With government officials issuing zoning proposals to stall the expansion of large chain stores on the Upper West Side, other Manhattan neighborhoods are beginning to take note. Areas downtown and on the Upper East Side are now developing similar plans, in order to preserve retail diversity within their respective neighborhoods.
A diminished community feel sparked the initial rezoning efforts along the Upper West Side, as new construction has brought in a modern set of inhabitants within the past decades. To many, the added co-op and luxury condominium buildings are seen as contributors to the neighborhood's proliferation of national banks, pharmacies, and chain stores. Although the UWS is one of the city’s healthiest retail markets, residents and government officials recognize that the area was once characterized by its high number of small businesses.
The rezoning would impact the majority of the Upper West Side’s commercial streets. New stores would be limited to a ground-floor width of 40 feet and banks to 25 feet along Columbus Avenue from West 73rd-87th Streets, and on Amsterdam, from 73rd-110th Streets. On Broadway, limitations would only be placed on the new banks.
These plans have encouraged other areas hoping to conserve neighborhood feel. Upper East Siders want to preserve the culture of their current small stores, and believe rezoning laws could be an incentive for new ones to open up. Further downtown, areas like the Lower East Side and the East Village want to limit the size and operating hours of new businesses. Through the creation of “special purpose districts,” growth would be seen among the various bars and restaurants, but chains and banks would have less of an opportunity to expand.
Although the increased desire for preservation is booming, the rezoning proposals do not come without skeptics. Residents favor the new establishments, because they provide the 24-hour convenience that smaller stores cannot afford. Critics also look back to the 1970s, when rules were created on the Upper East Side to maintain small businesses, and keep new chains out. Retail establishments were limited to 25 feet of frontage, but the measure eventually backfired, as spaces were left vacant, and even more chains moved in from what was initially there.
For the time being, whether or not other additional neighborhoods proceed with rezoning measures is yet to be determined, as many are still seeking approval from city council boards. Overall, it seems that these Manhattan neighborhoods do not want to keep big-box retailers and banks out entirely, but just put an end to the domination that seems to be occurring.