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Supporting BIDS: Two Karp Strategies Projects in New York City

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) play a critical role in metropolitan areas. BIDs revitalize neighborhoods, rejuvenate the public realm, improve commercial districts, and enhance the quality of life for residents in the community. However, connecting with and supporting communities can be challenging as BIDs seek to balance the needs of commercial, residential, and other community stakeholders. Conducting intentional and inclusive stakeholder engagement, data analysis, and community and economic development assessments can help support BIDs during their formation phase and drive the expansion and improvement of their efforts to support their communities.

Read on to learn more about the outcomes of two exciting projects the Karp Strategies team has worked on with BIDs in New York City.

The SoHo Broadway Initiative: SoHo Zoning Guidebook and Rollout

SoHo is a thriving New York neighborhood filled with retail, tech offices, and loft apartments, all housed in beautiful cast iron architecture. However, SoHo’s light manufacturing zoning restricted many retail, commercial, or residential uses without complex rezoning and special permitting processes. This mismatch between current uses and zoning designation created complications, leading to inconsistent outcomes in use and development and conflict between the community of residents and businesses.

To address this issue, Karp Strategies began work in 2017 with the SoHo Broadway Initiative, the neighborhood and business improvement district on Broadway between Houston and Canal Streets, to develop a Zoning Guidebook aimed at providing a plain-language explanation of the zoning-to-use mismatch and why it matters.

The project’s final product was an easy-to-understand educational resource for SoHo residents and community stakeholders, providing an entry point for anyone wishing to participate in conversations about the current status and future of the SoHo neighborhood. To create this resource, Karp Strategies reviewed various complex technical sources, including land use information, demographic data, and the New York City Zoning Resolution. The team also collaborated with a Working Group composed of members of SoHo Broadway’s board with expertise in zoning and development to condense detailed information into a streamlined narrative and user-friendly graphics that simplify concepts like special permits and landmarks. Karp Strategies then supported the rollout strategy for the guidebook, creating a timeline to guide both a soft and formal launch. The team identified target audiences, assembled Frequently Asked Questions, drafted high-level talking points, and created a digital strategy for the guidebook’s disbursement.

Ultimately, this guidebook was a valuable resource during the multi-year SoHo/NoHo Neighborhood Plan and Rezoning process, which changed the manufacturing districts to Commercial/Residential zoning. The City Council approved the zoning change in December 2021 following months of public engagement and meetings involving many community stakeholders. The new zoning will create approximately 900 permanently affordable homes in one of NYC’s most expensive neighborhoods. It will introduce flexibility in ground floor uses, creating a more diverse, mixed-income neighborhood.

The Meatpacking District Management Association: Meatpacking District Shared Streets Pilot

The Meatpacking District Management Association (MDMA) operates a business improvement district in NYC’s Meatpacking neighborhood, an area once known for industry and freight movement, now home to high-end retail, condos, and a major tourist attraction. To address the increased demand for flexible and safe open space following the COVID-19 pandemic, MDMA sought to rethink its public space through the Meatpacking District Share Streets Pilot program.

Karp Strategies collaborated with MDMA to design an engagement messaging strategy to help them reach and communicate the tangible benefits of the Pilot to local businesses, property owners, community boards, and residents. This engagement strategy went hand-in-hand with the Pilot design led by ARUP. It included stakeholder mapping, the creation of a high-level timeline and strategy document, and interactive engagement activity suggestions.

Verbally and graphically articulating the economic development rationale behind shared streets, learning from the strategies of global peer cities, and identifying key language and visual communication methods helped MDMA successfully guide their engagement within their diverse community of stakeholders. Nearly a year after the successful launch of the Little West 12th Street Pilot in September 2020, the three blocks between Ninth Avenue and Washington Street—Gansevoort Street, Little West 12th Street, and West 13th Street—were made permanent Open Streets.

Over the years, our projects with BIDs have enabled us to connect with various stakeholders and support a wide range of initiatives, all aiming to strengthen urban communities and the organizations that support them. This work has been exciting, engaging, and rewarding. It is work that our firm strongly believes in and work we are eager to continue to support.

Are you part of a current BID, local development corporations or merchant’s organizations, or a community that would benefit from forming one?

Reach out to us! We would love to connect and see how we can support you as you support your community, whether you are looking for assistance with facilitating stakeholder engagement; interested in creating educational or communications materials to connect with neighborhood members; seeking an assessment of local real estate, workforce, and economic factors impacting your community; or in need of support with other initiatives or projects.


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