On June 30, 2009, the City Council adopted the Lower Concourse Rezoning. The zoning map and text changes are now in effect.
The Department of City Planning is proposing to rezone a 30-block area surrounding the lower end of the Grand Concourse, map a new waterfront park, establish a Waterfront Access Plan, make the provisions of Inclusionary Zoning applicable in the area, and other related actions in order to create new investment opportunities and open space in the underutilized but transit-rich Lower Concourse area. The proposed actions will transform a waning industrial waterfront area and the lower Grand Concourse into a vibrant, mixed-use, mixed-income community with new housing, waterfront open space, and an array of retail services. The Lower Concourse is located in Community Board 1 in the Bronx, generally bounded by the Harlem River to the west, E. 149th Street to the north, Morris and Lincoln Avenues to the east, and the Major Deegan Expressway to the south. See a map of the study area here.
This area has historically been industrial, with a mix of 4 to 12 story loft buildings and lower-rise industrial and automotive uses. However, several multistory loft buildings stand partially vacant, many waterfront lots are underutilized or vacant, and employment has declined over the past two decades. In the past decade, however, the South Bronx has enjoyed a resurgence of housing development, leaving a shortage of available sites for much-needed new housing. Current zoning in the Lower Concourse does not allow residential development, limiting opportunities to redevelop underutilized property.
The Department’s proposal seeks to:
Provide opportunities for new residential development:
Over the past two decades, the South Bronx has experienced a substantial amount of new housing construction, beginning to rebound from substantial disinvestment and population loss experienced during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Most vacant sites have been developed or are programmed for development, leaving a shortage of available sites for new residential development to continue to recoup earlier population losses. Current manufacturing zoning in the Lower Concourse does not allow residential development.
Encourage the reuse of underutilized industrial land and lofts:
While an industrial presence remains in the Lower Concourse, industrial firms and jobs have declined in this area, leaving vacant and underutilized land and buildings. Many of these buildings are attractive multi-story loft buildings which are appropriate for residential or commercial reuse. At the same time, a recent surge in residential development throughout the rest of the borough has left little vacant land available for new housing development. The proposed action would create opportunities for new housing development on underutilized and vacant land and loft buildings in this highly-transit accessible location.
Retain viable light industry:
The proposed mixed-use district would permit the continuation and expansion of current industrial uses as well as the development of new light industrial uses. A vast majority of existing businesses would remain conforming in the proposed mixed-use district.
Create attractive new gateways into the Bronx:
The Lower Concourse is an important gateway into the Bronx which defines first impressions of the borough for many commuters. The proposed rezoning would encourage high-profile redevelopment which would create a highly-visible symbol of the Bronx’s resurgence. Proposed zoning along the lower Grand Concourse would encourage new development more consistent with the historic Grand Concourse to the north. The proposed waterfront park and rezoning would encourage the redevelopment of the Harlem River in a manner more appropriate to this highly-visible entrance to the borough.
Better connect surrounding neighborhoods of Mott Haven and Port Morris:
Residents and workers in the surrounding neighborhoods cross through the Lower Concourse area in order to reach subway stations, places of employment, existing institutions, and the waterfront. Redevelopment would make this area a livelier and potentially safer connection to surrounding communities. New homes and stores on major streets would provide eyes on the street, making a safer walking environment at night. Waterfront development would begin to connect surrounding neighborhoods together along the Harlem River.
Provide new waterfront open space to an underserved community:
The South Bronx has long been cut off from the waterfront by industry and infrastructure. This is beginning to change with the construction of a new 9 acre waterfront park directly north of proposed rezoning area. This rezoning aims to build upon this new parkland by encouraging new waterfront development with required publicly-accessible waterfront open space. As each lot redevelops, this waterfront open space would create a continuous promenade along the Harlem River and connect the parks to the north with the existing Port Morris community to the south.
Encourage the development of new affordable housing:
There is a need for affordable housing in the South Bronx and in the city as a whole. Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan has set a goal of creating over 165,000 units of affordable housing over 10 years. Establishing the Lower Concourse as an Inclusionary Zoning area would encourage the provision of new permanently-affordable housing in order to help meet this goal. Under the Inclusionary Zoning program, developers would only be able to reach the maximum allowable residential FAR if they provide permanently affordable housing either on site or off site in new or existing buildings.
Encourage grocery store access:
The South Bronx is underserved by grocery stores. In the existing M1 and MX districts food stores greater than 10,000 square feet require a special permit. Mindful that the Lower Concourse proposal would bring more residents to the area and that existing residents are already underserved, the Department proposes lifting the special permit requirement so that grocery stores of any size would be allowed as-of-right within the Lower Concourse MX district.
Identify best practices for limiting conflicts between residential and industrial uses within Mixed-use districts:
In conjunction with the proposed rezoning; the Department of City Planning will undertake a transportation study with the goal of identifying conflicts between industrial and residential uses in MX districts across the city and in the Bronx. This study will identify best practices for limiting these conflicts.
A .pdf version of the presentation could be found here.