Can’t say I happy to see parkland on Columbus Avenue lost , even if for my childhood favorite place.

      Can other options be explored? building UNDER the park? as others have said, a better use of the existing space, or building up (shudder)..? A satellite location?

    13. Diane says:

      Roosevelt Park is our one quiet, green NEIGHBORHOOD refuge from the hustle and bustle and tourists that flood the UWS each weekend.
      Central Park is an entirely different Big Park experience. Roosevelt is intimate and neighborly with sprawling, block-long, soul restoring vistas.
      Building out the museum to encroach upon the park will destroy the essence of the park forever. AMNH–please reconsider the destruction you are contemplating and find a better way to utilize the space you already occupy.

    14. Jean Joachim says:

      I think the museum is already enormous. The gargantuan size of the building is nicely balanced by the parkland surrounding it.If that goes away, the building will choke the space, dominating it with yet another building, which is not needed on the Upper West Side. My suggestion would be to reorganize and revisit current exhibits, some of which seem to be centuries old, and modernize within the generous space they already have allotted to indoor space.

    15. Jean Joachim says:

      And what about the dog run? Will that be allowed to remain? They should renovate not build.