On February 15, 2023, the Garment District in downtown Manhattan received $4.5 million as one of the New York City region winners of the first round of the NY Forward revitalization initiative.
Building on the momentum of the State’s successful Downtown Revitalization Initiative, the $100 million NY Forward program adopts the same “Plan-then-Act” strategy as the DRI to support a more equitable recovery for New York’s communities.
As part of NY Forward Round One, two to three awards will be made to communities in each of the state’s ten economic development regions to support development and implementation of revitalization plans for their downtowns.
The Garment District is strategically located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, among New York City’s busiest transportation hubs and most iconic landmarks.
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said, “The NY Forward funding is fantastic news for the Garment District, and is a reflection of how important the district is for the economic vitality of Manhattan and the midtown area. This investment will provide a transformational opportunity to invest in a vibrant, healthy and strong neighborhood. I am grateful to the Governor and Secretary of State Rodriguez for their partnership, and look forward to working with local stakeholders and neighbors in the weeks and months ahead to get these dollars to where they are most impactful.”
The Garment District was built for the apparel industry nearly 100 years ago and today it is home to an eclectic mix of uses. It is a center for commerce and tourism, which makes it an important economic engine for Midtown Manhattan.
Councilmember Erik Bottcher said, “The Garment District was hit hard by the pandemic and we need to do everything we can to help bring it back. Positioned between Penn Station and Port Authority, the Garment District will benefit greatly from this investment. Thank you to Governor Hochul and her team for making this happen.”
The Garment District is among the least populated neighborhoods in New York City, but following a recent rezoning, the district was emerging from its past as a 20th century manufacturing hub to a modern center for commerce and a destination for tourism. Because of its dependence on office workers and tourism, however, the district was devastated when COVID-19 shuttered offices and emptied hotels.
Representative Jerrold Nadler said, “Thanks to Governor Hochul, this $4.5 million in funding will help jumpstart the transformation of New York’s storied Garment District as it reaches an inflection point in its history. The Garment District remains home to many of the world’s most renowned fashion designers, and its centralized location in Midtown Manhattan has opened doors for new economic opportunities beyond the apparel industry. I look forward to working with local leaders and the State to implement this funding, which will improve safety and quality of life for residents and tourists alike, while embracing the full potential of this historic community.”
The Garment District seeks to build on its rich history, global name recognition with over 50 hotels and its unparalleled access to local and regional transportation.
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, “The NY Forward program builds on our innovative, successful DRI model that leverages public investments to uplift and reenergize vital commercial districts and downtowns across New York State. This tailored approach represents a transformative opportunity to strengthen the fabric of a unique New York City neighborhood, maximize the Garment District’s economic potential and add new life and vibrancy that will attract new businesses, residents and visitors.”
The community’s vision is to realize its potential and transform into a robust 24/7 neighborhood with increased economic opportunities, engaging public spaces and improved safety and quality of life for businesses, tourists and residents.
Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, “The NY Forward initiative provides resources to fund small but impactful local projects that enhance quality of life for residents and breathe new life into New York’s downtowns. Today’s award for the Garment District will further economic development efforts and allow this historic neighborhood to reach its full potential. In tandem with the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and her housing agenda, Governor Hochul has demonstrated her commitment to supporting local government and building stronger communities where all New Yorkers can thrive.”
The Garment District Alliance President Barbara A. Blair said,”The entire Garment District community thanks Governor Hochul for making an investment in our neighborhood. The historical importance of this district as the home of American fashion cannot be overstated. Neither can its strategic importance as the connective tissue between the densest transportation hub in the country, 34th Street, the Empire State Building, Times Square and Hudson Yards. While the district has faced challenges in recent years, the Governor’s announcement of capital funding demonstrates the State’s commitment to its future. We look forward to working with the Governor’s administration as we continue to expand economic opportunities for all who live, work or visit here.”
The New York City Regional Economic Development Council conducted a thorough and competitive review process of proposals submitted from communities throughout the region and considered the criteria below before recommending these communities as nominees:
- The downtown should be compact, with well-defined boundaries;
- The downtown is able to capitalize on prior or catalyze future private and public investment in the neighborhood and its surrounding areas;
- There should be recent or impending job growth within, or in close proximity to the downtown that can attract workers to the downtown, support redevelopment and make growth sustainable;
- The downtown must be an attractive and livable community for diverse populations of all ages, income, gender, identity, ability, mobility and cultural background;
- The municipality should already embrace or have the ability to create and implement policies that increase livability and quality of life;
- The municipality should have conducted an open and robust community engagement process resulting in a vision for downtown revitalization and a preliminary list of projects and initiatives that may be included in a Strategic Investment Plan;
- The municipality has identied transformative projects that will be ready for near-term implementation with an infusion of NY Forward funds; and
- The municipality has the local capacity to manage the planning process and implementation of projects, including the ability to oversee contracts for awarded municipal projects.
The Garment District will now begin the process of developing a Strategic Investment Plans to revitalize their neighborhood. A Local Planning Committee made up of municipal representatives, community leaders and other stakeholders will lead these efforts, supported by a team of private sector experts and state planners. The Strategic Investment Plan will examine local assets and opportunities to identify projects that align with each community’s vision and that are poised for implementation. Funding will be awarded for selected projects from the Strategic Investment Plan that have the greatest potential to jumpstart revitalization and generate new opportunities for long-term growth.
NY Forward is a central component of the State’s economic development efforts, working together with DRI to accelerate and expand the revitalization of New York’s downtowns and commercial corridors. NY Forward communities serve the immediate local residents and are more local in nature, as opposed to communities typically funded through DRI that focus on amenities and attractions that serve the regional community.
For the New York City region, NY Forward communities are BID-scale business districts where projects are developed with input from local residents.
“We are weaving a collaborative future for industry, transportation and tourism in the Garment District,” Governor Kathy Hochul said.
“I am proud to announce the Garment District as one of New York City region winners of $4.5 million in NY Forward funding. This investment will enhance the fashion capital of the world with placemaking and public realm improvements that will guide the way through the district’s next century,” she added.
Like DRI, each NY Forward community will develop a Strategic Investment Plan that includes a slate of readily implementable projects. The Department of State will provide enhanced technical assistance to better support those communities with less internal capacity as part of the NY Forward program and fund projects appropriately scaled to the size of each community. Projects may include building renovation and redevelopment, new construction or creation of new or improved public spaces and other projects that elevate specific cultural, historical qualities that enhance the feeling of small-town charm.
Unless otherwise credited, all photos courtesy of The Garment District.