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Storefronts in Historic Districts — What You Need to Know

Stores and commercial spaces provide important services, products, jobs, and character to our neighborhoods and communities. Small businesses in landmarked buildings and historic districts have many wonderful assets, while also having NYC Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) rules to follow. The LPC recently released guidelines to help business owners get approval for changes and better understand the regulations.  That is why Village Preservation and some of our friends recently held a well-attended and informative presentation by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission (watch the video here and see pictures here).


Program Co-Sponsors

Small business owners and property owners and residents were all able to learn and ask a question of the special guest speakers:  LPC Deputy Director of Preservation William Neeley and LPC Deputy Counsel John Weiss.  The program was co-sponsored by Manhattan Community Boards 2 and 3, Cooper Square Committee, East Village Community Coalition, East Village Independent Merchant’s Association, Historic Districts Council, Meatpacking District Business Improvement District, NoHo Business Improvement District, NoHo Neighborhood Association, SoHo Alliance, the Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, and the Village Alliance.


Before and After

The experienced LPC staff went over a number of points, including an introduction to storefronts in New York City, with some fascinating before-and-after photos of approved storefronts, as well as historic photos or photos of other storefronts used as prototypes for the design of the approved storefront. A basic “what makes up a storefront?” section seemed elementary, but is essential to know.  LPC created a special synopsis that featured many local examples in the historic districts Village Preservation focuses on.

Architectural Details and Accessibility

The presentation included information on architectural details from an awning to a cornice to a pier and a transom.  The important issue of accessibility and how to garner swift approval was also discussed.

Video and Photos

In case you missed it, the video of the program is on our YouTube page along with many other amazing talks and presentations and programs.

Photos of the program are here:


Vacancy Rates Lower in Historic Districts

On a related note, you may have seen that in April of this year we released the results of a survey conducted over several months looking at retail vacancy rates in the East Village, covering both landmarked areas and non-landmarked areas. The survey found that the percentage of retail vacancies in landmarked areas of the neighborhood was less than half the rate in non-landmarked areas – 7% vs. more than 15%.  From the oldest continuously operated saloon, to the newest record store, the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District has it all.

Our study is consistent with a just-released report by the NYC Comptroller that shows greater retail square footage in landmarked properties is associated with lower rates of vacant retail.  This is further rebuttal of misinformation that the Real Estate Board of New York has perpetuated in the past. A “report” by the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) was released in 2018 that (incredibly, but predictably for REBNY) blamed the retail vacancy crisis impacting our city on landmarking and historic districts. Although it was uncritically parroted by some media outlets, some simple digging found multiple misrepresentations and inaccuracies that we have showed to be false in a previous blog post.  The Comptroller’s report further verifies the strong retail climate that Historic Districts can play an important role in creating.

What is your favorite local independent business?

Local businesses are the backbone of our neighborhoods, and many find themselves in an increasingly tough, competitive environment of rising rents and proliferating chain stores. But Village Preservation is committed to highlighting and celebrating those businesses that help keep our neighborhoods unique and special, and provide a service, atmosphere, or specialty that can’t be found anywhere else.  Who should be our next Business of the Month, nominate your favorite shop here.

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