Looking west on 125th Street from MetroNorth platform
The New York City Department of City Planning is proposing zoning map and text changes to 24 blocks along the 125th Street corridor spanning sections of Manhattan's Community Boards 9, 10 and 11. The proposed changes are part of a comprehensive City initiative to support the ongoing revitalization of 125th Street - Harlem's "Main Street". The zoning proposal includes input received from the public Advisory Committee meetings held in 2004, 2005 and 2006 as well as recommendations from the Interagency Team .
The proposed rezoning is based on a series of shared goals articulated through out the public outreach process by the Advisory Committee, stakeholders and the research conducted by the Interagency Working Group. These shared goals include:
- Strengthen 125th Street';s continuity and maintain its unique character
- Increase density in areas that can accommodate it
- Encourage more residential uses
- Increase visitors and nighttime activity
- Encourage a diverse mix of businesses, including arts and entertainment
- Generate career opportunities for Harlem residents
- Address cross-town transportation
Overall Vision and Strategies
Building on its historic and existing character and resources, a series of strategies for 125th Street can contribute to achieving the shared goals. The proposed strategies seek to sustain the ongoing revitalization of 125th Street as a unique Manhattan Main Street, enhance its regional business district character and reinforce the street's premier arts, culture, and entertainment destination identity.
The proposed strategies include:
The zoning proposal was presented to the City Planning Commission for certification on October 1st, 2007. See the full October 1st, 2007 Certification Presentation (6.75 mb).
Read the press release.
- Zoning and Urban Design - Zoning changes to promote commercial and housing development, including affordable housing. Urban design principles to protect the corridor's existing scale and character and to improve the street's pedestrian experience.
- Arts and Entertainment - Strengthen critical mass of arts and entertainment venues, promote the street's identity and foster complementary uses.
- Retail - Encourage a balanced retail mix.
- Transportation - Address traffic challenges.
125th Street is Harlem's "Main Street", a vibrant commercial corridor that serves the local Harlem community, Manhattan and the region. 125th Street has long been recognized as a place for arts, culture and entertainment. Today, the street continues to provide access to venues like the Apollo Theater and cultural institutions like the Studio Museum in Harlem. Taking advantage of its many public transit assets, the street also serves as a gateway for local residents and visitors to the greater Harlem area.
The 125th Street corridor contains a diverse building stock with a variety of retail, commercial, arts, cultural, institutional, educational and residential uses. The corridor contains historic buildings such as the Apollo Theater, Theresa Towers and the Corn Exchange which are registered New York City Landmarks; office buildings like the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building and 55 W 125th Street; commercial buildings like Harlem USA, Gotham Plaza and Gateway Plaza; four- to five-story residential buildings with ground floor retail along portions of 125th Street; and rows of brownstones lining portions of 124th and 126th Streets.
55 West 125th Street
West 125th Street residential buildings
Brownstones at 126th Street
Brownstones at 124th Street and Fifth Avenue
Most of the 125th Street corridor within the rezoning area is currently zoned either C4-4, a commercial zoning district that allows for medium-density residential and commercial development, or C4-7, a commercial district that allows high-density mixed use development. Small portions of the corridor are zoned C4-5, C4-4A and R7-2. Much of this zoning has been in place since 1961 and, in general, no longer accommodates or supports recent development trends along the corridor, resulting in isolated, piece-meal zoning changes and development without a coordinated vision. For the most part, the existing zoning districts lack maximum height limits for buildings and do not require contextual streetwall controls.
The zoning proposal seeks to sustain and enhance the revitalization of 125th Street as a unique Manhattan Main Street. Key to the zoning proposal is establishing a new special purpose district for the 125th Street corridor. The special purpose district allows the proposed zoning regulations to respond to specific conditions with customized density, building form controls and use regulations. The proposal incorporates a balanced rezoning approach that creates incentives for new mixed-use development where appropriate and that protects the corridor's existing scale and character, particularly along those portions of the corridor where there is occupied housing. The zoning proposal seeks also to expand opportunities for the creation of housing, including affordable housing, by increasing the density allowed for residential development in certain areas and by offering an inclusionary housing bonus in the areas where increases in residential density are proposed.
The zoning proposal seeks to support the growth of 125th Street as a premier arts, culture and entertainment destination. A mechanism is included to support the creation of uses that would complement existing and future arts and cultural venues and expand the range of activities along the corridor. The proposal also includes regulations to promote distinctive signage that would reinforce the street's arts, culture and entertainment character.
In keeping with 125th Street's pedestrian vibrancy, the zoning proposal seeks to improve the pedestrian experience by ensuring that active uses occupy the ground floor of new developments and that their street frontage includes some degree of transparency. In connection with these requirements, the proposal would also limit the ground floor frontage of banks and similar 'non-active' uses.
Proposed Special District
The Department of City Planning is proposing zoning text and map amendments to establish the Special 125th Street District that would generally cover the 125th Street corridor from Broadway to Second Avenue. The boundaries of the proposed special district are contiguous with the boundaries of the areas proposed for zoning changes.
Proposed Special District Boundaries and Rezoning Area Map
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The proposed Special District would contain the "Core Subdistrict", generally along both sides of 125th Street between Frederick Douglass Boulevard and 545 feet east of Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X Boulevard. Prominent arts institutions like the Apollo Theater and the Studio Museum are within this section of 125th Street. Special use regulations pertaining to the creation of arts and entertainment uses, described below, would apply in this sub-district.
Urban Design Principles and Building Form
The proposed Special District would promulgate controls that shape the form of new buildings to respond to the specific conditions along the corridor and guide new development on the corridor in ways that complement its context. Key urban design principles include:
- Maintaining a consistent street wall that frames 125th Street through the base of new buildings at heights consistent with the existing context.
- Ensure ground floor retail continuity and transparency to improve the pedestrian experience.
- Establish height limits for new developments within the corridor.
View diagrams of the proposed building form.
The proposed Special District would modify existing bulk and density regulations for C4-4D, C6-3 and C4-7 districts mapped within the proposed rezoning area in order to achieve the objectives above. The modified density regulations would also create and expand opportunities for affordable housing.
The proposed Special District would modify use requirements of the underlying zoning to ensure appropriate "active" uses such as retail, arts and entertainment have sufficient frontage on 125th Street at the ground floor level, it would also include building frontage and ground floor location restrictions for certain uses such as banks, offices and hotels.
The map and table below illustrate the proposed zoning districts and the proposed density and bulk regulations for the rezoning area.
Proposed Zoning Map
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Summary of Proposed Allowed Density and Building Form within the Special District
Proposed Use Regulations
The proposed Special District would modify the uses allowed in underlying zoning districts by regulating uses located at the ground floor level in new developments or enlargements with frontage on 125th Street. Uses that promote a vibrant pedestrian environment would be allowed at ground floor level while uses that do not contribute to this goal would be limited at the ground floor level. Uses above or below the ground floor of new developments or enlargements throughout the Special District would be governed by the use regulations of the underlying districts.
Ground floor uses fronting on 125th Street would be limited to "active" uses that include retail and qualifying arts and entertainment-related uses as described below. Such uses would be required along the majority of the 125th Street frontage of any new development or enlargement. Uses that do not contribute to an active pedestrian environment, including bank, hotel, office and residential uses, would be restricted from fully occupying the ground floor of any new development or enlargement with 125th Street frontage. Such uses would be allowed on floors other than the ground floor and would be allowed to have a limited ground floor frontage on 125th Street for the purpose of access through entrances and lobbies. Buildings with offices or hotels would have to have active uses such as restaurants, retail and entertainment venues located at the ground floor level.
Arts and Entertainment-Related Use Requirement
Within the Core Subdistrict new developments with 60,000 square feet of floor area or more would be required to have five percent of their total floor area reserved for and developed with qualifying arts and entertainment-related uses as listed below. Such arts and entertainment uses could be located anywhere within the new development but would be required to be accessible from 125th Street. The uses listed below would qualify as art and entertainment-related uses within the proposed Special District:
- Art galleries
- Clubs, including music, dance or comedy clubs
- Dance halls, public
- Eating or drinking establishments, with table service only
- Historical exhibits
- Music stores
- Performance spaces
- Studios, art, music, dancing or theatrical
- Studios, radio, television or motion picture
Proposed Signage Regulations
The signage regulations of the underlying zoning districts would apply within the Special District. In addition, in order to allow distinctive signage that would complement and support the arts and entertainment character of the corridor, the proposed Special District would modify sign regulations to allow marquees and accessory marquee signs for a narrow set of arts uses.
Proposed Draft Text Amendment
View the complete draft proposed text amendment
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