Press Releases

For Immediate Release
May 17, 2021

Melissa Grace, Joe Marvilli – (212) 720-3471

DCP Launches Historic Plan to Bring Affordable Housing to SoHo/NoHo

Proposal will create 900 permanently affordable homes, support existing historic districts, enhance arts and culture via innovative arts fund model, and introduce flexible zoning for ground floor and other uses

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NEW YORK – City Planning Commission (CPC) Chair Marisa Lago today announced the start of public review for the SoHo/NoHo Neighborhood Plan, the first overhaul of local zoning regulations since these communities served as a manufacturing hub half a century ago.

The proposal will enhance equity and affordability by opening these two lower Manhattan neighborhoods -- with exceptional access to transit, schools, jobs and other amenities – to many more New Yorkers, while also enhancing the existing historical character of these vital mixed-use districts. 

“Every New Yorker should have the opportunity to live in transit-rich, amenity-filled neighborhoods like SoHo and NoHo. Built on years of community engagement, this proposal was crafted with a lens focused on fair housing, an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, reinforcing SoHo/NoHo as a regional hub for jobs and commerce, and preserving and augmenting the arts. Through permanently affordable housing requirements and support for the arts, this plan is a giant step forward towards a more equitable and even livelier New York City,” said CPC Chair Marisa Lago

“The rezoning of SoHo and NoHo was one of the key strategies outlined in the City's Where We Live NYC fair housing plan to promote equitable housing development across the five boroughs,” said NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Louise Carroll. “It is critical that we both create more affordable housing in well-resourced, transit-rich neighborhoods like Soho and NoHo, while also continuing our work to ensure that all communities have the resources and amenities that residents need to thrive.”

“With both a rich creative history and vibrant contemporary cultural life, SoHo and neighboring areas are home to extraordinary cultural communities that have been integral to residents' lives for generations,” said NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner (DCLA) Gonzalo Casals. “As we move forward on public review for this rare opportunity, we will continue to work with our partners at DCP and in the community to make investments that have the potential to preserve and expand the cultural assets in these neighborhoods for artists and residents alike.”

The SoHo/NoHo Neighborhood Plan would, for the first time, permit housing and require affordable housing in all new developments, allowing as many as 3,500 new homes to be created, 900 of which would be permanently affordable homes via the City’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) program. In addition to new homes created on vacant and underutilized land, conversion of existing non-residential space to residential would create homes, and because of MIH, a more diverse, mixed-income community. Existing rent-regulated homes, many covered by the Loft Law, will remain protected.

This initiative furthers the priorities developed in Where We Live NYC, the City’s fair housing plan. Where We Live NYC calls for changes to ensure every neighborhood contributes to the City’s affordable housing development goals – especially amenity-rich, high-income, disproportionately white areas like SoHo and NoHo.

The proposal introduces height limits in these areas for the first time, which will result in the creation of loft-like structures, long-beloved in SoHo and NoHo. To enhance and protect the neighborhoods’ historic character and building forms, no towers will be allowed. The proposal’s height limits include:

  • Outside of the historic districts and along Canal Street and the Bowery, “Opportunity Areas” allow increased density and a maximum height of 275 feet, which is appropriate to the existing context. In comparison, the tallest existing building in the “SoHo West” Opportunity Zone is the approximately 400-foot Telephone Building.
  • Along historic district commercial corridors, including Broadway, the maximum height proposed is 205 feet.
  • In the historic cores of the proposed project areas, maximum height is proposed at 145 feet.

New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission’s review and certification of appropriateness remains unchanged throughout the historic districts, which is about 85% of total rezoning area.

The proposal seeks to support the legacy of arts and culture in and around SoHo and NoHo over the long-term via a new arts fund model. The arts fund creates a mechanism for those living in Joint Living Work Quarters for Artists (JLWQA) who wish to convert to a residential use through a contribution to a neighborhood arts fund. This is completely optional and up to the JLWQA tenant, expanding the choices available to them. The JLWQA program will also remain an option for certified artists in perpetuity.

The arts fund will be overseen by DCLA and its designated partners. The fund will be built up over time and allocated in ways that invest in existing and new cultural infrastructure that enhance the public presence of the arts and propel the cultural legacies of these communities for generations to come. The fund will be designed flexibly to meet the goal of expanding access to cultural amenities in SoHo and NoHo and the surrounding lower Manhattan communities below 14th Street.

The arts fund model presents an exciting opportunity to enhance the public presence of the arts and DCP and DCLA look forward to continuing to work with existing cultural communities in the area and other stakeholders to further develop the proposed arts fund.

The proposal will also introduce sensible use rules that recognize SoHo/NoHo's status as a major economic engine and retail destination and support post-pandemic recovery.

By replacing and updating 50-year-old manufacturing-only zoning laws, the proposal provides the necessary zoning flexibility for economic recovery and adaptation for businesses, especially small business, artists and cultural organizations.

The proposed changes would cover an area generally bounded by Canal Street to the south, Houston Street and Astor Place to the north, Lafayette Street and the Bowery to the east, and Sixth Avenue and West Broadway to the west. The area is currently mapped with zoning districts found only in the SoHo and NoHo neighborhoods and which date to the early 1970s, when vacant manufacturing buildings were being repurposed by artists and others drawn to the neighborhoods’ versatile and affordable lofts. 

The SoHo/NoHo Neighborhood Plan builds on a two-year public engagement process that included over 40 meetings, including four recent virtual public information sessions. The Plan seeks to establish a new zoning district to address the community’s and the city’s housing needs and economic challenges. This work grew out of the Envision SoHo/NoHo report, which was co-sponsored by the Department of City Planning, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council Member Margaret Chin.

Manhattan Community Board 2 has 60 days to review the proposal, after which it will go to the Borough President, back to the City Planning Commission and ultimately to the City Council as part of the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). For further information on the zoning proposal or the ULURP timetable, please visit DCP’s website.