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Proposed Upper West Side Neighborhood Storefronts

The Department of City Planning proposes a zoning amendment and a zoning map amendment to establish two Special Enhanced Commercial Districts in Manhattan Community District 7 on the Upper West Side. The Special Districts would apply to 77 block fronts along Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues, and 73 block fronts along Broadway.

The Department of City Planning (DCP) was approached by the Upper West Side community and elected officials with a list of issues that the community believed threatened the local retail landscape.

Back in 2007, I wrote a post Say No to DRUGS store chains, after 4 of my long-time neighborhood mom and pop stores and restaurants were forced out of business.

Broadway between 87th & 88th Street July 2007
I wrote about banks and drugstore chains changing the face of the neighborhood and I didn't think it was a pretty face.  I wondered if we needed new zoning laws restricting the number of mega drugstore chains and banks.

The new landlord that inherited the building at the time had even bigger aspirations than a bank and drugstore chain. Perhaps one day a Ricky's and a prestigious store like Brooks Brothers would lease the space  instead of the mom and pop stores.

Broadway between 87th & 88th vacant from 2007-2011
Uniqlo (August - September  2011)
So he waited and waited! The block remained vacant from the summer of 2007 until this past summer when Ricky's hair care chain opened along with the short lived Japaneese retail chain Uniqlo that opened in August and closed the end of September 2011.

Broadway between 87th & 88th  today (Brooks Brothers opening soon)

The city’s plan to limit the size of Upper West Side storefronts won approval from Community Board 7′s Land Use Committee this week. The committee voted 11 to 2 to pass the rules. It still needs full board approval.

According to the Department of City Planning  the frontage limitations proposed respond to conditions on the Upper West Side that are largely unique compared with other areas of the City. The UWS has a high residential density and a limited amount of commercial space - which is disproportionately occupied by banks.

"The need to maintain retail diversity is greater due to the presence of only three commercial corridors (Broadway, Amsterdam and Columbus) that serve a large residential population".

The proposed Special District regulations would be applicable to lots with a frontage on the following portions of Broadway, Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues:
  • Special Enhanced Commercial District – 2 includes Amsterdam Avenue bounded by 75th Street and 110th Street on the west side, excluding the blocks between 100th – 101st and 102nd-103rd streets, and bounded by 73rd and 87th streets, and 105th and 109th streets on the east side of the avenue; and
  • Columbus Avenue bounded by 72nd and 87th streets.

  • Special Enhanced Commercial District -3 includes Broadway bounded by 72nd Street and 110th Street on the west side, and 74th Street and 110th Street on the east side;
Studying the Upper West Side block by block, City Planning responded to the community's concerns with the proposed Special Districts by limiting the frontage of most new and expanding retail and commercial establishments along Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues, and limiting the frontage of new and expanding banks and residential lobbies along Broadway, Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues. It would apply ground floor transparency requirements for new buildings to enhance the pedestrian environment.


  1. I really think that more cities and towns need to limit the amount of large businesses that come into an area. It's ridiculous how many small businesses close due to these mega stores, whether it's WalMart or Rite Aid.

    Thanks for posting.

  2. Barbara, Thank you for your comment. Small businesses give a neighborhood it's flavor.

  3. It is naive to think that this zoning proposal will keep out the big chains by limiting storefront sizes. Broadway is exempt except for banks. Not in the zone, Columbus Square located between 97-100th streets on Columbus Avenue is what will be created in new buildings. Small storefronts with big stores will become the norm. The developers are already creating thirty foot storefronts at Columbus Square.

    If the real intent is to save small retail businesses which it isn't, then more competively priced retail space must be made available. This means creating additional commercial overlays in the residential areas specifically for small retail spaces with square footage maximums.


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