Real estate play in Turtle Bay
Music school to exit its 52nd Street home, move to Corinthian on 38th Street, sell building to Israeli developer who plans high-end condos
After 83 years in a single location, the Turtle Bay Music School will open its doors on September 15 in a modern, accessible new home where it will serve thousands of music lovers ranging in age “from age 2 to 102,” the school has announced.
The school is expected to close within days or weeks on the sale of 244 East 52nd St. — the three-story, Civil War-era double townhouse it has occupied since 1935 — in a deal that will reap roughly $10 million-plus, real estate sources confirmed last week.
Just in time for the fall semester, the school will relocate 14 blocks to the south. Soon, the sounds of music will resonate in a ground-floor office space it bought and is renovating at 330 East 38th St. in the base of the 57-story Corinthian Condominium complex.
By the fall of 2019, Turtle Bay will launch its first music-centered preschool. It is already hiring staff to provide an early-childhood education for dozens of children — a move that’s expected to bolster school revenues and create a “feeder” for other school programs.
“Music is the universal language we share as human beings,” said Lorna Jane Norris, the school’s executive director. “By expanding the school, we are increasing our ability to bring music into the lives of all New Yorkers in this global melting pot.”
The move is not without consequences for both the block it is leaving and the neighbors who enjoy its free concerts: The school’s longtime home, which is not landmarked, is likely to be demolished. A preliminary rendering shows ultra-luxe condos rising on the site where Turtle Bay now provides high-quality music education to all ages, skill sets and incomes levels.
The property is being acquired by Minrav Development, a Madison Avenue-based subsidiary of Minrav Holdings Ltd., an Israeli real estate investment firm that has been building high-end residences across the East Side.
Minrav, which is developing projects at 427 East 90th St. and 368 Third Ave., didn’t return calls. Site plans haven’t yet been filed or permits issued.
But an image posted on the Minrav website shows a 15-unit, eight-story, 26,000-square-foot condo building, sleek and glass-walled, stretching along the school’s 50 feet of 52nd Street frontage.
“Investment: Coming Soon,” Minrav says on its site, a reference to an imminent closing. “Expected completion: Winter 2020.”
The community music school, founded in 1925, spent a couple of years developing its ambitious expansion plans, which were first revealed in Our Town on January 16 describing how it had “outlived” its cramped space, and was poised to pull up stakes and make music and mint musicians in another neighborhood.
At the time, Turtle Bay administrators declined to comment on a prospective move. Now, it is filling in the gaps: The school’s usable space will jump by 50 percent, from 9,500 square feet in its current home to about 14,000 square feet in its new space, executives said.
And the configuration itself will be transformed. Today, classrooms and practice and performance rooms are vertically stacked on three floors and a basement level — accessible only by stairs — in a walk-up with no elevator that can be entered only by climbing eight steps.
In the 38th Street space, a fully ADA-compliant facility, the street-level entryway provides access to the school’s full sweep, and its 13 studios, five multi-use teaching rooms, performance hall, gallery, piano lab, library, lounge, pantries, offices and meeting rooms are all arrayed horizontally.
The layout is defining. It’s designed to project a vibrant on-the-street presence in which passers-by on the sidewalk, looking through tall glass picture windows, can glimpse practice sessions, concerts, workshops, performances and community programming.
And that exposure — to what the school calls the “transformative power of music,” the “integral role it plays in daily life” — is intended to draw future participants.
It’s all about accessibility: Early-childhood programs require it, Norris explains, and the user-friendly space will also open the door to older audience members and adult students with limited mobility.
“It will allow us to better fulfill our mission by being fully accessible for all populations and abilities,” she said.
“We live in a time when people are looking to music for healing, joy, comfort and community. We have to provide a space where everyone can be a part of that,” Norris added.
To that end, the relocated school, which has a 13-person staff and $2 million-plus budget, will open seven days a week, adding Sundays to its current six-day schedule.
Still, some neighbors are already mourning its prospective replacement.
“Land is so valuable in Manhattan, it’s sad that moneyed interests can destroy great unique old buildings for maximum profit,” said Sylvain Michaelis, a graphic designer who lives around the corner at 251 East 51st St. and enjoys his northern view of the building from a sixth-floor apartment.
“The charm of an old neighborhood is definitely altered,” Michaelis added. “You don’t find that happening in most European cities.”
Jeffrey Schlosser, the school’s president, says Turtle Bay’s new home will be a “welcoming, safe, comfortable place to engage with the arts.”
“The needs of our community, from those that are very young to our senior citizens, are our first priority in building out the school,” he added. “This beautiful new space will provide the environment we can grow into over the next 100 years.”
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