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Bringing a Vision to Life through Innovative Community Development

The historic Bedford Union Armory has been renamed the Major R. Owens Health & Wellness Community Center. The Major Owens Center will offer affordable housing, recreational opportunities, and nonprofit space for the Crown Heights community, and honor the legacy of the late Congressman Major R. Owens—a longtime advocate and voice for the community. In his more than 50 years in public service–as a local information librarian, Community Development Agency commissioner, New York State Senator, and US RepresentativeOwens was an unwavering civil rights and disability rights supporter and promoter of social justice.

A Historic Site

The Major Owens Center, formerly the Bedford Union Armory, occupies nearly an entire city block in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, covering approximately three acres of land. Opened in 1908, the Armory was used by the US Army’s Cavalry Troop C for training and equipment storage, in addition to serving as a horse stable. When not being used for military purposes, the large, open space provided an excellent venue for sporting events and local community gatherings. Sometime after 2008, Congressman Owens, then a professor at nearby Medgar Evers college, began to envision a future for the Armory as a full-time community center with recreational opportunities and gathering spaces for Crown Heights. Along with his students and other stakeholders, he built local support for the idea. The military decommissioned the building in 2013, and the City of New York took ownership of the site.

Opportunity for Change

In 2013, local elected officials asked NYCEDC to issue a request for proposals (RFP) to redevelop the vacant site and transform it into a space for housing, jobs, and the community. After years of extensive engagement with residents, business owners, elected officials, and other local stakeholders to better understand the needs of the Crown Heights community, it was evident that residents shared Congressman Owens’s desire for an institution that would positively support the vibrant communities of Crown Heights and greater Central Brooklyn.

Specifically, the community expressed the need for affordable recreational opportunities for all ages (including a swimming pool) and space for local nonprofits to offer cultural, educational, and healthcare services. With the community’s ideas in mind, in 2015 NYCEDC selected a proposal from Bedford Courts LLC, an affiliate of BFC Partners, that most closely aligned with this vision for the future of the site. Bedford Courts is managing construction and operation of the Major Owens Center and bring the long-held community vision to life.

Community Impact

01
06
By The Numbers

250

Affordable homes, 10% set aside for formerly homeless individuals and families

Bedford Union Armory
Community and Sports Facility
Bedford-Union Armory Pool
Indoor Swimming Pool
By The Numbers

10

Nonprofits coming to the Major Owens Center, providing educational, cultural, and healthcare services

By The Numbers

60K

Square feet of multi-sport courts and a swimming pool

Bedford Union Armory Exterior
Affordable Housing

A New Vision

The Major Owens Center will be a focal point for community and culture that will strengthen Crown Heights and create new opportunities for neighborhood residents for generations to come.

It will feature:

  • A state-of-the-art, 60,000-square-foot recreation center operated by Boys’ Clubs of New York, with hardwood basketball courts, a competitive-length swimming pool, and a multi-purpose court able to accommodate a wide variety of sports and community programming
  • Athletic facilities for local public schools and youth sports leagues
  • Free and low-cost sports and fitness programming for the community
  • A flexible space to host cultural events, as well as local civic and community meetings
  • STEM classes and tutoring, LGBTQ support services, and additional cultural programming
  • 415 homes, 250 of which will be affordable for families of three making up to $58,000/year

The Major Owens Center will also offer affordable space to local nonprofit organizations, which will provide educational, recreational, and cultural opportunities along with career-development and healthcare services, including:

Having these community organizations under one roof will change lives. This place will strengthen the community, strengthen families, and offer youth the opportunity to pursue their dreams.
Geoffrey A. Davis
Executive director, James E. Davis Foundation

The Major Owens Center represents the culmination of a years-long effort by the Crown Heights community to honor and cherish the past, while bringing to fruition its vision for the future—where a new generation will create their own memories and build closer connections to the community and to each other.

Learn More

Visit: majorowenscenter.com

Learn more about the project and how you can get involved.