Charles Hamilton and Team Close National Urban League HQ - Most Significant Harlem Project in Decades

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Following 8 years of negotiations, Charles J. Hamilton, Jr. and team closed on behalf of the National Urban League (NUL) an agreement that includes a new NUL headquarters in Harlem, as well as a Racial Justice Institute, a Civil Rights Museum, affordable housing and retail. The agreement is one of the most significant building projects to be developed in Harlem in 50 years, and it anchors the NUL in the community where it was founded. 

The team also included David Glanz, Alan Landzberg, Tom Rohan, Leon Yel, Arlene Koutras and Jeet Gulati


The National Urban League today announced an agreement on a historic building project that will keep the legacy civil rights organization in the city where it was founded while enhancing the economic and cultural revitalization of Harlem.

The Urban League Empowerment Center, on 125th Street between Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard and Lenox Avenue, will include the National Urban League’s headquarters, the Urban Civil Rights Museum Experience and the National Urban League Institute for Race, Equity and Justice, along with affordable housing, office space and retail space.

“This project represents a major investment in the neighborhood where the National Urban League was founded,” National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial. “For more than a century, across the country, the National Urban League has worked to strengthen and vitalize urban neighborhoods through community investment. We’re pleased to be able to put those same guiding principles to work with our own future home.”

The National Urban League is a historic civil rights organization dedicated to economic empowerment in order to elevate the standard of living in historically underserved urban communities. Founded in New York City in 1910, the National Urban League spearheads the efforts of its 90 local affiliates across the country through the development of programs, public policy research and advocacy, providing direct services that impact and improve the lives of more than 2 million people annually nationwide

Morial thanked New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for his wholehearted support of the project and his extraordinary effort to align state agencies and private sector partners to move the project forward. He also thanked New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, State Assemblywoman Inez E. Dickens, State Senator Brian Benjamin and City Councilman Bill Perkins.

“The Urban Investment Group at Goldman Sachs, through its head Margaret Anadu, provided crucial advice and creative approaches that led to the development of this groundbreaking public-private partnership,” Morial said. “I want to thank Margaret for her passion and trust in the mission and work of the National Urban League. Without Margaret, we would not be here today.” 

“There has never been a more important time for Goldman Sachs to support the twin pillars of opportunity and civil rights in the Black community,” said Margaret Anadu, managing director and head of the Urban Investment Group at Goldman Sachs. “Through our $188 million commitment, we are excited to play a role in this transformative development that will not only strengthen the National Urban League, one of the most important civil rights organizations in the country, but will also bring more affordable housing, historic cultural space, and job opportunities to the Harlem community.”

Morial noted that the project has been intentional about supporting minority-owned businesses, pointing to the partnership of Black-owned BRP Companies and a commitment target of 30% of awarded contracts for minority-owned businesses. Prominent African-American professionals including real estate attorney Charles J. Hamilton, Jr., of Windels Marx and Dabar Development Partners founder and CEO Dawanna Williams have had lead roles in the project. 

“This project has been a dream for the past eight years and after a tremendous effort by the State, the City and our partners, we’re thrilled to be celebrating this milestone alongside L+M Development Partners, Taconic Partners, The Prusik Group,  Dabar Development Partners, the National Urban League and the greater Harlem community,” said Meredith Marshall, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of BRP Companies. “Returning the National Urban League’s headquarters to Harlem, debuting New York’s first civil rights museum, providing office space to community groups and civic organizations, and providing affordable housing will contribute to the continued growth of Harlem and provide its residents with vital resources.”

Over the last several years, the National Urban League has turned down offers to relocate to other cities, including Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Chicago and others, Morial said.

 “New York City is where we were born, and we’re proud that New York City is where we will stay,” he said. “We’re even more excited about the neighborhood economic development the building project represents.”

Tim Murphy, Chair of the National Urban League Board of Trustees, said the project epitomizes the organization’s mission of economic empowerment in communities of color.

“The Urban League Empowerment Center is aptly named, as it puts the League’s principle strategy of innovative collaboration among civic, public and private institutions into action,” Murphy said. “We look forward to being an active and constructive partner in Harlem’s fast-growing economic and cultural future.” 

The Urban Civil Rights Museum Experience will be New York’s first museum dedicated to civil rights and one of the first in the nation to focus on the history of civil rights in the North. The $242 million project also includes below-market office space for community groups and civic organizations, as well as 170 affordable housing units to be constructed with support from New York State Homes and Community Renewal.

Among the groups who will occupy office space are the One Hundred Black Men of New York, the United Negro College Fund New York, and the Harlem-based Jazzmobile.

A formal groundbreaking will be scheduled in the near future. Completion is expected by late 2023.

Morial and Murphy thanked the following partners: Empire State Development, New York State Homes and Community Renewal, and Harlem Community Development Corporation. The development is being led by BRP, L+M Development Partners, Taconic Partners, the Prusik Group, and Dabar Development.  Private funding is being invested by Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation, Red Stone Equity Partners, and Santander Bank, N.A.  Additional partners include New York State Office of General Services, New York City Economic Development Corporation and Settlement Housing Fund, Inc.

Empire State Development Acting Commissioner, President, and CEO-delegate Eric Gertler said, "This has been an incredibly collaborative effort among State and City agencies, elected officials and community stakeholders, the National Urban League, and the private sector to produce one of the most important buildings Harlem has seen in a long time. ESD is proud of the work we are doing in partnership with the Harlem community to help restore 125th Street’s rightful place as a centerpiece of business, culture and life in New York City.” 

RuthAnne Visnauskas, Commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal said, "This inspiring project not only creates a home for the National Urban League with the construction of its new headquarters, bringing it home to Harlem where it was founded over a century ago, it also provides 170 much-needed new affordable mixed-income and supportive housing units to the central Harlem corridor, ensuring dozens of New Yorkers have an affordable, permanent place to call home. The National Urban League fights every day for economic and social justice. HCR is honored to support this historic organization's work and continue Harlem’s remarkable renaissance."

"As the City looks towards the future, it is committed to a recovery that puts equity at the center,” said James Patchett, president and CEO of New York City Economic Development Corporation. “This investment is a major milestone towards achieving that goal. By creating a new home for the National Urban League, New York’s first Civil Rights Museum, more affordable housing, additional space for community groups and new jobs, we are building a stronger future for all New Yorkers. We are thrilled we played a role bringing the community’s vision to life.”

Source: National Urban League