Water Street: A New Approach

Why Now?

The challenges of Water Street are in sharp relief to the scope of the transformation taking place in the rest of Lower Manhattan. The revival of Stone Street as a lively restaurant row; the creation of a cobblestone pedestrian zone with high-end retail along Wall and Broad Streets; the engaging new esplanade along the East River Waterfront; the reconstruction of Fulton Street and the rebuilding of the World Trade Center – all of these changes only highlight what Water Street is missing. There is concern that without improvements to the public realm, Water Street will not sustain its status as a premium business address at a moment when a significant amount of the corridor’s space will be up for renewal in the next five years.

Yet, there is much that is right with Water Street. It is appreciated as the place to catch a cab in Lower Manhattan and the easy way to get in and out of the district. There is great public transportation access as well, including subways, ferries and buses. New transit projects, including the 1st/2nd Avenue Select Bus Service in 2010 and the Second Avenue subway in the long-term will enhance this advantage. Given its central location between the dynamic Financial District and a reinvigorated waterfront, the challenge is to redefine Water Street as an engaging commercial boulevard, connecting businesses which occupy the towers above to the exciting residential, retail and cultural developments taking shape all around Water Street.

In October 2008, the Downtown Alliance convened an ad hoc Committee on Water Street which included Lower Manhattan property owners, real estate brokers, arts presenters, small business owners, preservationists, residents, and Community Board members to rethink Water Street for the 21st century. It was led by Harry Bridgwood, Senior Vice President of the New Water Street Corporation, owner of 55 Water Street, Manhattan’s largest office building. This report sets forth the recommendations of this Committee to sustain Water Street’s competitiveness by improving the experience at the pedestrian level and integrating the corridor into the surrounding area.

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abreslau@downtownny.com