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Louis Armstrong museum getting $15M upgrade

The Louis Armstrong House Museum expects to transform the cultural landscape in Queens with its planned $15 million visitor center and performance space. Rendering courtesy the Louis Armstrong House Museum
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As the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona gets closer to breaking ground on a $15 million visitor’s center, the director says it will transform the borough’s music and arts scene while greatly boosting the small museum’s stature.

The institution currently draws about 12,000 people a year to the home, at 34-56 107th St., but museum Director Michael Cogswell hopes that number will expand greatly once the 12,750-square-foot visitor center is built on a large vacant lot across the street.

“It will be a game-changer for us,” Cogswell said last week. “What it will allow us to do is to present a whole array of events that we can’t host here at the house. Instead of doing events only in the garden, we’ll do them 52 weeks a year. Instead of having the museum store in Armstrong’s garage, we’ll have a real museum store … and all our collections will move over there [from the museum and Queens College]. It’s much more efficient for researchers, visitors and staff to have everything in one place.”

Designed by architecture firm Caples Jefferson, the two-floor building is slated to receive Gold Certification — the second-highest rating possible — under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Program.

After a decade of planning, all the funding for the building has been raised from a combination of state and federal sources. Because the museum is technically a part of Queens College, the center, which will feature an undulating glass curtain displaying its interior to passers-by on the Corona street, will be administered through the state Dormitory Authority.

Work is expected to begin next spring or summer, and Cogswell said it should be completed 12 to 18 months from the groundbreaking.

One of the new center’s most exciting offerings will be a concert space to host musical events from a range of performers.

“It’s going to be a really cool thing for Queens,” said Deslyn Dyer, the programs officer at the museum. “There’s nothing like it as far as a central place to enjoy music. It will be an 80-person jazz performance space. It’s going to change the cultural offerings in Queens.”

The Armstrong House is one of the most treasured sites in Queens. The trumpeter lived there from 1943 until his death in 1971, and the home, which was bequeathed to the city by the beloved jazz musician’s wife Lucille, is now a National Historic Landmark.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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