How some big box shops skirt Soho’s zoning laws

Loopholes and lax enforcement have allowed the size of clothing stores to balloon

Nike's new Soho flagship
Nike's new Soho flagship

As wealthy Soho residents continue to fume over the crowds clogging the streets near massive retail outlets, some are asking how big box stores get around the area’s 10,000-square-foot limit for clothing stores.

Topshop, Hollister, Michael Kors, Urban Outfitters and Nike are few examples of clothing stores in the area that are larger than the 10,000 square feet allowed by zoning. How can this be, you ask? According to the New York Post, the answer is loopholes and lax enforcement.

“The Buildings Department is not doing its job and they’re reinventing what the law says,” Tobi Bergman, who until recently was the chairman of Community Board 2 in Soho, told the Post.

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Take the new Nike store, which allegedly caused mayhem recently on its opening day. The store is 55,000 square feet and it got around the zoning restriction by declaring itself a “sporting or athletic store” rather than a clothing retailer.

Technically, stores that wish to grow beyond 10,000 square feet are supposed to get a special city Planning Commission permit approved by the City Council. According to the Post, however, few stores do.

The Buildings Department recently said that it began an audit of potential offenders earlier this year. [NYP]Christopher Cameron