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NEW YORK CITY-The 122-year-old Seventh Regiment Armory, a Park Avenue landmark that has languished for decades, may soon be the site of a painstaking and long-overdue restoration. The Empire State Development Corp. is putting the final touches on a development deal and will formally set the project in motion this fall, GlobeSt.com has learned.

According to Empire State spokesperson Maura Gallucci, developer for the project, estimated at $50-million, has not yet been selected. But high on the list is the Seventh Regiment Conservancy. “The Conservancy was formed with the sole purpose of going ahead with this project,” Gallucci tells GlobeSt.com. “They are proposing a full restoration of the armory, which is required, as the structure is landmarked inside and out.”

The state will not sell the building, which has been run for 50 years by the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs, and will place its management and fiscal affairs in the Conservancy’s hands. The Conservancy plans to restore the Armory’s interior and exterior, modernize its electrical, HVAC and mechanical systems and repurpose it as a visual and performing arts center. Flexible, storable seating for the 55,000-SF drill hall will accommodate up to 4,000.

“They will operate the facility for civic purposes, using the revenue generated for upkeep and reinvestment in the facility itself,” says Gallucci. The Conservancy’s bid came in last summer. “It’s a very attractive proposal. We’re doing our due diligence, but we’re looking very favorably on it.”

Financing for the project is reported to be a combination of public and private fundraising, tax credits earmarked for historic preservation and traditional commercial loans. Currently, the red-brick landmark is primarily for antique shows and art exhibitions, another major source of revenue.

The Armory occupies the entire city block bordered by 66th and 67th streets and Park and Lexington Avenues. Its significance is both historical and cultural. Built with private funds to house the Seventh Regiment, the structure was completed in 1879. Prominent designers such as Tiffany, Stanford White and the Herter Brothers contributed to the interior design, which features the drill hall’s 80-foot-high barrel-vault ceiling. The room was heralded an engineering masterpiece when it was built and is one of the city’s largest unobstructed interiors.

Gallucci echoed the sentiments of preservationists the world over, lamenting the decay of the building’s “remarkable rooms, some designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Everything is antiquated, from the gorgeous design of the rooms to the electricity and heat. And there’s no air conditioning, which is why the shows stop in summer.”

Indeed, the Armory is consistently among the buildings on the World Monuments Watch annual list of 100 endangered sites. Damage, especially to the interior of the building, is severe. Collapsed ceilings and water seepage have destroyed stenciled walls and wood floors. Furnishings, including oriental rugs and valuable paintings, are slowly decaying.

Over the last two decades, the Armory has also become a haven for many homeless New Yorkers and two floors are used as a women’s shelter. While social activists have protested the pending eviction of the shelter, Gallucci has said that the city is committed to finding alternative space for the women.The Conservancy was formed by the Municipal Arts Society of New York. Neither organization was available for comment.

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