People have been trying to remake/rebrand/rebuild the Garment District for years. The rezoning, a hot topic several years ago, never came to pass, and an initiative to rename the neighborhood seems to have fizzled out. Now the Design Trust for Public Space has unveiled a 10-year plan that aims to strengthen the Garment District and update the area for today's fashion designers and manufacturers through 17 recommendations that could boost the city's revenue by $340 million. The report details how the zoning laws can be updated to fit the district's needs and retain the fashion factories, but there are also a lot of interesting, and semi-mindboggling, ideas for remaking the public space. Think parks on top of buildings and fashion shows in the streets.
The top priority of the report, titled "Making Midtown: A New Vision for a 21st Century Garment District in New York City," is to retain the 270 factories currently operating in the Garment District and update the zoning rules to sustain the mix of uses found in the area and encourage voluntary, market-based zoning initiatives. The plan would also remake the district's public spaces and streets, create a central NYC Fashion Innovation Center, and launch a "NYC Made" branding campaign with incentives for designers.
The fun stuff comes in the section on how to improve the public realm of the Garment District. Sidewalks would be widened and more trees would be planted. Loading docks would be transformed into pop-up shops or shows. Runway shows would take place in the public plazas or side-streets could be closed to temporarily host them. Installations along Broadway would be fashion-themed, focusing on things like custom-designed manequins. Fancy new streetlights would have crazy colors to resemble runway show lighting. But the most intriguing idea, inspired by the High Line, is to create a mid-block pedestrian walkway from 34th to 40th Streets on the top of low-rise buildings. Or, more realistically, this path would be created at street level, opening up existing arcades and spaces to the public, much like 6 1/2 Avenue.
Of course, all of this is just a proposal, and while city officials were involved with its creation, it's unclear as to what is next. The report ominously concludes that "we must act now" to save the Garment District, but without any action from the city, nothing can really move forward.
· Making Midtown [official site]
· Making Midtown report [PDF]
· Garment District coverage [Curbed]