Midtown South Rezoning Could Clear the Way for 4,000 New Homes

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New York City planning officials want to breathe new life into a 42-block area of Midtown South — and add thousands of homes to the primarily commercial neighborhood in the process.

The Department of City Planning (DCP) unveiled a draft zoning plan Friday that would allow for taller, mixed-use buildings in a swath of aging multistory lofts between Fifth and Eighth avenues.  

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The Midtown South Mixed-Use zoning plan could create nearly 4,000 new homes, with about a quarter of them income-restricted thanks to Mandatory Inclusionary Housing requirements DCP wants to add to the city’s zoning map, according to the agency. 

“This centrally located, transit-rich area should be one of the most exciting, vibrant areas of the city, but outdated zoning is holding it back,” DCP Director Dan Garodnick said in a statement. “Thanks to this community-focused planning approach, the future of Midtown South is looking bright.”

So far Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine is on board, along with City Council members Erik Bottcher and Keith Powers. Each signaled his support in statements about the zoning plan Friday.

“This draft plan is a testament to our commitment to the city’s growth and diversity, which weaves new housing opportunities into the rich tapestry of the historic garment industry,” Bottcher said in a statement. “We envision a neighborhood in which fashion showrooms, homes, shops, offices, garment manufacturing, and the iconic fashion studios all blend together.”

The new zoning would be a big switch for Midtown South, which primarily has been an office hub governed by rules that prevent building new homes in the neighborhood.

A tech boom in New York City drove growth in Midtown South in the decade before the pandemic, giving the neighborhood the short-lived moniker “Silicon Alley.” But waning demand for office space and a pullback from the tech sector have taken a heavy toll, and an aging building stock dominated by exceptionally large floor plates poses particular challenges. 

DCP’s plan covers four areas between West 23rd and West 40th streets that are currently home to about 7,000 businesses, the agency estimated. Current zoning rules prevent developers from adding new housing or converting buildings to residential use.

The agency’s plan will make that easier by adding new high-density, mixed-use zoning districts that allow for manufacturing, commercial and residential uses.

DCP’s vision for Midtown South is still in its fledgling phase. The next step is to undertake an environmental review, which the agency is aiming to complete in the coming weeks and present in a scoping meeting on April 18. 

The agency will gather feedback from the public throughout the year, and plans to launch the formal land use public review process by the end of 2024.

Abigail Nehring can be reached at anehring@commercialobserver.com.