Volume 80, Number 46 | April 21 - 27, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Seventh Ave. favorite Tanti Baci Caffe has reopened at 31 W. Eighth St., joining Alma 33, Washington Square Pharmacy and The State Room as recent arrivals to the block.
Busy BID agenda: Filling stores to fixing up subway
By William Kelley
As the new kid on the block, I want to introduce myself and let you know about some of the Village Alliance business improvement district’s goals for the upcoming year. I feel privileged to succeed Honi Klein, whose many accomplishments during the past two decades have literally reshaped the Central Village for the better.
Since starting as the BID’s new executive director a few weeks ago, I have spent much of my time getting to know the hundreds of business and property owners within the 44-block Alliance business improvement district (Eighth St./St. Mark’s Place and the Sixth Ave., University Place and Broadway commercial corridors), as well as having the opportunity to meet with local residents. I truly appreciate the warm reception, and am thrilled with the variety of ideas, both big and small, that this active community proposes with heartfelt commitment to improving the neighborhood.
In listening to our neighbors, I have been struck by the similarity of our objectives, and by how much we have in common. As citizens of a mixed-use community, we all want safe, attractive streets, with a healthy mix of people and a diverse retail base that meets our needs. We want to be proud of our neighborhood, and today we are fortunate that the Village is one of the safest and most beautiful locales in the city. But there is still much that the Village Alliance can do to ensure that we maintain and enhance our area’s unique character and outstanding quality of life.
First things first: To better serve the district, one of the immediate goals for the upcoming year will be to modernize our office operations and add capacity. High on the list of priorities will be to upgrade our ability to monitor our sanitation and security operations, promote our local businesses and communicate with our constituency. We have recently hired a Business and Community Services Manager to administer internal systems and core services, and to solicit feedback from the business and residential community. Later this spring we will also hire a Director of Planning and Economic Development to manage capital improvements, revitalization efforts and business assistance programs.
Once staff and systems are in place, our major focus will turn to economic development efforts in the district. Although the Central Village commercial core is generally on solid ground, certain blocks have seen vacancy and turnover rates rise precipitously over the past few months. West Eighth St. in particular will receive attention, and we are already collecting statistics and survey data to delineate core issues. Along with community input, our action plan will incorporate a series of revitalization tools for businesses, property owners and the public sector, and will range from streetscape, sustainability and storefront improvements, to retail attraction and marketing initiatives. The W. Eighth St. revitalization action plan is being undertaken along with our partners at the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce and No Longer Empty, which orchestrates public art exhibitions in vacant storefront spaces.
The Village Alliance will also engage the public sector on two major capital projects in the upcoming year. The first is the city’s plan to renovate Astor Place and Cooper Square, where additional plaza space, pavement treatments and landscaping will transform the intersections into a pedestrian-friendly public realm worthy of a world-class neighborhood. Second, along with Community Board 2, the Alliance will advance a detailed scope of work with the M.T.A. for much-needed upgrades to the W. Fourth St. subway station.
After hearing from many of our local merchants, our final goal for the upcoming year will be to better connect to the community and increase promotional activities. Although building community will take time, our first steps will be to completely overhaul our Web site to meet the needs of our local market — the 100,000 residents, 60,000 students and 25,000 workers who stroll, dine and shop along our streets. Finding the right way to reach our target audience through a creative combination of social media, events, electronic and print marketing will be essential to giving our local businesses a boost. With the closure of St. Vincent’s Hospital and increasing competition from nearby retail districts, it is imperative that our local businesses receive the exposure necessary to remain competitive and to maintain healthy retail corridors.
We are both excited and challenged by the year that lies ahead, and welcome everyone to give us your thoughts and ideas on how we can make the neighborhood a better place to live, work and visit. Our door is always open, so feel free to drop by our storefront office anytime at 8 E. Eighth St. to say hello. We’ll see you around the neighborhood!
Kelley is executive director, Village Alliance business improvement district