The city took its first step toward developing a plan to rezone the Soho and Noho neighborhoods by announcing a six-month series of public meetings set to begin in February.
City officials plan to update the area’s dated land-use regulations to allow certain ground-floor retail and residential uses. The Department of City Planning, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and City Council member Margaret Chin announced the engagement period for locals to weigh in on potential changes.
“The Soho/Noho area has a rich, vibrant history, but we need to fix its zoning to lay the foundation for its future,” Brewer said in a statement. “As the old rules have stopped working, the area has seen a steady march of special exemptions, one-off variances, and inappropriately large retail uses ... A comprehensive look at the neighborhood’s zoning that incorporates input from all stakeholders will help us chart a better path forward.”
The area has a legacy of artists and galleries illegally occupying space in the once vital manufacturing district. Uninvited tenants often spruced up vacant spaces that would have otherwise remained dilapidated.
The neighborhood’s last major zoning change came in 1971 when the city legalized live-work spaces for artists. In 1982, the state passed the Loft Law, which allowed certain tenants occupying space illegally to dodge eviction.
Current industrial zoning regulations also prohibit ground-floor retail and residential units in Soho and part of Noho—although they have become common in the area. Soho has also become known for its bustling retail corridor, but locals have struggled with jumbo-sized retailers that have turned Broadway into a mini-Time Square with massive advertisements, bright lights kept lit throughout the night, and crowds of tourists crammed onto sidewalks.
“Every neighborhood in our city is unique—but none more so than Soho and Noho,” said Department of City Planning Director Marisa Lago. “These neighborhoods share a long, fascinating history of being filled with manufacturers, artists, residents, offices, shops and restaurants, all along charming historic streets. But, like all neighborhoods, Soho and Noho face unique challenges, not the least of which is outdated zoning.”
The city will host the first in the series of public meetings on February 6—a location and time have yet to be announced. The second meeting is planned for February 28.