Streetscapes - Statement of Interest

125th Street is a very important retail corridor for the city of New York and particularly the Harlem community for a number of reasons.  It is:

1. the main shopping district for Upper Manhattan, 2. the center for African American culture; 3. a center with important arts, cultural, and entertainment facilities along the street and nearby, such as the Studio Museum of Harlem, the Apollo Theater, Showmans Jazz, Dwyers Cultural Center, and Faison Firehouse Theater, 4.a convergence point for many neighborhoods; and 5. a major transportation hub. 

The mission of the 125th Street Business Improvement District (BID) is to expand economic activity with a strong emphasis on culture and complementary culture-related commercial throughout the entire area, to maximize the ability of local residents, businesses, and institutions to benefit from the expansion, to create a more pleasant experience for shoppers and pedestrians, and to improve quality of life. 
125th Street has become a hodgepodge of streetscape elements with no uniformity, many of the elements are in poor condition due to a lack of overall coordination for implementation and maintenance.  As 125th Street, the “Heart of Harlem”, continues to grow and change, ensuring it does so in a pedestrian-oriented and vibrant way while maintaining its unique character and charm is a high priority for the BID. The visitor to 125th Street should be embraced by culture when they are walking through the corridor, and a goal of the BID is for the art and culture of 125th Street to be reflected in the physical design of the street.  Harlem, and particularly 125th Street, is a place defined by its historical relationship to indigenous cultural development.  A culturally collaborative streetscape improvement plan should create a pedestrian friendly environment with the design of amenities such as wayfinding, enhanced paving, parking, sidewalks, street furniture, lighting improvements, street trees, and other green spaces. Current BID streetscape projects include physical improvements such as new street lighting and traffic signals, the development of proposed zoning regulations to allow for arts and cultural advertising signage, and a banner design program with Harlem Art Alliance.
The recent rezoning of 125th Street reflects the City’s commitment to support the development of arts and cultural establishments in the corridor, enhance the district’s identity, and establish the area as an arts and entertainment destination.  Research has shown that consolidated arts districts yield substantial economic benefits to the regions in which they are located. Elements of the rezoning include the development of a core subdistrict with an arts and entertainment requirement and the creation of an Arts Bonus that provides developers with a floor area bonus in exchange for the development of visual or performing arts space within new development. . A culturally collaborative streetscape improvement plan would lay the groundwork for future development, notably for the arts community. 
Please review the full version of our Culturally Collaborative Streetscape Improvement Plan