Italian American Museum Plans Appropriate Move

The Italian American Museum has made concrete plans to move downtown. The museum announced on Tuesday that it has purchased three buildings near the corner of Grand and Mulberry streets in the hopes of moving to Little Italy over the next three years.

The museum purchased 185, 187 and 189 Grand Street in a package deal for $9 million, according to broker Miki Fiegel. The total square footage comes in at just under 10,000 square feet, but Joseph Scelsa, the museum president, has big expansion plans.

“We plan on building four additional stories on top of the existing three-story buildings,” Mr. Scelsa told The Observer. “We have the air rights, so the total square footage should be 20,000 square feet once renovations are complete.”

The extra space will be used to house the museum’s expanding collection, which includes immigrant wine presses, passenger-ship tickets from boats coming into Ellis Island, and shovels used to dig the original IRT subway.

With a price tag of about $3 million per building, Mr. Scelsa is aware that he made out pretty well with the purchase. “Jerome Stabile [the buildings’ owner] could’ve sold the buildings for a lot more than that, but he was happy that we were coming down and held off.”

The museum currently leases the 17th floor of 28 West 44th Street from the City University of New York, but the space in Little Italy is far more representative of the museum’s tastes, Mr. Scelsa said.

While he’s planning a Columbus Day 2010 opening for the new Grand Street digs, Mr. Scelsa hopes to move the administrative offices at some point in 2008.