By Patrick Hedlund
DNAinfo News Editor
CHINATOWN — Call it Chinatown's mini High Line.
The city is moving forward with a project to transform a triangular plot of land at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge into a modern public plaza featuring plants, seating and art installations, officials said Thursday.
The raised space — bordered by the Manhattan Bridge to the west, Canal Street to the north and Forsyth Street to the east — features only gravel and a collection of ailing trees, said a representative from the Department of Transportation at a meeting hosted by Community Board 3.
Aside from a full renovation of the lot, the city also plans to widen the sidewalk on Forsyth Street next to the plaza by about 10 feet to better accommodate the bustling greenmarket that operates year-round at the location.
"That's one of the largest goals of this project," said Vaidila Kungys, senior project manager for public spaces in the DOT's division of planning and sustainability, of complementing the open-air market that features about two-dozen vendors.
The plan also seeks to expand the sidewalk on Canal Street adjacent to the plaza to create a more pedestrian-friendly experience for visitors and the many cyclists exiting the Manhattan Bridge.
The project is still in the preliminary stages, with a budget of just more than $1 million, and will rely on public input to shape the plaza's future look.
Other possible features of the site include a creative lighting scheme, moveable tables and chairs, bike racks and a vending kiosk on the plaza.
"There's a lot of potential there," said Kevin Kong, of the nonprofit Renaissance Economic Development Corporation, which proposed the site for renovation.
A city Department of Cultural Affairs panel will select a group of finalists to create the space's art installation, which the community board said should reflect the local community.
"It is very much a Chinatown project," said CB 3 district manager Susan Stetzer, who urged officials to ensure that any future art be representative of the neighborhood's culture.
She also asked that the plaza include "playground elements" to encourage more use by children.
Given the area's location next to the Manhattan Bridge, officials said some steps could be taken to address issues of noise and air quality, like a wall of trees planted adjacent to the bridge's exit ramp.
The project is one of seven plaza redesigns the city is currently pursuing, and it will remain in the design phase through at least the beginning of 2012, with a tentative completion date a year later.
The city will hold a public workshop to elicit ideas for the plan on Thurs., March 10, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., at 111 Division St. in Chinatown.