New York City's Midtown East will be facing a rezoning in the near future, bringing a dozen office towers into the already crowded neighborhood. To help the Bloomberg Administration address the issues that may arise with this move, the city has hired sustainable real estate development firm, Jonathan Rose Co.; Dutch Urban Planning firm, Gehl Architects; and the global civil engineering firm, Skanska. The different firms will be working to develop the streetscape to be known as the East Midtown Public Realm Vision Plan which is scheduled for release later this year.
More details on this upcoming rezoning after the break.
The rezoning of Midtown East will be a vast makeover of the neighborhood, covering 63 blocks stretching from East 39th Street to East 57th Street between Fifth and Third Avenues. The Vision Plan comes as a response to the community board's and local residents' concerns over the quality of the development and the implications on the existing neighborhood's development. According to Crain's New York, three workshops will be coordinated with the three participating firms and the city's planning departments to establish guidelines for the final plan. This will incorporate a public review process that takes the concerns into consideration. City Councilman Daniel Garodnick says that the rezoning process is the right step toward a more inviting midtown, and hopes that the recommendations from the consultants will meet budgetary constrictions.
Drawing on design insight and concerns of the public realms through discussions and meetings with stakeholders, the consultants will develop a plan that will serve as a guide which will "feature design tools and action-oriented strategies for improving pedestrian access and other streetscape enhancements to encourage walking and active transportation".
The new zoning maps will facilitate more office building in the area, increasing the allowable building size by 50 to 200%. Matt Chaban of Crain's New York writes that although the area is a premier spot for high rise office towers and a business district, only three towers have been constructed in the area in the past two decades. These new zoning measures will help inspire more construction. Developers who decide to take advantage of the redeveloped zoning rights will be able to buy air rights from private landlords or the city and help fund street improvements, which include widening Lexington and Madison Avenues and bringing a chain of public plazas to Vanderbilt Avenue. Such developments will likely create a secondary business and entertainment district to Times Square, and will help balance the development that is slated for Midtown West.
Chabon points out that critics, locals and Garodnick himself argue that the rezoning is pre-emptive and the hiring of consultants for street improvements at the last minute is a sign that Mayor Bloomberg is trying to push through a last rezoning before leaving office. With the street improvement plan set to come out in the fall, and the community board voting on the rezoning in June, it is unlikely that voters will have the details of the full scale of the project when making their decisions. And while the plan for Midtown East's development has been vague, NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn says that the DOT's Sustaintable Streets strategic plan, Street Design Manual and World Class Streets study provide the guidelines for designing sustainable and inviting streets for the city's many functions.