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A Look Back on a Great Year in the Central Village

As 2013 comes to a close, we would like to take this time to reflect on the past year’s efforts and accomplishments.  2013 was a turning point for the district, as major new developments and retailers opened their doors (51 Astor Place, the Marlton and Jade Hotels, Stumptown Coffee, Burger Joint and Beth Israel Medical, to name a few) and began to attract a new clientele to the neighborhood.  And at long last, construction began in August on the transformative Astor Place/Cooper Square public space project. 

We are thrilled that the quality and variety of new businesses opening in the district continues to improve, and that our core services continue to improve the neighborhood.  As always, the Village Alliance would like to thank our property owners, businesses and neighbors for your continued support.   Below are highlights of our major activities over the past year:

ASTOR PLACE PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT

We’re off and running on the long-awaited revitalization of Astor Place and Cooper Square, as construction began in August on the southern half of the project.  By fall 2015 we can expect four new landscaped public spaces to be open to the public, creating over half an acre of dynamic and engaging new civic space for the entire community. 

In order to successfully operate from the very beginning, the Alliance worked with Project for Public Spaces this past spring on a visioning plan for how best to program the new plazas.  After convening a series of focus groups with local stakeholders as well as an open public workshop, the Alliance determined a set of programming goals and developed a concept plan for the two northern spaces, Subway Plaza and Alamo Plaza.  We then worked with CityActivators to research specific programming possibilities with local partners, create budgets, space use guidelines and an overall management and operations plan.

The Village Alliance wants Astor Place to be a thriving new focal point for our community. With a comprehensive activation plan set in place long before opening day, we can ensure the success of what will become the heart and anchor of our district.  The Astor Place of today leaves no space to pause – there is little sense of place and little reason to linger. The Astor Place of tomorrow will be a neighborhood destination that not only attracts the casual pedestrian but also the local resident, office worker, student and leisure seeker: NYC at its best!

POSITIVELY 8TH STREET CAMPAIGN

Stemming from research performed in 2012 with NYU’s student-run Stern Consulting Corps, the Village Alliance launched the “Positively 8th Street” branding and retail attraction campaign.  High vacancy rates on 8th Street over the past few years and an outdated image necessitated a coordinated plan to address these longstanding issues. 

Working first with landlords, the Alliance profiled business merchandise and models that are currently succeeding on the street, encouraged leasing and sharing prospects following these models to lower vacancy rates and decrease turnover.  Building on these principles of retail attraction, the Positively 8th Street campaign seeks to celebrate the cultural and social history of the neighborhood (a reference to the Bob Dylan song) while highlighting the increasingly sophisticated artisanal goods and services being offered on the famous retail corridor.

The public campaign began in June with the two-day Positively 8th Street Festival, in which cultural organizations set up on the block with several free activities, moveable seating and games, a “Beatnik Picnic” on fresh grass turf laid in the street, a kids area and musical performances all day.  Restaurants and shops were also allowed to set up outside their storefront to visibly market goods to a new audience.  Colorful “Positively 8th Street” banners were also installed along 8th Street and will be up for the entire campaign.  A series of events, marketing print and digital collateral also conveyed the branding message to the public.

On the retail attraction front, the Alliance researched and packaged demographic and retail trends over the summer for prospective retailers and commercial real estate brokers  In November, the Alliance and Buchbinder & Warren, LLC, hosted the “Positively 8th Street Retail Open House,” inviting prospects to visit the new 8th Street, speak with business owners and tour currently available space.  We will follow up the success of the event with targeted mailings in the new year.  Positively 8th Street is so far working – since beginning the campaign almost a year ago, vacancy rates have gone from roughly 14% down to 10%, more in line with historic levels.

MARKETING & EVENTS

Spring Networking Event:  “State of the Village Real Estate”

Last spring, the Village Alliance, Capital One Bank and Massey Knakal Realty Services hosted a business networking event recapping the latest real estate trends in the Village, including activity in commercial sub-markets, asking rents and projections for the coming year.  Close to 60 attendees were able to network and ask the experts at Massey Knakal, James Nelson and Brendan Gotch, their advice on a number of real estate topics.

Digital Communication 
In the 18 months since launching our Twitter feed (@VillageAlliance) and Facebook page (Facebook.com/TheVillageAlliance), we continue to grow these communication channels at a robust rate, tripling both followers over the past year. Our website traffic increased 34% over the same period as we continually find new ways to promote Central Village businesses, cultural institutions and events to the local community.  We also plan to add an Instagram account in the new year.

NYU Resource Guide
In September, the Village Alliance prepared the first ever “Residential Advisor Resource Guide” to encourage NYU dormitory staff and freshmen to patronize locally-owned businesses.  RA’s have budgets for several outings per semester, and we encourages Central Village businesses to offer specific promotions targeted at thousands of entering freshmen and their advisors.

Taste of the Village
On September 26th, the Village Alliance produced the 11th Annual Taste of the Village benefit for Washington Square Park, offering an opportunity for local restaurants to provide samples to over 400 guests.  Partnering with the newly formed Washington Square Park Conservancy for the first time, together we raised almost $45,000 for park maintenance services.  The Village Alliance funded the Parks Department this year to pay for much needed dedicated Park Enforcement Police position.

Village Holiday Gift Guide

The Village Alliance published the second annual Village Holiday Gift Guide this year in time for “Thanksgivukkah.”  With more stores included than previously, the gift guide encourages residents and visitors to shop locally in Central Village boutiques to find one-of-a-kind gift ideas.  We distributed thousands of guides to local apartment buildings, businesses, information centers, through social media and on villagealliance.org and had a tremendously positive response to the initiative.

STREETSCAPE & SAFETY

Public Safety Program
We are pleased to report that our patrol officers with Archangel Security International have been a valued and dedicated extension of our own staff over the past year, working five evening shifts per week.  As ambassadors to the district, patrol officers regularly check in with merchants to assess safety concerns, interact with residents and visitors, answering questions and requests for directions; and provide constructive feedback in daily reports to inform meetings with police and property managers.  Over the past year, ASI has logged a staggering 8,688 incidents, providing the Alliance with invaluable information and statistics that allow us to more effectively address recurring street conditions.

Streetscape Improvements
The Alliance is busy year-round caring for trees, tree pits, hanging baskets and other public landscaped areas in the district.  In FY 2013 we care for trees along St. Marks Place and also repaired much of the crumbling bluestone pavers along Sixth Avenue that have become a nuisance for businesses, property owners and pedestrians alike.  Along with Community Board 2, we continue to seek a city budget line item to replace the bluestone with more durable concrete that is attractive and easier to maintain; however, we have a long road ahead to make this funding request a reality. 

LOOKING AHEAD: THE VILLAGE GATEWAY

When you think of Greenwich Village, images of quaint tree-lined streets filled with small shops and cafes come to mind.   But what images do you conjure when you think about actually arriving in the Village?   Most likely unfavorable – one of the major transportation portals which define where and how people begin their Village experience, the gateway at 6th Avenue and West 8th Street around the West 4th Street subway station needs serious attention. 

With over 12 million people each year using the West 4th Street subway station, it is one of the busiest in the city and one of the busiest intersections in the Village.  Yet there is a disconnect between the number of people passing through and those staying to shop – the area sees high vacancies, aggressive street vending and zoning regulations which ban sidewalk cafes.   The problems of 6th Avenue are linked to the issues of West 8th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues which has had difficulty retaining retailers in the past 20 years while surrounding blocks have thrived.

Our goal is to strengthen the “Village Gateway” at the intersection of 6th Avenue and West 8thStreet and to stabilize the retail presence.  The Village Alliance is proposing a four-pronged approach, including renovations to the subway station, enforcement of vending regulations, reconstructing the Sixth Avenue sidewalk with more durable material, and transforming Ruth Wittenberg Triangle into an inviting urban space with ample seating, increased landscaping and a new information kiosk.  Together these efforts will create a gateway we can all be proud of.

On behalf of the Board and staff of the Village Alliance, we wish you a happy and prosperous 2014!

As 2013 comes to a close, we would like to take this time to reflect on the past year’s efforts and accomplishments.  2013 was a turning point for the district, as major new developments and retailers opened their doors (51 Astor Place, the Marlton and Jade Hotels, Stumptown Coffee, Burger Joint and Beth Israel Medical, to name a few) and began to attract a new clientele to the neighborhood.  And at long last, construction began in August on the transformative Astor Place/Cooper Square public space project. 

We are thrilled that the quality and variety of new businesses opening in the district continues to improve, and that our core services continue to improve the neighborhood.  As always, the Village Alliance would like to thank our property owners, businesses and neighbors for your continued support.   Below are highlights of our major activities over the past year:

ASTOR PLACE PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT

We’re off and running on the long-awaited revitalization of Astor Place and Cooper Square, as construction began in August on the southern half of the project.  By fall 2015 we can expect four new landscaped public spaces to be open to the public, creating over half an acre of dynamic and engaging new civic space for the entire community. 

In order to successfully operate from the very beginning, the Alliance worked with Project for Public Spaces this past spring on a visioning plan for how best to program the new plazas.  After convening a series of focus groups with local stakeholders as well as an open public workshop, the Alliance determined a set of programming goals and developed a concept plan for the two northern spaces, Subway Plaza and Alamo Plaza.  We then worked with CityActivators to research specific programming possibilities with local partners, create budgets, space use guidelines and an overall management and operations plan.

The Village Alliance wants Astor Place to be a thriving new focal point for our community. With a comprehensive activation plan set in place long before opening day, we can ensure the success of what will become the heart and anchor of our district.  The Astor Place of today leaves no space to pause – there is little sense of place and little reason to linger. The Astor Place of tomorrow will be a neighborhood destination that not only attracts the casual pedestrian but also the local resident, office worker, student and leisure seeker: NYC at its best!

POSITIVELY 8TH STREET CAMPAIGN

Stemming from research performed in 2012 with NYU’s student-run Stern Consulting Corps, the Village Alliance launched the “Positively 8th Street” branding and retail attraction campaign.  High vacancy rates on 8th Street over the past few years and an outdated image necessitated a coordinated plan to address these longstanding issues. 

Working first with landlords, the Alliance profiled business merchandise and models that are currently succeeding on the street, encouraged leasing and sharing prospects following these models to lower vacancy rates and decrease turnover.  Building on these principles of retail attraction, the Positively 8thStreet campaign seeks to celebrate the cultural and social history of the neighborhood (a reference to the Bob Dylan song) while highlighting the increasingly sophisticated artisanal goods and services being offered on the famous retail corridor.

The public campaign began in June with the two-day Positively 8th Street Festival, in which cultural organizations set up on the block with several free activities, moveable seating and games, a “Beatnik Picnic” on fresh grass turf laid in the street, a kids area and musical performances all day.  Restaurants and shops were also allowed to set up outside their storefront to visibly market goods to a new audience.  Colorful “Positively 8th Street” banners were also installed along 8th Street and will be up for the entire campaign.  A series of events, marketing print and digital collateral also conveyed the branding message to the public.

On the retail attraction front, the Alliance researched and packaged demographic and retail trends over the summer for prospective retailers and commercial real estate brokers  In November, the Alliance and Buchbinder & Warren, LLC, hosted the “Positively 8th Street Retail Open House,” inviting prospects to visit the new 8th Street, speak with business owners and tour currently available space.  We will follow up the success of the event with targeted mailings in the new year.  Positively 8th Street is so far working – since beginning the campaign almost a year ago, vacancy rates have gone from roughly 14% down to 10%, more in line with historic levels.

MARKETING & EVENTS

Spring Networking Event:  “State of the Village Real Estate”

Last spring, the Village Alliance, Capital One Bank and Massey Knakal Realty Services hosted a business networking event recapping the latest real estate trends in the Village, including activity in commercial sub-markets, asking rents and projections for the coming year.  Close to 60 attendees were able to network and ask the experts at Massey Knakal, James Nelson and Brendan Gotch, their advice on a number of real estate topics.

Digital Communication 
In the 18 months since launching our Twitter feed (@VillageAlliance) and Facebook page (Facebook.com/TheVillageAlliance), we continue to grow these communication channels at a robust rate, tripling both followers over the past year. Our website traffic increased 34% over the same period as we continually find new ways to promote Central Village businesses, cultural institutions and events to the local community.  We also plan to add an Instagram account in the new year.

NYU Resource Guide
In September, the Village Alliance prepared the first ever “Residential Advisor Resource Guide” to encourage NYU dormitory staff and freshmen to patronize locally-owned businesses.  RA’s have budgets for several outings per semester, and we encourages Central Village businesses to offer specific promotions targeted at thousands of entering freshmen and their advisors.

Taste of the Village
On September 26th, the Village Alliance produced the 11th Annual Taste of the Village benefit for Washington Square Park, offering an opportunity for local restaurants to provide samples to over 400 guests.  Partnering with the newly formed Washington Square Park Conservancy for the first time, together we raised almost $45,000 for park maintenance services.  The Village Alliance funded the Parks Department this year to pay for much needed dedicated Park Enforcement Police position.

Village Holiday Gift Guide

The Village Alliance published the second annual Village Holiday Gift Guide this year in time for “Thanksgivukkah.”  With more stores included than previously, the gift guide encourages residents and visitors to shop locally in Central Village boutiques to find one-of-a-kind gift ideas.  We distributed thousands of guides to local apartment buildings, businesses, information centers, through social media and on villagealliance.org and had a tremendously positive response to the initiative.

STREETSCAPE & SAFETY

Public Safety Program
We are pleased to report that our patrol officers with Archangel Security International have been a valued and dedicated extension of our own staff over the past year, working five evening shifts per week.  As ambassadors to the district, patrol officers regularly check in with merchants to assess safety concerns, interact with residents and visitors, answering questions and requests for directions; and provide constructive feedback in daily reports to inform meetings with police and property managers.  Over the past year, ASI has logged a staggering 8,688 incidents, providing the Alliance with invaluable information and statistics that allow us to more effectively address recurring street conditions.

Streetscape Improvements
The Alliance is busy year-round caring for trees, tree pits, hanging baskets and other public landscaped areas in the district.  In FY 2013 we care for trees along St. Marks Place and also repaired much of the crumbling bluestone pavers along Sixth Avenue that have become a nuisance for businesses, property owners and pedestrians alike.  Along with Community Board 2, we continue to seek a city budget line item to replace the bluestone with more durable concrete that is attractive and easier to maintain; however, we have a long road ahead to make this funding request a reality. 

LOOKING AHEAD: THE VILLAGE GATEWAY

When you think of Greenwich Village, images of quaint tree-lined streets filled with small shops and cafes come to mind.   But what images do you conjure when you think about actually arriving in the Village?   Most likely unfavorable – one of the major transportation portals which define where and how people begin their Village experience, the gateway at 6th Avenue and West 8th Street around the West 4thStreet subway station needs serious attention. 

With over 12 million people each year using the West 4th Street subway station, it is one of the busiest in the city and one of the busiest intersections in the Village.  Yet there is a disconnect between the number of people passing through and those staying to shop – the area sees high vacancies, aggressive street vending and zoning regulations which ban sidewalk cafes.   The problems of 6th Avenue are linked to the issues of West 8th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues which has had difficulty retaining retailers in the past 20 years while surrounding blocks have thrived.

Our goal is to strengthen the “Village Gateway” at the intersection of 6th Avenue and West 8th Street and to stabilize the retail presence.  The Village Alliance is proposing a four-pronged approach, including renovations to the subway station, enforcement of vending regulations, reconstructing the Sixth Avenue sidewalk with more durable material, and transforming Ruth Wittenberg Triangle into an inviting urban space with ample seating, increased landscaping and a new information kiosk.  Together these efforts will create a gateway we can all be proud of.

On behalf of the Board and staff of the Village Alliance, we wish you a happy and prosperous 2014!


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