The city’s plan to allow landlords to transform underused public walkways on Water Street into retail spaces may have a wet blanket thrown on it.
Building owners and bureaucrats are scratching their heads as to how retail spaces can be built to code according to federal flood regulations put in place after Superstorm Sandy, Crain’s reported.
City law requires mostly glass fronts on retail stores. But on Water Street, which lies completely in a flood zone, those storefronts must be able to hold back floodwaters as high as 12 feet.
“Until there are some solutions, whether or not property owners will act on this rezoning is a question,” said a spokesperson for the Downtown Alliance, which manages the lower Manhattan business improvement district.
In June, the City Council approved a plan that allows property owners to fill in the Water Street public walkways with 110,000 square feet of retail in exchange for funding improvements to lackluster pedestrian plazas in the area.
During the public-approval process, the city said landlords could brace their facades against potential flood waters with metal shields, but the Department of City Planning has since changed its view after engineers indicated they would recommend more resilient measures.
The barriers have been criticized for detaching and floating away during floods. It’s likely landlords would be left with fewer options, such as installing expensive “aquarium glass” that could sway some property owners from moving forward with their retail-conversion plans.
Rockrose Development , which is expanding its retail at the foot of its residential building at 200 Water Street, said its architects have proposed using triple-paned glass, which is stronger than normal glass and less costly than aquarium glass. They still aren’t sure whether it will meet the standard set by the city. [Crain’s] – Rich Bockmann