By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — Pace University wants to transform the barren plaza in front of its downtown campus into an urban oasis.
"It really needs some help and some reinvigorating," said Tobias Bisharat, Pace's director of facilities, planning and design. "We just don't think it invites the community into the area, and we'd like to do that."
Rather than the largely empty concrete plaza dotted with "ugly planters," Bisharat envisions a lush green space with tables, chairs and public art.
Instead of commuters rushing across the plaza to get to the subway, Bisharat sees people relaxing under umbrellas, enjoying views of City Hall Park and the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge.
To bring this vision to life, Pace is applying for city funding through the Department of Transportation's Plaza Program, Bisharat told Community Board 1 Thursday night.
The city has built 17 plazas through the program and is working on another 25. Applications for the latest round of plazas are due at the end of June, and the city will announce the winners by early fall.
Under the program, the city would pay for the design and construction of the plaza, but Pace would maintain it and would bring public programs to the space.
Much of the 14,000-square-foot plaza at Spruce and Frankfort streets was once a city street and is still owned by the city, but Pace has maintained the area for many years as the gateway to its lower Manhattan campus, Bisharat said.
CB1's Planning and Community Infrastructure Committee praised the plaza idea at a meeting Thursday night and unanimously voted to write a letter of support to the city.
If the DOT approves Pace's proposal, the plaza could open in two to three years, Bisharat said.