City’s Soho/Noho report addresses affordable housing, zoning, and small business success

November 21, 2019

Image: Steven Pisano via Flickr.

The Department of City Planning (DCP), along with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Council Member Margaret Chin, released on Wednesday the Envision Soho/Noho report, a comprehensive summary of findings and recommendations that address issues and guide future plans for downtown Manhattan’s Soho and Noho neighborhoods. The report represents the result of a six-month-long community engagement series on the two historic neighborhoods, aimed at addressing their unique challenges in the 21st century. Contained in the report is a detailed summary of the engagement process that presents the perspectives of participants, as well as recommendations for guiding future plans for improving quality of life, addressing housing concerns, and supporting the unique mixed-use character of these neighborhoods.

The input and feedback that informed the report were gathered in the first six months of this year at a series of public meetings and workshops and via online engagement from a Soho/Noho engagement website. Comments received at a June 13 public meeting where preliminary findings of the engagement process were revealed also informed the report.

The report also gives context on the neighborhoods’ history, architectural and cultural assets, land use, economic and demographic makeup and the challenges they face as neighborhoods and mixed-use communities.

The dynamic mixed-use neighborhoods of Soho and Noho have a long-established residential population but are also home to strong office markets and young creative firms. They are also among New York City’s most prominent retail centers. Their existing zoning landscape, however, was established nearly five decades ago to address a declining manufacturing sector and a burgeoning community of artists, which presents a challenge to their continued vitality.

The Envision SoHo/NoHo report’s recommendations focus on three main principles:

  • Improve the quality of life for residents and workers
  • Encourage neighborhood diversity by strengthening and enforcing existing protections for residents, promoting artist and maker communities, allowing people to live in SoHo/NoHo without artist certifications, and creating affordable housing and live/work opportunities that respect neighborhood character
  • Promote economic vitality through preserving, promoting and creating more spaces and uses for arts, makers and culture, as well as foster small businesses by reducing regulatory barriers and providing supportive resources

“Home to artists and entrepreneurs, shoppers and makers, SoHo and NoHo are among New York City’s most historic mixed-use neighborhoods,” Marisa Lago, the director of DCP, said in a statement. “With an eye to creating affordable housing, cleaning up outdated zoning codes and ensuring that these communities thrive for decades to come, residents, property owners, retailers, advocates and local elected officials all weighed in on this report, which is aimed at guiding future planning work.”

“For six months, community leaders, local artists, property and business owners, elected officials and city agencies came together to chart out a future for two of New York’s most iconic neighborhoods—SoHo and NoHo,” Chin said. “Our collective efforts are reflected in this report, but the conversation does not end with its publication. I will continue to engage all the stakeholders as we explore the potential next steps for SoHo and NoHo together.”

Following the report’s release, Chin and Brewer will address the next steps by attending Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee meeting in January to further the public discussion. Information for the next public meeting will be posted online and publicized. Highlights of earlier public engagement sessions and more information on the SoHo/NoHo initiative can be found here.


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