New program asks architects to help design outdoor dining spaces for NYC restaurants

Posted On Wed, September 2, 2020 By

Posted On Wed, September 2, 2020 By In Policy, Restaurants

Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Outdoor dining has offered a much-needed lifeline to many New York City restaurants struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic. But creating a space on city streets and sidewalks that is both inviting to diners and meets the city’s safety standards comes at a cost. To help restaurants reopen, the city’s Economic Development Corporation partnered with NYCxDesign, the American Institute of Architects, and the Center for Architecture to launch an online network that connects restaurants with architects and designers willing to provide design help for free.

The Design Corps: Small Business Reopening Network includes restaurants throughout the city looking to improve their outdoor dining space and design professionals who have volunteered to provide pro bono services.

“The impetus for Design Corps was to leverage the broader design community’s desire to help restaurants in need with outdoor dining related design inquiries,” NYCEDC Assistant Vice President of Neighborhood Strategies Sreoshy Banerjea said. “Design Literacy and values of good aesthetics directly impact the revenue of restaurants. Not all restaurants have access to architects and we wanted this pro bono service to increase access to design experts.”

Assistance could come in the form of recommendations to improve the existing space while meeting the rules of the state and the city’s Open Restaurants program, which includes specific requirements regarding protective barriers, space between seats,  signage, and more.

The first phase will help restaurants adapt to new safety guidelines and restrictions. According to NYCxDesign, the next phases of the program could expand to include indoor dining and other local small businesses.

The online directory lets designers and architects easily connect with the restaurants, which have detailed what services they need. Restaurants that have signed up for the Design Corps include Pro Thai in East Harlem, Stitch Bar and Lounge in the Garment District, Adda in Long Island City, and Salento Colombian Coffee and Kitchen in Washington Heights.

Earlier this summer, designer David Rockwell and his firm Rockwell Group launched DineOut NYC, a program that provides restaurants with free, adaptable outdoor dining design templates. Melba’s Restaurant in Harlem became the first restaurant to utilize the pro bono designs, followed by a handful of restaurants across the city identified with the NYC Hospitality Alliance.

Under DineOut NYC, streets in Manhattan’s Chinatown and Queens’ Jackson Heights and Elmhurst were transformed last month with new outdoor dining experiences, featuring colorful, socially-distanced tables.

With indoor dining still on hold in New York City, despite being permitted in every other region in the state and across the Hudson in New Jersey, the city said it will extend outdoor dining until October 31.


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