City Planning, Manhattan Borough President Brewer and Council Member Chin Announce Public Workshop in SoHo and NoHo Public Engagement Process Focused on Mixed Use Character of Neighborhoods
Six-month series of public meetings and consultation with local stakeholders seeks to outline a vision for the future of SoHo and NoHo neighborhoods
Department of City Planning (DCP) Director Marisa Lago, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Margaret Chin today announced that the second public engagement session for visioning the future of SoHo and NoHo will be held Thursday February 28, beginning at 6 p.m. at the 1 Centre Street North mezzanine.
After an initial Open House (a digitized summary of public input is available here) earlier this month, the coming session will be the first of four thematic workshops.
- Titled “Mixed-Use SoHo/NoHo: Defining Mixed-Use,” it will focus on local stakeholders’ ideas and visions for the neighborhoods related to retail and office space, the creative industries, and quality of life issues.
- A second thematic workshop, scheduled for March 20, will focus on residential aspects of SoHo and NoHo, including Joint Living Work Quarters for Artist and opportunities and challenges of living in these dynamic, mixed-use neighborhoods.
- The topic of the third public workshop, to be held in April, will be determined by feedback received during the first two workshops.
- The fourth workshop will be focused on zoning tools/strategies and held in May.
“These workshops are excellent opportunities for all in the community – long-time residents, recent arrivals, artists, business owners and workers - to take a deep dive into the unique challenges and opportunities facing SoHo and NoHo. Brainstorming and thinking outside the box is part of good planning. Please join us with your creative thinking caps on. We want to hear from you!” said DCP Director Lago.
"This meeting is an important opportunity for those who live, work or visit the SoHo NoHo neighborhoods to provide their vision of how they'd like to see these neighborhoods evolve in the years ahead," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer.
“SoHo and NoHo became the economic and artistic hubs they are today thanks to the mixed-use nature of these two areas,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin. “The next engagement session seeks to create a space for long-time residents, workers and visitors to share how the City can preserve the unique character of these communities.”
Format of Feb 28 thematic workshop. 6-8:15 PM:
6 — 6:30 PM: Community members arrive and mingle with SoHo/NoHo Process sponsors, Manhattan Borough President Brewer, Council Member Chin, City Planning Director Lago, their staff, and engagement facilitator, Jonathan Martin.
6:30 — 7 PM: Presentation by staff about the engagement process, what to expect at this session, and data and research findings about the mix of uses and jobs in SoHo and NoHo today.
7 — 7:45 PM: Breakout groups and facilitated discussions focused on the range of non-residential uses, such as retail, office and creative industries, in SoHo and NoHo and how strategies beyond zoning can be employed to support quality of life concerns.
7:45 — 8:15 PM: Workshop participants regroup, share highlights of their breakout discussion and feedback and Q&A.
The purpose of the engagement process, and “why now?”
SoHo and NoHo are dynamic mixed-use neighborhoods with an established residential population, strong office markets with growing creative firms, and one of the city’s biggest retail centers. At the same time, the existing zoning, established nearly five decades ago to balance the needs of a declining manufacturing sector and a growing artist community, presents challenges to the continued vitality of these historic neighborhoods.
This map shows the number special permit applications in SoHo and NoHo since around 1974 and compared to surrounding neighborhoods. Since 2000, the City has granted over 90 City Planning Commission special permits in SoHo and NoHo, the majority of which were to allow or legalize retail and residential uses. Within the same timeframe, the number of special permits granted in adjacent Manhattan neighborhoods were significantly fewer: 21 in Community District 3, and 51 in Community District 1.
The large number of variance applications and approvals is the result of a dynamic local economy that has outgrown 1970s era-zoning rules.
The intent of the SoHo/NoHo public engagement process is to strategize and collaborate on crafting ideas that address on-the-ground challenges faced by businesses and residents of these two historic Manhattan neighborhoods, while enhancing and preserving neighborhood assets.
SoHo is generally bounded by Houston Street to the north, Canal Street to the south, West Broadway and Avenue of the Americas to the west, and Lafayette, Centre and Baxter Streets to the east. NoHo is generally bounded by Astor Place to the north, Houston Street to the south, Broadway to the west, and Bowery to the east. Today, the two neighborhoods are:
- Home to about 8,000 New Yorkers, representing a more significant residential presence than in typical manufacturing districts;
- Home to more than 51,000 jobs principally in office, retail, accommodation, food, and other non-industrial sectors;
- Major creative centers: over 25% of total jobs in the creative industries;
- Major economic drivers: SoHo’s retail sector ranks second citywide in annual sales, and 10th nationally.
Highlight of the first public engagement session, an Open House held February 6:
250 community residents and activists attended the first public workshop of the SoHo/NoHo Planning Process on February 6 at PS 130.
Summaries of the more than 200 written comments submitted at the Open House, which reflected a diverse array of voices, have been digitized. Photos and summary of the feedback with quotes taken directly from attendees' comment cards has been posted on the engagement website.
Key themes include:
- The need to focus on SoHo/NoHo’s history, creativity, and iconic character
- Better manage the public realm, including loading, pedestrian and vehicular traffic, trash collection and vendors
- Preserve and create housing, including affordable housing
- Support for small businesses and focus on retail character
- Enforce zoning rules
The sponsors share public concerns expressed at the session last week that the community space provided was not responsive to the level of community interest. A more appropriate space will be sought for future public sessions, and more information provided about the format of those gatherings.
A website with information on the planning process has been launched at www.sohonohoplan.nyc.
The first press release related to this topic is available here.