National Urban League’s $242M Harlem HQ Breaks Ground

The mixed-use project incorporates office, affordable housing and retail space, as well as New York's first civil rights museum.
Urban League Empowerment Center. Image courtesy of National Urban League

Last summer, National Urban League announced plans to redevelop an underused site in Upper Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood into the historic civil rights organization’s national headquarters, along with other office, affordable housing and retail components. This week, the $242 million mixed-use Urban League Empowerment Center officially broke ground at 121 W. 125th St.

The development will replace a four-story parking structure near the corner of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Lenox Avenue. In addition to NUL’s 42,000-square-foot headquarters, the 17-story property will include the nearly 21,500-square-foot Urban Civil Rights Museum Experience—New York’s first civil rights museum—and the 19,500-square-foot National Urban League Institute for Race, Equity and Justice. Plans also call for an additional 73,000 square feet of office space reserved for community groups, 105,000 square feet of retail space and more than 170 affordable housing units, catering to residents earning between 30 and 80 percent of the Area Median Income. Furthermore, the center will include supportive housing for young adults aging out of foster care.

Developing the Urban League Empowerment Center

The development team, a joint venture between BRP Cos., L+M Development Partners, Taconic Investment Partners, The Prusik Group and Dabar Development Partners, plans to deliver the 414,000-square-foot building in late 2023. Beyer Blinder Belle is the architect for the project. The design firm is also involved in RXR Realty and TF Cornerstone’s iconic Grand Hyatt New York redevelopment adjacent to Grand Central Terminal, acting as architectural and historical consultant alongside the main architect, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group is financing the project with a $188 million loan. Other backers of the development include a number of private sources, such as Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corp., Red Stone Equity Partners and Santander Bank.

Back to Harlem roots

NUL, an organization that advocates on behalf of economic and social justice for African Americans and against racial discrimination, was founded in 1910 in Harlem, a neighborhood that will once again house the organization. The agency will relocate from its current headquarters at Rudin Management’s 80 Pine Street in Lower Manhattan’s Financial District, where it leases roughly 57,000 square feet on the 38-story skyscraper’s ninth floor, according to CommercialEdge data. The organization has 90 local affiliates across the U.S.

The roster of groups that will reside at the Urban League Empowerment Center’s below-market office space includes One Hundred Black Men of New York, the United Negro College Fund New York and Harlem-based Jazzmobile. In January, Trader Joe’s revealed plans for a new 28,000-square-foot grocery store at the location, as reported by New York YIMBY.