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The Grand Boulevard and Concourse (almost universally referred to as the Grand Concourse) is a major thoroughfare in the borough of the Bronxmarker in New York Citymarker. It was designed by Louis Aloys Risse, an Alsatianmarker immigrant who had previously worked for the New York Central Railroad and was later appointed chief topographical engineer for the New York city government.


Risse first conceived of the road in 1890, as a means of connecting the borough of Manhattanmarker to the northern Bronx. Construction began on the Grand Concourse in 1894 and it was opened to traffic in November 1909. Built during the height of the City Beautiful movement, it was modeled on the Champs-Élyséesmarker in Parismarker but was considerably larger, stretching four miles (6 km) in length, measuring across, and separated into three roadways by tree-lined dividers.

The cost of the project was $14 million, the equivalent to $340 million in 2008 dollars. The road originally stretched from the Bronx Borough Hall at 161st Street north to Van Cortlandt Parkmarker, although it was later expanded southward to 138th street after Mott Avenue was widened to accommodate the boulevard.

The IRT Jerome Avenue Line of the New York City Subway opened a few blocks west of the Grand Concourse in 1917, initiating a housing boom amongst upwardly mobile, predominantly Jewish and Italian, families who were fleeing the crowded tenements of Manhattan. Development of the Concourse was further encouraged by the opening of the IND Concourse Line in 1933. By the mid-1930s, almost three hundred apartment buildings had been built along the Concourse. Customarily five or six stories high with wide entrance courtyards bordered with grass and shrubs, among these apartments are many of the finest examples of Art Deco and Art Moderne architecture in the United States.

In 1923, Yankee Stadiummarker opened near the Grand Concourse at 161st Street, down the hill from the Concourse Plaza Hotel. South of Fordham Road, the palatial Loew's Paradise Theater, one of the Loew's Wonder Theatres and at one time the largest movie theater in New York City, was constructed in 1929.

Although the Great Depression ended the period of tremendous growth, privately financed apartment buildings continued to be constructed. During this period, The Bronx had more amenities than other boroughs: in 1934, almost 99% of residences had private bathrooms, and 95% had central heating. [174922] In the 1939 WPA guide to New York, the Grand Concourse was described as "the Park Avenue of middle-class Bronx residents, and the lease to an apartment in one of its many large buildings is considered evidence of at least moderate business success."
At East 197th Street
In 1941, the New York City Planning Department proposed converting the boulevard into an expressway, in order to connect the Major Deegan Expressway and the proposed Park Avenue Expressway to the south with the Mosholu Parkway to the north. However, these plans were abandoned following the southern extension of the Bronx River Parkway in the 1940s and the extension of the Major Deegan Expressway to the north in the 1950s.

The south and central Bronx began to rapidly deteriorate in the 1960s. White flight drained many residents of the South Bronx, pulled by the dream of suburban life and pushed by fear of mounting crime. At the same time, over 170,000 people displaced by slum clearance in Manhattan, mostly African American and Puerto Rican, moved to Concourse. The city also adopted policies of relocating welfare recipients to the area, paying fees to landlords.

Migration to the suburbs, retirement to Floridamarker, and the construction of Co-op Citymarker in the fringes of the northeastern Bronx between 1968 and 1970 drained the areas along the Grand Concourse of most of its remaining middle-class residents. Many if not most buildings in the area were damaged by arson and a lack of maintenance. Even along the Grand Concourse, some buildings and apartments were left abandoned and boarded or bricked shut. Starting in the 1990s, when the Bronx's population began to grow for the first time in twenty years, a wave of affordable housing construction came to the area.

At the turn of the 21st century official efforts to restore the Grand Concourse included large exit signs, in the manner of limited-access highways.
At East 165th Street
Today, the Grand Concourse is set to undergo an $18 million restoration and landscaping that will widen the medians and improve lighting from 161st to 171st Streets.

The buildings at 730-1000, 1100-1520, 1560, and 851-1675 Grand Concourse are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Grand Concourse Historic District.

In literature

Novelist E. L. Doctorow has featured the Grand Concourse in much of his writing. Short fiction writer Jacob Appel's story, "The Grand Concourse" (2007), a woman who grew up the in the iconic Lewis Morris Building returns to the Morrisaniamarker neighborhood with her adult daughter to discover the boulevard is far from how she remembers it.

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