NEW YORK — City officials have proposed earmarking a 300,000-square-foot Eighth Avenue building for apparel manufacturing and running it as a nonprofit organization.

This story first appeared in the November 10, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The vacant building is said to be between West 36th and West 42nd Streets, and it remains to be seen whether it would be dedicated solely to manufacturing or would house other aspects of the fashion business such as mom-and-pop operations, fabric shops, patternmakers and designer showrooms.

About 15 industry insiders, including a few Council of Fashion Designers of America representatives, Fashion Center Business Improvement District members, landlords and city officials, discussed the prospect at a closed-door City Hall meeting on Wednesday. But given the tug-of-war negotiating that has gone on for years over the area’s rezoning, few attendees were about to outright support the idea or even detail the discussions.

“It’s all to be considered,” said Steven Kolb executive director of the CFDA.

It’s unclear when the interested parties will meet again. However, a few attendees speculated the economic downturn could help speed the process along, since landlords, city officials and Garment Center tenants are all gunning for optimal deals.

It has not been determined whether the Eighth Avenue site would become the extent of the Garment Center’s designated zoning.

“The only fear I have is that we would give up too much square footage,” said one meeting attendee, who requested anonymity. “That is something that needs to be worked out.”

There is said to be some 1 million square feet in the Garment District being used for manufacturing, a sliver of the area’s total 10 million square feet. Preserving between 250,000 and 500,000 square feet is considered to be an acceptable compromise. The anticipated uptick in domestic manufacturing due to shorter runs, closer-to-need orders and rising production costs in India and China may make the new proposal more enticing to some, one attendee said.

“We are encouraged with the direction taken in today’s meeting. However, there are still many details that need to be worked out and other stakeholders to consult before we finalize a solution to ensure the Garment Center remains the vital core of the fashion industry,” said Patrick M. Murphy, head of fashion/retail growth initiatives for New York City’s Office of Economic Development.

Stan Herman, former CFDA president, who attended Wednesday’s meeting, said, “There is good will on the part of the city to make this work. They don’t want the Garment Center to be just a statue in its memory.”