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Transforming Water Street's POPS

 |  NYCEDC

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By Patrick Hess, Assistant Vice President at NYCEDC

For years, Lower Manhattan was known as the world’s premier financial and innovation district.

But after 9/11 and the 2008 recession, some of the neighborhood’s commercial energy began to drain away.

With over 19 million square feet of office space, 100,000 employees, and a growing residential population, Water Street is a key commercial thoroughfare in Lower Manhattan that runs between the Battery and Whitehall Ferry Terminal to Fulton Street and the historic South Street Seaport.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the corridor struggled to recover from damage to office buildings, infrastructure, and public spaces. A number of office buildings were vacant for months and some restaurants and retail stores required even more time to reopen.

Coupled with the broader challenges facing Lower Manhattan, the impact from Hurricane Sandy increased the need to strengthen Water Street's public realm in order to ensure that the mixed-use corridor would remain competitive and resilient in the years ahead. 

In response to these challenges, NYCEDC, in partnership with City agencies, local organizations, and private property owners, has advanced a series of initiatives to strengthen Lower Manhattan’s ability to attract businesses, residents, and visitors. Today, Water Street is a prime example of the ongoing revitalization taking place in the area.

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Transforming Water Street’s POPS

A prominent feature of Water Street’s public realm is over seven acres of POPS, or privately owned public spaces, which include plazas and arcades built by developers in exchange for the ability to construct larger buildings.

Currently, the POPS have not realized their potential to enhance the vitality and pedestrian experience along Water Street. As a result, the corridor lacks the vibrancy typical of other commercial corridors in the city, making it difficult to attract diverse, dynamic businesses.

To begin addressing these issues, NYCEDC has taken the lead with the NYC Department of City Planning (DCP), in collaboration with the Alliance for Downtown New York (ADNY) and local property owners, to lay out strategies for Water Street to help put the district back on its feet in the short-term, while laying the groundwork for improved, long-term resiliency and viability.

The Water Street Pops! series is one example of this. In Summer 2013, the City and local partners created this public event series to help activate the district’s potential as a more vibrant and active place. Concerts, dance, and fitness events brought new activity and life to the corridor.

This week's release of the Water Street POPS Upgrades Initiative report marks an important milestone in the ongoing process to position the district as a great place to live, work, and play. We look forward to continued collaboration with DCP and local partners on the next steps in bringing this vision to life.

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