Midtown South set for transformation as NYC officials plan to convert empty buildings to residential spaces
In the heart of bustling Manhattan, Midtown South faced a significant downturn during the pandemic, with many businesses forced to close their doors. However, the Department of City Planning has announced ambitious plans to revitalize and reimagine this district, shifting its identity from a commercial hub to a vibrant residential neighborhood.
"We really want this neighborhood to be 24/7, mixed-use – it is stuck today," said Dan Garodnick, director of the Department of City Planning.
The impact of the pandemic left Midtown South with a landscape of empty buildings. But city officials are determined to bring about a transformation. Historically zoned as a manufacturing district, Midtown South's empty commercial office buildings could soon be repurposed for housing, marking a significant shift in policy.
"We want commercial uses, and we want to respect existing businesses that are here. But this is also a great place in New York City for us to enable housing. It’s near transit, and it's endowed with great amenities," said Garodnick.
City planners have identified four key areas within the district spanning 42 blocks. These areas are located between 23rd and 41st streets, from fifth to eighth avenues. These plans align with the mayor's recent announcement to convert office buildings into 20,000 affordable homes. Officials say that 19% of commercial office spaces in the city currently stand vacant.
For local business owners like Tsering, who owns Broadway Accessories on 27th Street, these changes could bring hope or challenges.
“Broadway is no longer the same,” said Tsering.
He’s been selling wholesale jewelry items for about 20 years and says he's witnessed fellow business owners forced to close their doors.
"We cannot afford to pay the rent because rent is so high here. After Christmas, another three stores will close," said Tsering.
Tsering says the proposed mix plans for the neighborhood might help other businesses but not his wholesale shop.
“For retail, it would be much better when the apartments come, there’s a lot of foot traffic here. I might move it to the food business, that’s what’s in my mind, if this happens,” said Tsering.
New Yorkers in the area expressed mixed feelings about the proposed changes. Some had concerns about what would be considered "affordable" in this revitalized district, questioning whether it would genuinely cater to those in need.
Commuter Jose Guzman asked, "Who are you trying to build it for? Are you building it for people in need or people who have money?"
Another commuter, sharing a more optimistic view, said, "If it's going to help fill up all these buildings, because there's a lot of homelessness in this country, people can't afford their rent. If they mix it up, maybe it would be better," said Bayo Falaye.
The Department of City Planning intends to engage with the public and stakeholders, including local businesses, in upcoming public information sessions. The next session is slated for Oct. 17. Their goal is to collect feedback and insights about the desired changes, with a target of implementing these transformations by 2025. Click HERE for more information.