Given its rich history, it is no surprise that the Bronx is home to many historic infrastructures. From the Kingsbridge Armory to the Andrew Freedman Home, there’s no shortage of famous buildings throughout the borough. However, many of these buildings are unknown to the borough's own residents and New Yorkers around the city in general - making them underutilized, and their beauty and importance, neglected.
I would like to think of the BankNote Building as a hidden gem. I had no knowledge of the building’s existence until I began working for a small business nonprofit in 2014. After accepting the position and getting the building’s address, an internal alarm went off. My preconceived notions of the Hunts Point area deterred me initially. The area’s well documented history of crime and prostitution, plus the distance from my Kingsbridge home, made the task of traveling to the BankNote daunting. But on my first day at work, my mind was immediately changed. I would go on to spend many days exploring the building during my tenure there and engulfing myself in its external and internal beauty.
Sitting in the Hunts Point and Longwood sections, the massive structure may seem unassuming at first glance. But a self inspired tour around the building’s campus will change your mind. The brick exterior is telling of the structure’s age as it was built in 1909 and widely known as the “penny factory” for its function. The building was part of The American Bank Note Company, who printed paper and coin money. According to the building's website, the 410,000-square-foot structure is comprised of four buildings: The North, Garrison, Barretto, and Lafayette. It’s easy to spot from the Bruckner Boulevard Expressway, and if you are on the higher points of the building then you can look down into the famous Hunts Point Markets and Rikers Island.
According to the Real Deal, after being abandoned in 1985, the building laid vacant until 2007 when Taconic Investment Partners purchased it for over $32 million dollars. The developers had several ideas for creating a loft styled space for small business owners and creatives alike and even invested $25 million dollars into the buildings developments. The impact of the recession that year stalled the developers plans and the building laid dormant once again. Taconic Investment Partners then sold the property to Perella Weinberg Partners and Washington, D.C real estate investment firm Madison Marquette for a whopping $114 million. The new owners immediately began plans to revive the space. Since its turnover, the building has been transformed to a beautiful incubator for creativity, business, and opportunity.
The Bronx Business Incubator are one of the residents of the building. They rent out space to start up businesses, nonprofits, and health agencies. Some of the incubator’s tenants include the nonprofit Start Small Think Big and businesses like Luscious Wines, and even the office of Congressman Jose E. Serrano. The building houses two public schools and is home to programs such as Sustainable South Bronx and the Knowledge House. A walk around the building, to Garrison Avenue, will bring you to The Point - which is a one stop shop for creativity and grabbing a great lunch. The Point is a nonprofit dedicated to youth development by offering art programs and employment opportunities for large community of color that surround it. There are so many opportunities that Hunts Point Residents and all Bronxites can take advantage of in the BankNote.
The revitalization of the BankNote has attracted many residents, old and new, of the Hunts Point area. The building serves as a great example of restoration in an area that so desperately needs more showcases of hope and inspiration. With a little faith and time, so many things are possible.
Visit the BankNote building at 1231 Layfayette Ave, Bronx NY.