New Century Cities Case Studies - Lower Manhattan - MIT Center for Real Estate

New Century Cities Case Studies – Lower Manhattan

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Location:  New York, New York, USA
Size:  500 acres (200 hectares)
Dates of Planning and Development:  1995 to the present
Developers:  many, both public and private
Link:  http://www.downtownny.com

Vision:  To “create and promote a safe, clean, live-work, totally wired community, which showcases the nation’s most historic neighborhood and serves as the financial capital of the world for the twenty-first century.”1

Downtown New York has been growing and developing since the 1600s. Lower Manhattan is the home of Wall Street, which houses much of New York City’s financial industry, as well as the World Trade Center site. But in the past decade, many financial institutions have left downtown to relocate in other parts of Manhattan or the suburbs. This exodus, capped by the September 2001 tragedy, has prompted a new revitalization period.

Current efforts focus on expanding both residential options and commercial activities. For example, the Lower Manhattan Economic Revitalization Plan, initiated in 1995, provides real estate tax abatements, utility reimbursements, and other incentives to encourage private investment. New technology applications are being overlaid onto the city fabric. Wireless infrastructure has proven particularly well-suited for this retrofit, since less of the existing neighborhood need be disturbed. Major commercial rebuilding, transportation, and memorial projects are ongoing; these are managed by several public and private groups, including the Downtown Alliance, the State of New York, the City of New York, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC), the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), and NYCwireless.

Major downtown initiatives include the Downtown Lower Manhattan Business Improvement District (BID), managed by the Downtown Alliance. The BID serves to support and strengthen commercial ventures in Lower Manhattan by providing sanitation and security services, streetscape design and maintenance, transportation, tourism programs, and special events for the public. The Alliance has also been integral in the creation and promotion of eight free public wireless hotspots in partnership with NYCwireless. The Freedom Tower, along with proposed memorial and cultural institutions, are all part of the World Trade Center redevelopment, managed by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Extensive transportation projects are planned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, including subway improvements and a direct rail connection to JFK airport. New residential projects are being encouraged and prospective as well as current tenants were offered cash incentives by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to move or remain downtown after September 11. Finally, venues for art and culture are supported by incentives such as the recently announced Cultural Capital Grant Program. The Downtown Alliance and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council have joined together to provide funding for performing arts institutions. In addition, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council continues to support the arts by providing funds and grants, event sponsorship, and planning services for cultural institutions. A common goal for these programs is economic development, with some aimed at generating tourism or attracting residents.

Private organizations have also played important roles in the redevelopment of lower Manhattan, supporting projects such as the New York Information Technology Center and wireless initiatives for business and the general public. Downtown firms benefit from, and support, the area’s excellent telecommunications through their membership in the BID.

Lower Manhattan is beginning to achieve the serendipitous mix of uses that other New Century Cities are trying to create. Countless organizations and individuals have been involved in this growth, but the common guidelines and goals set by the Downtown Alliance have helped create a more cohesive neighborhood.

  1. Downtown Alliance. Who We Are

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New Century Cities Case Studies – Lower Manhattan