According to New York City’s largest business improvement district, Water Street in the Financial District is a pedestrian wasteland.
The street’s arcades — covered walkways along a building front — are either cavernous and cast in shadow, or too narrow. The walkways tend to disconnect the street and buildings’ ground floors, creating a sterile experience for pedestrians, according to the Alliance for Downtown New York.
The BID aims to change that with a retail makeover: A land-use application filed this month seeks to rezone an area along Water Street, between Fulton and Whitehall streets, to allow the infill of more than 110,000 square feet of arcade space. Rezoning would potentially pave the way for 167,357 square feet of new retail space, most of which would be built into existing arcade space on the ground floors of various buildings, according to an environmental assessment filed with the City Planning Commission.
“A revitalized, transformed Water Street corridor is essential to the revitalization of Lower Manhattan,” Maria Alvarado-Behl, a spokesperson for the BID, said in a statement. “We now look forward to continued collaboration and dialogue with the many stakeholders in this significant project.”
The group has identified 17 buildings in the area — which collectively have more than 110,000 square feet of arcade space — where a total of 167,357 square feet of retail, 26,967 square feet of office space and 2,016 square feet of residential space could be built. There are no specific plans yet for the individual buildings, but the BID suggests that potential uses could include restaurants, drug stores, hotels, clothing stores, art galleries and lobbies.
The new office space would be located at the mezzanine level in five buildings — 75 Wall Street, 77 Water Street, 2 New York Plaza, 7 Hanover Square and 175 Water Street — and the additional residential space would be located at 200 Water Street, according to the application.
As a trade-off, property owners that choose to fill out these passageways would be required to upgrade the plazas around their buildings and make them more inviting by adding “public amenities,” such as chairs, tables and planters, according to the application.
A representative for one of the property owners, Brookfield Property Partners, told The Real Deal that the company supports the zoning application but said plans for the area are too preliminary to discuss. Brookfield owns One New York Plaza, one of the 17 buildings identified in the application. The building, located at Broad and Water streets, has 11,180 square feet of arcade space.
The application comes six years after the Alliance for Downtown New York issued a report on improving the area’s privately-owned public spaces, which suggested retail infill as a possible remedy to what the group calls an “underwhelming pedestrian experience.”
In May 2013, the planning commission approved a similar zoning change that allowed for public events and public amenities in the plazas and arcades. That amendment expired in December 2015. The new application takes the idea a step further by adding permanent amenities to the plazas and calling for an overhaul to the ground floors of several buildings.