The Upper West Side's traditional retail streets offer diverse retail services to one of the most dense and vibrant residential neighborhoods in the city. The Department of City Planning (DCP) was approached by the Upper West Side community and elected officials with a list of issues that the community believed threatened the local retail landscape. Studying the Upper West Side block by block, City Planning responded to the community's concerns with a proposal that would maintain over time the general multi-store character of Amsterdam and Columbus avenues, while promoting a varied and active retail environment on Broadway which is typified by larger and 2nd story retail establishments. The proposal only applies to new or expanding establishments, and in no case does the proposal regulate overall store size or type of retail, the ownership, or method of operation of any business.
The frontage limitations described below respond to conditions on the UWS that are largely unique. By contrast with other areas of the City, the UWS has a high residential density and a limited amount of commercial space - with frontages disproportionately occupied by banks. The need to maintain retail diversity is greater due to the presence of only three commercial corridors (Broadway, Amsterdam and Columbus) that serve a large residential population. In other residentially dense neighborhoods in the City, the amount of commercial square footage per apartment is higher and there are greater opportunities for a diversity of retail that serves the area. The proposal therefore seeks to promote a diverse and vibrant retail environment by ensuring that blockfronts along Amsterdam and Columbus continue to offer multiple retail venues, and that blockfronts along all three avenues are not dominated by banks. The proposal only regulates new frontages and does not in any way affect the type or size of retail allowed on these avenues, their ownership, or method of operation. It is responsive to neighborhood-specific issues and is uniquely suited to the Upper West Side's built environment and land uses.
The Department of City Planning proposes a zoning text amendment and a zoning map amendment to establish two Special Enhanced Commercial Districts in Manhattan Community District 7. The Special Districts would apply to 77 blockfronts along Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues, and 73 blockfronts along Broadway.
After a detailed analysis of the streetscape character, DCP crafted the proposed actions specifically for this area. The goals of the Upper West Side Neighborhood Retail Streets proposal are to:
- encourage diverse retail and service opportunities;
- preserve and enhance the multi store character of Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues; and
- promote an active streetscape and attractive environment for pedestrians.
The proposed Special District regulations would be applicable to lots
with a frontage on the following portions of Broadway, Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues:
- Special Enhanced Commercial District – 2 includes Amsterdam Avenue bounded by 75th Street and 110th Street on the west side, excluding the blocks between 100th – 101st and 102nd-103rd streets, and bounded by 73rd and 87th streets, and 105th and 109th streets on the east side of the avenue; and
- Columbus Avenue bounded by 72nd and 87th streets.
- Special Enhanced Commercial District -3 includes Broadway bounded by 72nd Street and 110th Street on the west side, and 74th Street and 110th Street on the east side;
The proposed Special Districts would promote a vibrant mix of uses in the Upper West Side in new buildings
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, Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues. It would apply ground floor transparency requirements for new buildings to enhance the pedestrian environment.
Overall store size would not be restricted, and stores could layout with any configuration including basement, 2nd story, wrapping behind, or along corner frontages. Existing commercial spaces with frontage exceeding 40' on Amsterdam and Columbus avenues would not be affected.
This modest proposal would help maintain the existing vibrant retail character along Amsterdam and Columbus avenues by providing a framework for new establishments that builds on the strengths of these corridors, ensuring that over the long term they continue to serve the needs of Upper West Side residents.
The Department of City Planning also proposes mapping a C1-5 commercial overlay
on the west side of Columbus Avenue to recognize existing commercial uses.