The Fashion Center Business Improvement District sees a future with pedestrian and bike lanes on Broadway, the possible relocation of 7th on Sixth to a rooftop space at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the designation of the Garment District as a historic area.
FCBID executive director Barbara Randall said during the organization's annual meeting last week that the district has changed more in the last year than it has in the past decade, including more nonapparel company tenants. And with substantial commercial expansion planned on Manhattan's West Side, including possible development at the rail yards, the group is trying to prepare for the anticipated influx of newcomers.
While rezoning the Garment District to broaden the tenant mix is still undecided, Randall hopes that 500,000 to 1 million square feet will be designated for manufacturing, compared with the 7 million square feet that is earmarked. Setting up an incentive plan for showrooms to stay in the district needs to be addressed, she said.
"The city would never let a company with 80,000 employees just move out," Randall said, referring to the estimated number of apparel-related workers.
Of the 27,000 people with apparel and textile manufacturing jobs in New York City, only 10,000 work in the Garment District. Although Randall does not expect domestic manufacturing to return to what it was during the district's heyday, she is seeing an upswing in demand for New York-based production from companies that either are unable to meet the minimums mandated in China or need swift turnaround time for samples.
However, the city's Economical Development Corp. and Department of City Planning have yet to meet with landlords, designers and manufacturers to agree on new zoning for the district.
Fashion-related businesses occupy 60 percent of the district even though industry jobs only account for 24.5 percent of the sector's employment. "Very sadly, the zoning alone has not been able to stem the tide of industry jobs moving out of the district and in most cases out of the country," Randall said.
This is happening as interest in the district increases, partly because of publicity from the Bryant Park fashion shows, reality shows like Bravo's "Project Runway" and also because it is one of the few remaining neighborhoods that is defined by an industry, Randall said.