Water Street: A New Approach
Why Water Street?
Water Street is Lower Manhattan's most important commercial corridor. Running more than half a mile from Whitehall Street to Fulton Street, it is flanked by more than 19 million square feet of Class A and Class B+ office space. It is home to some of Lower Manhattan’s largest companies – including AIG, Standard & Poor’s and Emblem Health – as well as countless small and mid-sized firms, which combined employ over 70,000 people.
Yet, despite its importance as a commercial sub-district, Water Street exemplifies the oft-cited complaints about many downtowns across the country – predominantly commercial in use, deserted in the evenings and on weekends, lacking retail options and restaurants. The incongruous presence of loading docks and blank walls contributes to an underwhelming pedestrian experience, while many of the arcades and other privately owned public spaces known as "POPS" that proliferate along the street fall short of their intended purpose: to invite public use.
Despite its density and daytime population, Water Street lacks the vitality of other New York City commercial corridors because it fails to engage the public at the pedestrian level. Almost no one walks along Water Street for more than two consecutive blocks. The pedestrian traffic that exists moves primarily across the street, but the width and vehicular speeds make the crossing feel unsafe. There are few amenities or retail options available in high-traffic areas. These conditions create an anonymous and uninviting environment along Water Street that undermines the appeal of this important corridor.