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Thread: Rezoning the Garment District

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    Default Rezoning the Garment District

    City Hopes to Allow More Offices in Garment Center



    Whether snow, rain or sleet, it’s business as usual in the garment district, in this case 37th Street between
    Seventh and Eighth Avenues Wednesday.


    By DIANE CARDWELL
    Published: February 15, 2007

    Acknowledging that the garment center is no longer the production powerhouse it once was, the city is looking to ease restrictions on converting manufacturing spaces to offices there, the city planning commissioner, Amanda M. Burden, said yesterday.

    Officials hope to make a plan encouraging a mix of businesses in about a month, Ms. Burden said, as part of an effort to maintain the economic health of an area that has been steadily losing garment jobs for decades as the bulk of clothing manufacture has moved overseas.

    Two decades ago, the city tried to preserve those garment jobs with rules that generally required landlords who converted their property to office space to create an equivalent amount of manufacturing space elsewhere. But those provisions were largely ignored until recently, as higher-paying tenants in other industries moved in and clothing makers moved out.

    “The garment center has perhaps the most anachronistic zoning in the entire city,” Ms. Burden said at a breakfast forum sponsored by Crain’s New York Business, adding that it was no longer a good place to work because of a lack of investment in the buildings.

    City officials are in discussion with labor and business interests to devise a plan that will balance the need to keep some manufacturing while satisfying the demand for less expensive office space, she said. But any changes will not allow more residential conversions than are currently permitted.

    The area under consideration runs roughly between 34th and 40th Streets and between Broadway and Ninth Avenue. The swath west of Eighth Avenue has already been rezoned as part of the Hudson Yards plan, officials said, allowing for some residential development and some exemptions from the special manufacturing provisions.





    Although there is not yet consensus on how to best handle the problem of the declining garment manufacturing industry, there is agreement among labor, business, government and economic experts that zoning changes are needed to better reflect economic realities. From 2001 to 2005, the most recent year for which average annual figures are available, employment in the industry in the city fell by 39.6 percent, roughly matching the national statistics, according to Martin Kohli of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Manhattan, the number of jobs fell to 17,979 from 26,966.

    “The garment industry and the Midtown garment center are a jewel in the city and an important economic engine we need to protect and even grow,” said Maura Keaney, deputy chief of staff to the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, who represents the area. “But at the same time we need to let that Midtown area change with the market.”

    Those in the industry and those who study it say that the city can no longer compete for high-volume manufacturing production, but that it can fill a demand for couture-level work as well as for small orders that can be turned around quickly and for sample production.

    “That part of the production chain is so essential to everything else that goes on in the industry,” said James Parrott, the deputy director and chief economist of the Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonpartisan group. “It is essential to the design status of New York.”

    In addition, said Bud Konheim, the chief executive of the designer Nicole Miller, there is an intangible but crucial vitality that manufacturing brings to the garment industry, which still serves as both an economic and creative engine in the city.

    “If you eliminate the making part of it and you just have the designers and the P.R. people and the stylists, O.K., they’re here but all of a sudden it’s sterile,” he said.

    Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company
    Last edited by antinimby; February 15th, 2007 at 05:59 AM. Reason: add additional graphic

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    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    About damn time.

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    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    While they are at it they should add a street wall regulation in this area to put an end to the prolifertion of McSam set-it-back-from-the-sidewalk style buildings.

    But it's probably too late to influence Chang / McSam, who seems to have umpteen buildings in the pipeline in this area and which plans will therefore be grandfathered into the existing zoning regs.

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    tons of possible Commercial Development sites are in this area. This and Hudson Square are two areas that need further pushing! WhenViacom moves there HQ to the Square that will be great for that area.

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    there's a ton of fantastic architecture in this area, that just need a little (well, maybe a lot) spit & polish. here's hoping that the rezoning won't spark a rush of teardowns & generic new buildings

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    Forum Veteran MidtownGuy's Avatar
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    That's exactly what I'm afraid of.

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    I just hope that the area won't get littered with new buildings. That pocket of Manhattan is one of the unique places that's still dense with exclusively pre-war buildings.

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    Pins and Needles

    By JENNIFER BLEYER
    Published: December 2, 2007

    HELEN UFFNER, the owner of a theatrical costume company, has a vast inventory of vintage items dating from the 1970s back to the 1860s, among them 8,300 dresses, 3,200 women’s hats and 800 cartons of accessories.

    Items from her collection have made cameo appearances in movies like “Capote,” in television shows like “Saturday Night Live” and in countless Broadway plays.

    Tony Cenicola/The New York Times


    A decade ago, Ms. Uffner moved her business to a 7,000-square-foot loft on West 37th Street near Ninth Avenue, in the garment district. The location proved a perfect fit. “We needed button people, trim people, fabric resources, millinery shops,” Ms. Uffner said. “In a business where time is money, it was nice to have everything within that grid.”

    But Ms. Uffner’s business was in a small chunk of the garment district that was included in the rezoning of the Hudson Yards, on the Far West Side of Manhattan, nearly three years ago. In the garment district, the city decided to allow some residential development and different kinds of businesses, including the many, like hotels, that generally return more per square foot than a garment firm. Ms. Uffner soon received a letter from her landlord saying that her lease would not be renewed, and she promptly embarked on an exhaustive search in the area for a new space large enough to accommodate her collection.

    No luck.

    “I was shown buildings where maybe eight spaces were available, and they would innocently say, ‘Sorry, nothing’s available,’” Ms. Uffner recalled. “Other agents and owners were honest with me. They said: ‘Listen, we’re waiting for the zoning laws to change again. We would rather cut up our spaces into small offices than have garment firms.’”

    Unable to find new quarters, Ms. Uffner moved last May to Long Island City, Queens, miles from the neighborhood of her choice.

    The garment district, of course, is vastly diminished from its heyday in the 1950s. But over the last decade or so, as the city has grown more prosperous and seemingly every square foot of Manhattan real estate is in high demand, a second wave of trouble has been washing over the district’s fabled streets. A growing number of embroiderers, fabric suppliers and sewing factories have lost their leases, making designers afraid that these ancillary businesses will become so scarce that they too will have to pack up.

    For nearly a year, the city’s Economic Development Corporation has been meeting with garment makers and their landlords, discussing ways to solve these troubles. It is clear why the city deems the issue urgent: The district may be less robust than it once was, but it is still home to about 1,800 garment firms employing 25,000 workers, and citywide, the apparel industry still accounts for 25 percent of manufacturing jobs. Those numbers could shrink fast.

    “A year ago, it was a factory here and a factory there,” said Magda Aboulfadl, a project manager at the Garment Industry Development Corporation, an advocacy group. “Even if you could see the writing on the wall, you could be in denial. Now you can’t be in denial. Before it was death by a thousand cuts. Now it’s entire limbs being cut off. And there are only so many limbs.”

    The Big Squeeze
    The garment district, bounded roughly by 34th and 42nd Streets and Fifth and Ninth Avenues, took shape in the 1920s and soon evolved into an industrial behemoth. Gilded showrooms on the avenues attracted buyers nationwide, and hundreds of small factories nestled in gritty buildings on the side streets.

    In the 1950s, New York was home to 334,000 apparel workers, and the image of workmen pushing racks of coats and dresses through the district’s narrow and congested streets became an iconic image of the city.

    In the 1970s, garment jobs began to migrate to factories overseas, where labor was significantly cheaper. In 1987, to protect what remained of the local apparel trade, the city instituted special zoning regulations that reserved much of the area’s commercial space for garment firms.

    But starting in the mid-’90s, as the city’s economy boomed and commercial rents skyrocketed, local landlords began getting restless. Many of them want to loosen the district’s protective zoning, claiming that it handicaps them unfairly because while there is great demand for space, too little of it is from garment companies.

    “To insist on a use that by and large doesn’t exist anymore does not stem the tide of jobs leaving,” said Barbara Randall, executive director of the Fashion Center Business Improvement District, whose board includes more than a dozen real estate executives. “You’re penalizing one class of businessmen in favor of another. The burden of manufacturing moving overseas is now the property owner’s burden.”

    But according to Ms. Aboulfadl of the industry advocacy group, there is still considerable demand for space; it’s just that merchants such as Ms. Uffner are losing out as available space is turned over to non-garment-industry tenants. “I’ve seen whole floors go from factory to travel agency,” Ms. Aboulfadl said. Whichever side is right, garment factories in the neighborhood are clearly feeling pressure.

    The demand for commercial space means that many non-garment businesses — like The New York Times, which has a new headquarters on Eighth Avenue between 40th and 41st Streets — are moving to sites that once housed garment enterprises. Garment showrooms have been particularly affected by this trend. Long located on the avenues, which are not protected by the special zoning, showrooms have been losing their space to higher-paying tenants. Many showrooms have moved to the side streets, where they often displace garment manufacturers.

    According to Patrick Murphy, vice president for fashion and retail growth initiatives at the Economic Development Corporation, this migration of showrooms is a primary impetus for the Bloomberg administration’s discussions about rezoning in the district.

    “Our biggest concern is that if we don’t change the zoning,” Mr. Murphy said, “all manufacturing is going to be forced out of the district. More showroom space isn’t a bad idea, as long as you weren’t disrupting all the manufacturing.”

    Some garment firms have been galvanized by these forces. Last spring, a group called Save the Garment Center began gathering signatures on petitions — it has collected 3,500 so far — and rallying garment makers to their cause.

    “If we unprotect this area, we’re going to be displaced,” said Samanta Cortes, a founder of the group and the owner of an embroidery firm that has done work for Victoria’s Secret and Ralph Lauren. “And when we have to start going to Long Island City, we’re going to disappear.”

    Other garment makers simply sound wistful for the way things were.
    “The covered-button guys, they’re all gone,” said Nanette Lepore, a fashion designer whose 120 workers occupy five floors of a building on 35th Street just off Seventh Avenue. “Two-thirds of the fabric stores are gone. A lot of the embroidery is gone.”

    The roll of the relocated is long. Custom Accessories, a belt maker, moved to Florida in 2002. Great Buttons moved to Forest Hills, Queens, in July. TQC Cutting moved to Sunset Park, Brooklyn, last month. Art Max Fabrics, Felsen Fabrics and La Button Boutique are among the many that have closed entirely.

    ‘It’s All So Precarious’
    One manufacturer who has managed to survive the changes in the garment district is Paul Cavazza, 41, a spiky-haired father of three who was 9 when he started working in his parents’ dress factory in Newburgh, N.Y. After studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Mr. Cavazza specialized in grading, which involves creating a design in multiple sizes, and marking, which is the strategic placement of a pattern on fabric.

    His company, Create a Marker, was on West 38th Street for 11 years until a new owner bought the building last winter and notified tenants that their leases would not be renewed.

    Some of the small sewing factories that occupied the building decided to close for good. But Mr. Cavazza scoured the neighborhood for a new location, sometimes telling landlords that he was in the graphic design business just to get a foot in the door. In what he regards as something of a miracle, Mr. Cavazza wangled a 10-year lease for a rough-hewn, 7,500-square-foot space on 35th Street near Eighth Avenue.

    It cost $150,000 just to move his massive cutting tables and machinery. But at least now, a relieved Mr. Cavazza said, “I’m sleeping at night.”

    Mr. Cavazza is safe. But the jury is still out on Luis Alvarez, who owns IZA Trimmings, a company his family started in Cuba 74 years ago. Since 1980, the business has been on 37th Street near Eighth Avenue, selling thousands of varieties of ribbon, tassels, zippers, piping, lace, cord and appliqué.

    Mr. Alvarez’s building, which is almost completely occupied by garment firms, was sold in June for $43 million. Since then, Mr. Alvarez and other tenants have been told that their leases will not be renewed. Mr. Alvarez has started looking for a new location, but it has been difficult.

    “I look at places on 38th and 39th Street and when they hear it’s a trim shop, they say: ‘No, no. Only bars and restaurants,’” Mr. Alvarez said. “They’re pushing the industry out.”

    Mr. Cavazza and Mr. Alvarez are hardly titans of the garment district; Mr. Cavazza has 27 employees, and Mr. Alvarez has only one, in addition to help from his elderly parents. But the struggles of small entrepreneurs evertheless involve high stakes, because their industry is so fragile a web of interconnected businesses that need to be physically near one another to survive.

    “You’re not going to go to Long Island City to get a pattern, to New Jersey to get a button and to Union Square to get a lining,” Mr. Cavazza explained.
    “The fashion industry has adapted to so many things, but I don’t believe that we’ll be able to survive if we’re taken apart and scattered.”

    In other words, if enough pattern makers, button dealers and fabric dyers have to close shop, the large enterprises that rely on them will depart, greatly speeding the district’s decline.

    Ms. Lepore, the fashion designer who works on 35th Street, runs one such enterprise.

    She started her business in 1987 and moved to her current location in 1990. Her clothes, which are often highly intricate and richly textured, generate $65 million a year in sales to department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s, and from her own boutiques in New York, London, Tokyo and elsewhere.

    Except for her knitwear, which is made overseas, 95 percent of Ms. Lepore’s clothing is produced within roughly four blocks of her Manhattan headquarters, she said. She spends up to $3 million a month in the garment district for services like sewing, cutting, dying, pleating, tucking, marking and grading, and for items like zippers, thread, fabric, beads and buttons.

    “If every single factory leaves, I would really have to rethink how I run my business,” Ms. Lepore said this fall. “If we need a marker in two hours, we can walk it to a service on 36th Street, and they’ll scramble and be able to break it down. We never ship late. That’s one reason we’re profitable.”

    As she circulated through her production floor watching workers drape dress forms, assemble samples and cut patterns, Ms. Lepore said: “You have a whole industry here, and you’re going to shut it down so you can have more offices and hotels? I was kind of in a bubble about it until the last couple months. Now I live in fear every day. It’s all so precarious.”

    A ‘City of Wall Street Guys’?
    For all the concern over the future of the garment district, there is an awareness on the part of city officials that it operates as an ecosystem, and there is optimism that it can be saved, if not in form, at least in function, in a way that satisfies both garment firms and their landlords.

    “We’re working with stakeholders on a proposal to allow for more uses on the side streets and to guarantee more production space,” said Mr. Murphy, of the Economic Development Corporation. “What we’re trying to figure out is, how do we fix the zoning so we can preserve a critical mass of production space? No zoning change will happen without a meaningful preservation of apparel in the district.”

    One solution, suggested Ms. Randall of the business improvement district, might be to designate one or two buildings, managed by a nonprofit group or a public-private partnership, that would remain entirely devoted to garment production.

    The administration and the industry are in a race against the clock. Although there is no timetable for reaching an agreement, Mr. Murphy hopes that the city, the garment makers and the property owners will come up with a proposal within a year.

    There is also a sense that the repercussions will extend far beyond this small slice of Midtown Manhattan, that much of the island is being buffeted by the forces at work here.

    “We have to ensure that there’s a place for them here when they’re not making as much as a hedge fund manager,” Ms. Randall said of garment workers. “A city full of Wall Street guys is just not an interesting place to be.”



    Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company.

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    The Local: Rezoning Anxiety Rends Garment District

    by Lysandra Ohrstrom | February 29, 2008

    wallyg via flickr

    No one knows what Manhattan’s Garment District will look like in 10 years, let alone whether the dwindling economy of designers, factories and suppliers who make up New York’s fashion industry will still be there.

    The media has been covering the Garment District’s demise for decades, and lately the chorus of real estate developers lobbying for it to be rezoned for mixed usage, including less manufacturing space, has gotten louder.

    No one disputes the gradual hemorrhage of clothing factories, suppliers, and wholesalers from the district under pressure from cheaper imports. But the scale and causes of the industrial decline are less cut and dry, and attitudes within the apparel industry toward a possible rezoning range from staunch opposition to reluctant acceptance.

    “People have businesses here; [the rezoning] would be terrible; this won’t exist in 10 years if they do it,” Sylvia Stoller said from behind the counter of the 47-year-old Steinlauf and Stoller sewing supply store her ex-husband’s family started. Shoulder pads and bra inserts are displayed on each wall above zippers and spools of thread. “The government has done enough. They came up with that stupid little plan called NAFTA. They are literally killing the garment industry.”

    Ms. Stoller has worked in the Garment District since suppliers were plentiful and “actual manufacturing was being done” 30 years ago.

    Back then, she advised customers to turn around their rings and hide their necklaces when visiting the shop on 39th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues, and eventually told her first boss she refused to venture past Eighth Avenue alone.

    Then the crime and grittiness was offset in part by the solidarity of businesses in the neighborhood—on Saturdays designers would open their showrooms to their suppliers, Ms. Stoller recalled—and by being part of an industry at its peak.

    “It was exciting here 30 years ago," she said. "We felt like there was something special about the business.”

    Larry Geffner, a member of the Save the Garment District Coalition and the owner of a pleating business there, says the real estate community’s claim that there are too few apparel businesses left to occupy the Garment District's available space is misleading.

    “A lot of the landlords are not willing to rent to garment manufacturers," he said. "The reality is they purchased the property when the market was good, expecting the area to be rezoned so they could sell it at a profit, and that has not happened.

    “It’s true we’ve been losing some vendors, but the real crisis will come a year, two years or six years from now when leases run out and they won’t be able to renew them or find affordable space to move into.”

    The city began the rezoning process a year ago and these tensions continue to resurface in the effort to negotiate a solution that preserves the Garment District while accommodating development.

    In 1987, the area covering 35th to 40th streets and Fifth to Ninth avenues was rezoned to moderate the conversion of apparel space to office space. Aside from apparel, the area was zoned for a handful of other as-of-right uses, but the regulations required developers who took the incentive of commercial conversion to build an equal portion of apparel and commercial space.

    Over the following decade the zoning was not enforced, and some buildings were illegally converted to offices with no space set aside for apparel.
    But Magda Aboulfadl, an enforcement project manager for the Garment Industry Development Corporation, said most building owners continued to accommodate apparel use until recently.

    In 2005, she surveyed every button shop, factory and design studio for a study that was released the following year, and found that 60 percent of the space in the Garment District was still being used by apparel-related businesses. Factories occupied 16 percent of the total space, and there were 200 pure production spaces.

    “Of course, jobs are being sent overseas, but another factor is rising rent and real estate uncertainty overall," said Ms. Aboulfadl. "When I was doing the survey in 2005, it was still common to have handshake leases, but over the last year or so that all started to change.

    “It’s like the Garment District suddenly got discovered by the real estate industry. Over the last year and a half there have been a fair amount of sales and that cozy, familiar environment is going, going, gone.”

    Meanwhile rents have gone up, up, up. Historically, showrooms have occupied the more expensive avenue properties in the Garment District while manufacturers and suppliers have clustered on the side streets. A few years ago avenue space was about $20 per square foot, while side-street locations ranged from $10 to $16 per square foot, said Mr. Geffner. Avenue property values rose up to $80 a foot so quickly that showrooms were pushed to the side streets, and, in turn, supporting businesses that could not afford to pay $25 to $40 a foot were pushed out.

    As property values have risen, some landlords have become increasingly less hospitable to their tenants in the apparel industry. A minority of them are resorting to legal and illegal means to get businesses out before their leases expire.

    “First they try every legal loophole," Mr. Geffner said. "When that doesn’t work they’ll cut elevator service, restrict access at odd hours or hire security guards to scare customers away."

    The more common trend is a “systematic non-renewal of fashion industry leases," said Ms. Aboulfadl, though there have been one or two cases of landlord harassment. She said the Chetrit Group has filed “frivolous lawsuits” and hired security to deter customers to get tenants in its West 37th Street building to abandon their space before their leases expire four years from now.

    “Most [landlords] are choosing not to renew leases, which is their right, but I don’t know what they are thinking, to be honest,” Ms. Aboulfadl said. “Once they get factories out, if they think they are going to get around the zoning, we’ll be watching.”

    The city's Economic Development Corporation did not respond to several requests for comment on what uses the neighborhood will be zoned for.
    Though Ms. Aboulfadl is not directly involved with the negotiations, she said, “Residential conversion is not on the table,” but added that she could not speak for the city.

    Steve Cohen, the owner of the 70-year-old, iconic bauble emporium M & J Trimming, took over the family business 11 years ago when the area was still “sketchy at night” and he had 60 local suppliers. Now, M & J works with about five vendors in the Garment District who are “either complaining or ridiculously expensive,” Mr. Cohen said.

    A picture of 38th Street and Sixth Avenue taken in 1997 shows a Bijoux Galore store in the plot now occupied by the Gotham rental building next door to M & J.

    Mr. Cohen’s grandfather started M & J Trimming almost on accident when a friend borrowed $5 and left a spool of lace on the counter of his linen store as collateral, his grandson recounted in the offices of the recently expanded store. A customer came in later and asked how much the lace cost; Mr. Cohen's grandfather charged her 50 cents, and when the friend returned later that evening to repay him, Mr. Cohen's grandfather asked for more lace instead.

    M&J has somehow managed to thrive as former competitors and factories go out of business and sell their machinery in China.

    “I’m not in denial about the fact that a lot of guys are shutting down,” said Mr. Cohen. “No new factories are coming in because it just doesn’t make sense with help so expensive. Not rezoning is almost holding the neighborhood back.”

    Mr. Geffner thinks the Garment District is too unique an asset for the city to squander. “Chicago is spending millions to develop a garment center. Meanwhile we’re going to come very close to losing one for the sake of a couple of buildings.”

    Copyright 2008 The New York Observer.

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    Architects drafting a better office space in Garment District

    Architecture firms find Garment District suits them



    By The Real Deal Staff
    July 2008

    When Gavin Macrae-Gibson moved his architecture firm from Midtown Manhattan to the Garment District in 1995, he had no idea he would soon be followed by many others in his trade.

    Once a thriving manufacturing area where an immigrant influx spurred the growth of the apparel industry, the Garment District, bounded roughly by Fifth and Ninth avenues and 34th and 42nd streets, by the 1990s had become one of the most depressed parts of Midtown Manhattan with the gradual loss of clothing factories, suppliers and wholesalers due to pressure from cheaper clothing imports.

    But it seems that at least one industry has quietly taken over the area over the past few years: architecture, along with its counterpart, engineering.

    "Maybe 10 or 15 years ago, there was a whole thing where architects had to be in Tribeca; it was cool or something," said Macrae-Gibson, whose firm, Macrae-Gibson Architects, has offices at 450 Seventh Avenue between 34th and 35th streets.

    "But I think after Sept. 11, a lot of architects moved from Downtown to affordable areas of Midtown. The Garment Center benefited from that influx, so we were a bit ahead of the curve there."

    Tom Oprea, the president of Oprea Design Group, also located at 450 Seventh Avenue, said he has been in his current location about four years. "I know of quite a few other architects in the neighborhood," Oprea said. "And I think the size of the space for the rent is pretty good. And it's convenient to other parts of the city."

    According to statistics compiled by commercial brokerage Cushman & Wakefield, the Penn Plaza/Garment District neighborhood has more space occupied by architects and engineers than any other neighborhood in Manhattan. About 906,525 square feet of space is used by the trades, which is 30 percent of the 3.03 million square feet of office space leased by architects and engineers throughout Manhattan.

    The Gramercy Park neighborhood has the second largest concentration of architects and engineers. In that neighborhood, they occupy 507,831 square feet of space. Chelsea comes in third, with 309,155 square feet utilized by the trades.

    David Levy, a principal at Adams & Co. Real Estate, said he first noticed a trend of architects moving to the Garment District about three years ago. Currently, in the 10018 zip code, which encompasses the Garment District, there are about 143 architecture firms.

    "We have a building at 48 West 37th Street with five floors, where I have five different architectural firms, and I thought it was unique to that building," Levy said. "But then, as I started looking at it more closely, I realized it's happening all over that area."

    Architects are attracted to the open, raw manufacturing spaces with affordable prices found in the Garment District, Levy said. Rents typically range from the low $30s to about $35 a square foot, he said.

    "The space is well priced, well lighted, lots of windows, interesting, with high ceilings, and creative," he said. "A lot of these buildings were used as apparel space, and apparel people are also creative, and as that business has contracted in size, it's left these open spaces with high ceilings that architects crave."

    Abraham Hidary, the president of Hidrock Realty, a developer and landlord with three buildings in the Garment District on West 36th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, said he recently signed two architectural firms in the area: WBTL Architects and China Construction Design International. Over the course of several weeks this spring, another seven architecture firms also looked at space in Hidrock's buildings, where rents range from $40 to $45 a square foot. Companies were looking for spaces ranging in size from 2,000 to 6,500 square feet, he said.

    "What our buildings have that's probably a benefit is a very lofty feel," Hidary said. "There are open ceilings, the concrete floor look, very large windows that are not cut by a drop ceiling, exposed ductwork. It's a raw look.

    "There are also buildings further down that have that in Soho and Union Square, but we're in a better transit area, right between Penn Station and Grand Central and the Port Authority."

    Barbara Raskob, the director of leasing at the Kaufman Organization and a commercial real estate owner and manager, said that at one point Chelsea was highly fashionable for architects, but that she has seen the Garment District grow in popularity. Though architects no longer need ample open spaces for their large drawing tables, since they use computers now, they still appreciate the loft concept, she said.

    "They still look for the wide open spaces that allow them to do mock-ups and displays, and to show whatever they're doing more readily," Raskob said. "It's not your traditional office layout."

    Perhaps even more important, many architects are finding clients among the fashion tenants of the Garment District, she said.

    "Tenants in the Garment Center have historically had wonderful showrooms, and they update them every couple of years, almost as frequently as they change their fashion lines, to stay in touch with and present a new image to their buyers," Raskob said. "So they need the use of architects perhaps more than the traditional office tenant, who will leave an office exactly the same for 15 years."

    Oprea, whose offices are at 450 Seventh Avenue, where the Kaufman Organization has about four other architecture firms, agreed that architects can find clients in the Garment District neighborhood. "I moved into this building because I have lots of clients in the neighborhood," he said.

    Macrae-Gibson, also in that building, agreed: "We've ended up doing a lot of work in the Garment District for a lot of owners. We've done a lot of building lobbies, façades, tenant spaces, retail, all kinds of things.

    "The Garment District itself is one of these districts that are in the process of changing, and change is good for architects."

    However, one change that may not be taking place any time soon is a proposed rezoning of the side streets between Sixth and Eighth avenues from 35th to 40th streets to allow office uses in those manufacturing zones, said Steven Kaufman, the senior managing director of the Kaufman Organization and a founding member of the Fashion Center Business Improvement District.

    The rezoning had been opposed by many businesses in the apparel industry, and Kaufman said the idea has died: "There's nothing happening with that right now. It's dead."

    However, city officials have not given up on the proposed Garment Center rezoning, said a spokesperson for the Department of City Planning. "A successful rezoning plan will balance the needs of the garment industry, the property owners and other developing businesses, and as soon as we achieve a consensus on what the right balance is, we will take a proposal forward into public review," said a statement released by the city.

    Kaufman said that if the rezoning does eventually pass, it would not really affect architects. It would not convert manufacturing areas to more offices for companies like architecture firms, but would essentially legitimize office uses that are already taking place, Kaufman said.

    "It [would legalize] what is already existing," he said, referring to the fact that there is currently little enforcement of zoning regulations restricting the use of manufacturing space for offices.

    © 2008 The Real Deal

  11. #11

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    October 21, 2009, 5:16 pm Hundreds Rally to Support Garment Center

    By Jennifer 8. Lee


    Hundreds of people gathered for a rally in the garment center on Wednesday to pressure the city to give more support to the fashion manufacturing sector.

    A crowd of hundreds — including garment workers, fashion students and even designers of high-end clothing — gathered for a rally in the garment center on Wednesday afternoon to show support for the city’s shrinking fashion manufacturing industry, which is in the center of a major debate over rezoning.

    While the Bloomberg administration initially proposed consolidating the garment industry into a dedicated building in exchange for freeing the rest of the district from zoning restrictions, that plan is no longer in discussion, industry executives say, in part because the building under consideration, which had about 300,000 square feet, is no longer available. Also, some notable designers, including Nanette Lepore, criticized the building as inadequate for what the industry would be giving up in exchange. “It would be such a sad, pathetic compromise to take the building and give up the zoning,” Ms. Lepore said.

    The Garment Center — which runs approximately from 34th to 40th Streets, between Broadway and Ninth Avenue — includes nine million square feet of commercial space. Only about two million square feet are still used for clothing manufacturing, according to a survey conducted by the Council of Fashion Designers of America over the summer. However, a 1987 zoning resolution broadly requires landlords to replace a closed garment factory with another garment firm, limiting the ability for landlords to convert the space to other uses. Nonetheless, hotels, condos and restaurants have been popping up in the neighborhood, as development pressure encroaches from surrounding neighborhoods.

    Steven Kolb, executive director for the council, said the question was, “How do you keep the need that is being met by that two million square feet in a way that works for everyone?”

    In its heyday, the 1950s and ’60s, the garment center produced 95 percent of all clothing sold in America. Today, only 5 percent of clothing sold in the United States is made domestically, though it represents 24 percent by sales volume as many of those are high-end pieces. The garment industry became a stepping stone into the middle class for many immigrants — first Italian and Jewish, and later Chinese and Latino. The history of the garment industry is the subject of a new HBO documentary called “Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags.” (”Schmatta” means “rag” in Yiddish.)

    Andrew Brent, a spokesman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, said in a statement:
    Despite decades of decline, New York City’s garment district has a core of manufacturing businesses that has remained even as the sector’s focus has shifted toward design and wholesale. We want to protect and nurture those core businesses and help keep the city the fashion capital of the world. At the same time, we want to make sure that other, underutilized space in the area is put to productive use. The trick is to find the right balance, and we’re working with the garment businesses, building owners, labor organizations and fashion groups to get there.
    One of the projects the administration announced this week was a fashion incubator that would offer below-market rents to emerging designers. The administration also stepped in to help find a home for Fashion Week at Lincoln Center.

    However, despite the administration’s interest in fashion, some have found the discussions with the city officials frustrating. Ms. Lepore, whose business has been active in zoning discussions, said that after the last meeting, which took place more than a week ago, things “did not look good for us.” The administration gave the industry representatives a “take it or leave it” message, she said.

    “They wanted a quick solution for what has been a problem for a long time,” Ms. Lepore said.

    So the rally was held, she said, in part to show the strength in numbers that the garment industry still commands. A mix of fashion designers (Ms. Lepore and Yeohlee Teng), politicians (the Democratic mayoral candidate, Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr.; the Manhattan borough president, Scott M. Stringer; and the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn), retailers (Joe Boitano, a vice president of Saks Fifth Avenue) and union officials addressed the crowd, which held up signs reading “Sew New York” and “Endangered Fabric.”

    Speakers advocated other proposals, including increased enforcement of zoning regulations, tax breaks for manufacturers, rent vouchers and interest-free loans for small businesses. Many argued that the government should be taking a more proactive stance to protect the industry. “When making films in New York became a priority, deals were made,” said Fern Mallis, the organizer of Fashion Week and vice president of IMG Fashion.
    Ms. Lepore, who started her business with just $5,000, emphasized that having small-scale manufacturers in the garment center helped nurture emerging talent, who can ask for smaller runs locally than they could overseas. “Only those with a big bank roll will be able to be start-up companies,” she said.

    And the physical proximity of the garment center was important for nurturing the sense of craftsmanship — having cutting rooms, pattern digitizers and thread suppliers near each other. “All the parts work together,” she said. The fashion press and the buyers come to New York’s Fashion Week not only for the headline names, but also for the underground designers. “They go for what is new and under the surface,” Ms. Lepore said.

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/20...ent-center/?hp

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by antinimby View Post
    About damn time.
    I take this back. I don't want to see this district rezoned. I prefer to see it get protected in some way. The older buildings in this area are beautiful.

  13. #13

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    Living in this district...
    I would have no problem with them converting some of these old buildings into residential lofts and what not...
    But a rule or law needs to be put into place, that clearly protects the outside facades so they can NOT be altered
    (except for a good cleaning),
    and none of these gems can be torn down to put up more glass boxes, or crappy sam chang track splats.

  14. #14

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    I agree with you, Scumonkey. The buildings in this area are incredibly beautiful. If they are cleaned, they will be magnificent.

  15. #15

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    Square Feet

    As Garment Industry Moves Out, Theater and Arts Move In

    By ALISON GREGOR

    Published: February 16, 2010

    South of 42nd Street in Manhattan, the bright lights of Broadway start to fade and give way to the trimmings shops, fabric stores and designers’ ateliers of the garment district. But in recent years, much of the clothing trade has moved overseas, leaving vacant factory spaces that have lured growing numbers of theater and arts groups to the area.

    Michael Appleton for The New York Times
    The Baryshnikov Arts Center spent about $8.5 million to turn its space on 37th Street into the Jerome Robbins Theater.

    Michael Appleton for The New York Times
    The 37 Arts building, which houses the Baryshnikov Arts Center near Ninth Avenue.

    Though the garment district isn’t quite “South Broadway,” real estate experts said it had become a logical choice for smaller organizations.

    Bounded by Fifth and Ninth Avenues from 34th to 42nd Streets, the area is a collection of smaller buildings with old tenements scattered among them, where rents have remained among the cheapest of any central business district in Manhattan, averaging $45 a square foot on avenues and $30 on side streets.

    The Times Square area, which is full of new Class A office space, has an average asking rent of just under $70 a square foot.

    “There are lots of spaces, particularly on side streets, that are loftlike, large, clean and very affordable — great opportunities for arts organizations, many of them nonprofits,” said Robin Abrams, an executive vice president at the Lansco Corporation, a commercial brokerage. “It’s centrally located and relatively close to the theater district, so that’s been the appeal.”

    Joining small theaters like the National Comedy Theater at 347 West 36th Street and the New Perspectives Theater Company at 456 West 37th Street are larger performing arts groups and theater service organizations priced out of Times Square and other parts of Manhattan. In December, the Pearl Theater Company moved to a 4,300-square-foot office at 307 West 38th street near Eighth Avenue, from the East Village.

    “If you walk through the area, it sort of looks like an arts district developing,” said Shira Beckerman, managing director of the Pearl. “In terms of the Off Broadway community, it feels as if there’s as many organizations in the garment district as there are right up in the Times Square area.”

    Ms. Beckerman said the cheaper space had enabled the Pearl to house its administration, rehearsal studio and costume shop under one roof and near its performance space on West 55th Street. Two other theater groups have offices in her building: Primary Stages and the LAByrinth Theater Company.

    Another newcomer is the Theater Development Fund, which, after decades in the Paramount Building at 1501 Broadway, was priced out of Times Square. In May 2009, the fund moved into 9,000 square feet at 520 Eighth Avenue between 36th and 37th Streets, still close to its TKTS booth in Times Square.

    “Small theaters in New York have always gone where there are spaces they can afford,” said Victoria Bailey, the fund’s executive director. “The small theaters go first, then the larger theaters or the larger service organizations follow. What’s happened is you’ve reached a bit more of a critical mass here.”

    The Baryshnikov Arts Center recently opened a new venue on the western fringe of the garment district. In 2005, the arts center bought the top floors of a six-story building on 37th Street between Ninth and 10th Avenues. Called 37 Arts, the building was developed by a group that included the Broadway producers Kevin McCollum and Jeffrey Seller.

    The Baryshnikov used its floors as offices and studio space, while the lower levels of 37 Arts were three small theaters rented by performance groups.

    Though successful musicals like “In the Heights” and “Fela!” appeared there before moving to Broadway, 37 Arts struggled, and in 2007 the Baryshnikov bought one of its theaters for $4.5 million. After spending $8.5 million to overhaul the space, the arts center opened it as the Jerome Robbins Theater on Feb. 16 with the Wooster Group as its resident company.

    In May 2008, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s bought the rest of the 37 Arts building, including the two remaining theaters. The orchestra has announced plans to create the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, which will be more than 20,000 square feet and provide a home for the orchestra along with rehearsal halls, studios and other amenities.

    Asked about the garment district as a location for performing arts, Stanford Makishi, executive director of the Baryshnikov Arts Center, said, “It’s gratifying that others have followed us here, because it suddenly feels like we made a really smart choice.”

    “There are really huge residential towers sprouting up all around us, and with that will come potential audience members,” he added, referring to new high-rises that will bring more than 2,300 apartments just north and west of the garment district.

    Yet that residential development, and its associated amenities, also means that rising rents could eventually drive out smaller theaters.

    “Even though the space here is more affordable than other places, the performance spaces, particularly those on the ground floor, are competing against retail uses, so it’s difficult for the smaller theater groups to make a go,” said Jonathan Denham, a principal with Denham Wolf Real Estate Services, a commercial real estate firm specializing in nonprofits that has consulted with many arts organizations in the garment district.

    David M. Pincus, chairman of the theater task force for Community Board 4, which represents the garment district, is also managing director of the WorkShop Theater Company. He said his theater and two others in the same building, at 312 West 36th Street near Eighth Avenue, were struggling to pay their rents, which had tripled over the last decade.

    While theaters and arts organizations have been promoting the area as an arts district with a festival each October for the last five years, that may not be enough. Mr. Pincus is pushing a Manhattan-wide property tax abatement for landlords who lease to performing arts tenants.

    He has also led an initiative to include 16,000 square feet of space for small theaters in the West Side railyards project, from 28th to 42nd Streets, which includes a western sliver of the garment district.

    “Still, that’s 10 or more years down the line,” Mr. Pincus said, “and many theaters are on the chopping block right now.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/17/re...l?ref=nyregion

    Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

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