City unveils plan to keep fashion industry in the Garment District
Photo via via Alexandra Ferguson
The city released on Monday a plan to preserve at least 300,000 square feet of production space in the Garment District for the fashion industry by providing tax breaks for owners who lease manufacturing space. While the district, bound by 35th and 40th Streets and Broadway and Ninth Avenue, was once home to hundreds of thousands of fashion jobs, it has lost 85 percent of firms in the last three decades.
In addition to the tax incentives, the plan creates a new zoning rule that would help limit the construction of hotels by introducing a special permit. The Garment Center IDA program, backed by City Hall, the city’s Economic Development Corporation, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and industry leaders, also includes lifting previous protections from a 1987 mandate that preserves millions of square feet of apparel-production space on certain side streets. According to the Wall Street Journal, if the plan is approved by the city council, owners would be allowed to convert buildings to other uses, like offices.
“The City’s iconic fashion industry is critical to our economic health, and this package represents a new chapter for the century-old fashion cluster, bringing its long-established businesses and new uses into a modern era that will reinforce Midtown as one of the City’s most vital job centers,” EDC President James Patchett said in a statement.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has also committed $20 million to acquire a building in the district that would be operated by a public-private partnership with a non-profit. The city will release a request for expressions of interest for the site in September.
The program requires property owners to offer 15-year leases with a max rent of $35 per square foot, including utilities and other expenses. The city will then provide participating property owners a tax benefit ranging from $1 to $4 per square foot of manufacturing space that measures between 25,000 and 100,000 square feet.
The existing zoning covers about 9 million square feet, but many landlords lease space that does not follow the zoning rules. Just about 700,000 to 900,000 square feet of space is used currently for garment production, the WSJ learned. According to the EDC, the proposed zoning change “lifts the antiquated 1:1 preservation requirement of production space that has proven ineffective in protecting garment manufacturers.”
Any changes to the existing zoning will enter the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure on June 11 and be voted on by the City Planning Commission and City Council. The program builds on de Blasio’s Made in NY Campus in Sunset Park, a $136 million plan to provide affordable space for film and companies. Last year, the city unveiled a plan to dedicate 200,000 square feet of manufacturing space in the Brooklyn neighborhood.
“After years of effort, we’ve got a plan that will preserve the heart and soul of the city’s iconic Garment District,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said in a statement. “We still have a long public process ahead of us and I’m looking forward to a collaborative process that includes feedback from all stakeholders, but I am confident that working together we will ensure that New York City remains the fashion capital of the world.”