by Dan Stewart
Event: Fulton Street Revitalization Plan
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.20.09
Speakers: Keith O’Connor — Senior Planner for Lower Manhattan, NYC Department of City Planning; Ali Ruth Davis — Project Manager, Lower Manhattan Redevelopment, Office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development; Bissera Antikarov, AICP, Assoc. AIA — Principal & Founder, UrbanVision; Allen Swerdlowe, AIA — Co-Chair, New York New Visions; Christopher Reynolds, AIA, LEED AP — Assistant Vice President for Planning, Alliance for Downtown New York
Organizers: AIANY Planning and Urban Design Committee
As one of the few roads in lower Manhattan that goes fully east to west, Fulton Street is at the heart of New York City’s plan for the area beneath Chambers Street. Fulton Street will eventually transform itself into a modern thoroughfare if plans for the Fulton Street Revitalization Plan succeed.
Keith O’Connor, a senior planner at the NYC Department of City Planning, focused on the “Fulton Corridor,” the route from the Financial District to the East River waterfront. In this context, it is important to make the Fulton Street/Nassau Street crossroads a “real asset for Lower Manhattan,” said O’Connor. The revitalization program covers a total of 150 storefronts and 86 buildings, the “densest concentration of storefronts in Lower Manhattan,” according to O’Connor. The aim is to both improve retail conditions and reinstate some of the historic architecture in the district. The city offers three tiers of support for property owners and tenants who wish to improve their façades and storefronts. Tier 1 is for services worth up to $15,000 for basic ground level improvements. Tier 2 is worth up to $60,000 for the storefront in its entirety, and Tier 3 is worth as much as $200,000 for the entire façade. This, said O’Connor, would produce a “clear and distinct transformative effect,” bringing uniformity to signage and presentation, and making Fulton Street the “Main Street” of Lower Manhattan.
Ali Ruth Davis, a project manager from the office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, more specifically outlined how the program is being carried out. Perkins + Will and Li-Saltzman Architects are acting respectively as program architects and historical advisers, while construction management is being carried out by Hudson Meridian. Davis made it clear that the money being provided by federal funding was not simply a handout — property owners receive the funding in the form of improvements and services, and must match every dollar of public funding with 50 cents of private money. So far, the program has had an enthusiastic response, said Davis. There have been 63 approved applications, with nine Tier 1 projects set to complete in January 2010, and both Tier 2 and 3 projects in the construction managers’ books. The Tier 3 application is to restore the façade of DeLemos and Cordes’s K&E Building at 127 Fulton Street, a designated landmark building dating back to 1892.
In a brief panel discussion, Allen Swedlowe, AIA, co-chair of New York New Visions, questioned whether or not the city was “wiping clean the patina” of historic buildings that make up the area. O’Connor replied that archival research into the area’s history was “keeping us honest,” and added that the program was structured to ensure Lower Manhattan’s individuality was preserved with its monuments. Christopher Reynolds, AIA, LEED AP, of the Alliance of Downtown New York, queried how the redevelopment would maintain the diversity of the retailers. “We have keymakers and bodegas and grocery stores,” he said. “How do you sustain that long-term diversity?” O’Connor reassured Reynolds that the city “didn’t want to see anyone go.” The “character” of the retail units was of paramount importance, and that’s why the support has different tiers. “We are specifically trying to get people who are perhaps less sophisticated to get involved. Sometimes they have to be taken by the hand, but we are actively doing that.”
Dan Stewart is a freelance journalist and writer. He has written for The Mail on Sunday, The Week, Building Magazine, Time Out, and Little White Lies on current affairs, architecture, and film.