Volume 17 • Issue 26 | Nov. 19 - 25, 2004

Photo by Sara Jaye/ABACA

Ellen DeGeneres did a jig for American Express employees in the Winter Garden Nov. 8 as part of a private party to launch the credit card’s new ad campaign, “My life. My card.”

Planning group discusses retail future of the W.T.C.

By Sascha Brodsky

A planning group is urging the creation of a more complete plan to encourage retail development in Lower Manhattan.

The city needs to foster the growth of unique retailers to give the area a unique identity rather than the usual mall stores, according to the Urban Land Institute that presented a preliminary draft of its plan to Community Board 1 last week. The retail plan is part of a larger effort to revitalize the Lower Manhattan economy in the wake of the 9/11 disaster.

“This is a world-class team and I think that the committee had a very favorable impression overall of the suggestions they have made,” said Richard Kennedy chairperson of the board’s World Trade Center redevelopment committee.

But Kennedy said that he was waiting until the final version of the report is released before making a final judgment, adding “it’s premature right now to comment on this.”

Mary Beth Corrigan, a spokesperson for the institute, told the board that retailing could help develop a sense of community in the area. She also said that the highest priority would be given to respecting the 9/11 memorial. Corrigan said that the plan emphasizes variety, adding that the retail shops should be as varied as possible so as to provide a unique experience.

“Retailing can be part of the linkage [of the W.T.C. site] with surrounding areas. Once those linkages are established, retail can become an important driver for other downtown elements, including office development,” said the institute’s Michael Beyard in a statement. “Think of it [retail] as reflective of the neighborhoods that border it, and how the character of those neighborhoods can spread onto the World Trade Center site.”

In order to effectively implement the retail expansion, the commercial angle of Lower Manhattan needs an advocate, according to the group. One suggestion has been for a developer to become a “champion” of the retail sector.

Key to developing retail in the area is targeting potential customers. The earliest potential market for retailers would be commuters, according to the institute. Office workers and tourists would also need to be served by different kinds of stores.

No date for the final draft of the recommendations has yet been set.

Key recommendations made by the team included:

* Establish unified retail development and control;

* Develop and implement the full, permanent retail program for the W.T.C. site immediately;
* Maximize retail development at the site’s grade level;

* Develop 600,000 to 1 million square feet of retail on the W.T.C. Site to achieve the appropriate critical mass;

* Depress West St. to facilitate connections to the World Financial Center and Battery Park City; (The community board has opposed the proposed West St. tunnel in part because of its costs, but the subject was not discussed at the meeting.

* Create precincts of shopping to accommodate the needs of the workers, residents, commuters and tourists;

* Develop Cortlandt St. as an enclosed pedestrian passage open to the east and west;

* Allow Fulton St/ (an adjacent street) to evolve with new retail space as the W.T.C. retail comes on line;

* Provide financing options, including incentives and public/private partnerships.

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