Department of City Planning Introduces New Special District for Upper-West Side

Land Use


The New York City Department of City Planning (“DCP”) has introduced a new rezoning plan for the upper-west side of Manhattan intended to preserve the multi-store character of the neighborhood.  By limiting allowable retail store frontage, the City seeks to maintain and promote a diverse retail environment by ensuring that block-fronts along certain avenues continue to offer multiple retail venues, and that block-fronts are not dominated by banks, and large chain stores and pharmacies like CVS or Duane Reade.

According to DCP, the proposed Special Enhanced Commercial District would generally affect lots with a frontage on Amsterdam Avenue between 73rd Street and 110th Street, Columbus Avenue between 72nd Street and 87th Street, and Broadway between 72nd Street and 110th Street.  Specifically, along the applicable portions of Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues, a minimum of two non-residential establishments shall be required for every 50 feet of street frontage for all zoning lots with a lot width of 50 feet or more, and all new and expanding commercial establishments other than banks or loan offices shall not exceed 40 feet in width, except for grocery stores.  In addition, new and expanded banks and loan offices shall not exceed 25 feet in width, and all new lobbies for upper floors shall not exceed 15 feet in width.  Along the relevant portions of Broadway, new and expanding banks and loan offices, and all lobbies for upper floor uses shall not exceed 25 feet in width at the street level.

According to DCP’s website, the regulations would promote a mix of uses in new buildings and enlargements, “…by limiting the frontage of most new and expanding retail and commercial establishments along Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues, and limiting the frontage of new and expanding banks and residential lobbies along Broadway, and Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues.”  In addition, according to DCP, “overall store size would not be restricted, and stores could layout with any configuration including basement, 2nd story, wrapping behind, or along corner frontages.”   In other words, banks and other large retail stores can come up with creative ways to occupy space along the affected avenues, such as locating a large portion of the occupancy below grade or on a second floor, or by having a smaller frontage along the avenue that opens up into a larger space at the rear of the building.

If approved, it will be interesting to observe what impact the regulations will have on the retail character of the affected neighborhood and whether it achieves the goals of DCP.  While DCP indicates that it is not trying to restrict the type or ownership of retail stores and is trying to maintain and promote the vibrant multi-store character of the neighborhood, opponents and proponents alike indicate that the regulations could have the secondary effect of discouraging national chains and retailers, and banks, from locating in the affected areas.  For more information, please click here.


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