OUT IN THE STREETS: What the future will look like is anyone’s guess, but that has not deterred the Meatpacking Business Improvement District from unveiling the “Future Streets.”
The three-day activation on Little 12th Street between Ninth Avenue and Washington Street will be in place through Sunday. In addition to reimagining the street as a pedestrian-friendly public space, the installation is meant to attract shoppers to not just the block, but also the neighborhood.
The Meatpacking BID’s executive director Jeffrey LeFrancoise said, “As I’ve always said, ‘Good public space is good for business.’ People are shoppers. If we make good space for people, they tend to enjoy spending time in that space and inherently they find themselves frequenting the businesses in the areas that have good spaces.”
The area’s 200 businesses are expected to gain some of the spillover foot traffic. “The organic nature of the Meatpacking District lends itself to wandering. Having this destination on Little West 12th Street lends the rest of the district to the visitors,” the local BID leader said. “As soon as the team started laying the sod, it was transformative what happened on this block. We’re using a cornstarch-based pigment to paint the sidewalk in cobblestones. As soon as those colors started to show, the energy on the block changed. You wanted to be there.”
Future Streets has been made possible through a partnership with the American Institute of Architecture, the American Society of Landscape Architecture and the American Planning Association. Along with promoting the need and benefits of having more public space and open streets, the project offers socially distanced activities for the community and how the added breathing room can benefit area businesses. Six-feet-apart seating, a makeshift “front yard” space with greenery, and an outdoor lounge and dining section will be part of the mix.
Like other neighborhoods in New York City and around the country, the Meatpacking District has lost a few restaurant and major retailer tenants, due to the pandemic shutdown. As city officials, business owners and corporations are trying to get a better handle on where things may go from here, many are hesitant to ballpark the financial fallout or anticipated further closures brought on by the coronavirus crisis.
LeFrancoise said, “Just because we have 25 percent indoor dining capacity on its way, just because New Yorkers are happy to be out and about, just because The Whitney [Museum of American Art] has reopened — and it’s just fabulous — that does not mean that this puts an end to the economic bleed that has been happening.”
Findings from the Future Streets activation will be used to create a proposal for an upgraded pedestrian-oriented district that serves the city day and night, and during all four seasons. Year-round outdoor shopping is increasingly of interest with many retailers, labels and developers.
Futurist Geraldine Wharry said, “This is going to be a challenging winter for brands located in regions with a harsher climate during that season. With outdoors being the best way to keep safe social distancing, I expect that we will see an increase in performance outerwear enabling people to be outdoors for longer periods.”
Extra layers, however, won’t be needed in the Meatpacking District this weekend. Shoppers there will find Misha Tyutyunik painting an outdoor mural at 18 Little West 12th Street. The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based creative has collaborated in the past with the street artist Swoon, as well as companies like Vans, Cat Footwear, NBC, Amtrak and Vibe Magazine.
An extra 13,000 square feet of open space is being temporarily added this weekend to the neighborhood’s 30,000 square feet of public plaza. While the installation supports New York City’s “Open Streets: Restaurants” program, it also is designed to benefit area retailers.