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City's New Zoning Plan Could Bring Life South of Penn Station

By DNAinfo Staff on April 28, 2011 6:16pm

By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

MIDTOWN — The city is hoping to transform the barren streets south of Penn Station into a thriving 24/7 neighborhood by creating a new zoning category for the blocks.

Today, the area once known as the "Fur District" is dominated by a few remaining fur wholesalers, small warehouses and parking lots, with little street life and few residents or restaurants.

But the City Planning Commission hopes to draw new life by creating a new zoning district stretching from West 28th Street to West 30th between Seventh and Eighth avenues, which would ease rules for development in the former manufacturing hub.

The new "M1-6D" designation would up density and loosen regulations for adding new residential units while preserving existing large commercial and industrial spaces.

Lots at least 50 feet wide would also be required to turn at least half of their ground floor spaces into retail.

"The proposed zoning would provide a new tool to enliven business districts," said Commissioner Amanda Burden in a statement. The commission described "a more robust mixed-use, '24/7' community that would help stitch these districts back into the evolving fabric of Manhattan."

While the commission had long considered changes to the area, the move in being spearheaded by 249 West 28th Street Properties, a subsidiary of Edison Properties, which wants to build a large new development between West 28th and West 29th streets, with new retail and office space and more than 400 residential units, some of which would be reserved for affordable housing.

In addition to drawing new residents, the city hopes to attract new types of businesses, including architectural firms, new media groups and other creative and professional services.

249 West 28th Street Properties did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Community Board 5 is set to weigh in on the plan at a public hearing next Wed. May 4.