The original Westbeth conversion from Bell Laboratory’s use (1868-1966) to Artist Housing (opening in 1970) was one of the first such adaptive reuses in the country, and remains the largest. In so doing, it provides an extraordinary example of how we can work to solve the acute need for affordable housing and studios for artists and their families.
Located in Manhattan’s West Village, Westbeth is a complex of 13 buildings which were formerly the site of Bell Labs research center, from which the first talking movie, the condenser microphone, the first TV broadcast, and the first binary computer were created.
Bell Labs also did significant research and engineering work for WW2’s first radar installations in England, as well as the NORAD radar installations in the Arctic.
The innovative HUD financing was arranged by Joan Davidson of the Kaplan Foundation and Roger Stevens of the National Endowment for the Arts. Richard Meier was the renovation architect, and the developer was Dixon Bain.
Westbeth was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 2009, and subsequently the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Westbeth an NYC landmark.
Westbeth is owned by the not-for-profit Westbeth Housing Development Fund Corporation. It is administered by the Westbeth Board of Directors. Glenn Erikson, whose father, Erik G. Erikson, had been a Managing Electrical Engineer at Bell Labs, is a member and until recently lead the Real Estate Committee. Currently, Westbeth is in the midst of a $50,000,000 Build-It-Back renovation project sponsored by the City of New York and has recently
obtained $10,000,000 in financing for additional work.
Cultural events are sponsored by the tenant elected Westbeth Artists Residents Council. In addition to Westbeth’s live/work artist housing, the complex also contains a number of galleries, performance and rehearsal spaces, artists work-only studios, as well as commercial spaces.
Westbeth over the years has been home to a number of major arts and cultural organizations including the Merce Cunningham Dance Compan, The Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance and the New School for Drama. Dr. Erikson was a Board Member for 10 years and was particularly involved with the project’s HUD refinancing, its $50M City sponsored long term capital improvement program, tenant refurbishments and leasing, and long term commercial space planning projects.