Whitney to break ground May 24, become city’s first LEED-certified art museum

By Yaffi Spodek | December 21, 2010 11:25AM

The Whitney Museum of American Art will break ground on its new downtown site May 24, with the project slated for completion in 2015, museum officials announced last night during a Community Board 2 meeting. With 70 percent of the funds raised for the project, demolition is scheduled to begin in February.

Whitney’s director, Adam Weinberg, was on hand at the West Village meeting to present the newest plans for the 200,000-square foot building, which will be located at the southernmost entrance of the High Line, in the Meatpacking District.

Weinberg noted that the museum’s move downtown is a “return to our roots in the Village,” since the Whitney originally started out on West 8th Street in the 1930s. It is currently based in a 65,000-square-foot Marcel Breuer-designed building at Madison Avenue and 75th Street, which can only accommodate 10 percent of its permanent collection. The museum plans to eventually sell the Upper East Side location and permanently move its collection to the downtown site.

“The new space will be a huge improvement,” Weinberg said. “We want to create a sense of home and intimacy, where people can go through and feel comfortable, but not feel like they’re getting lost.”

Designed by Renzo Piano, the Whitney plans to be the city’s first LEED-certified art museum, “at minimum silver, but we hope gold,” Weinberg said. The museum will also be home to the largest column-free gallery in the city, at 18,400 square feet.

The all-glass transparent building will include a “free zone” on the ground level with art displays from the museum’s permanent collection, as well as three outdoor galleries. “I know of no other art museum [in the city] with outdoor galleries,” Weinberg noted.

Attendees said they were excited for the addition to the area.

“We are rolling out the red carpet here for the Whitney,” David Gruber, chairperson of CB2’s arts and institutions committee, told The Real Deal after the meeting. “It could be a real neighborhood game changer. We are so pleased and excited and we are trying to facilitate in any way we can.”

Though some locals may be concerned about the noise from construction, “there is nobody who says the museum doesn’t belong here,” Gruber said. “It will be a strong building to anchor the High Line.”