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Hudson Square Plaza Revamp Leaves Shared Space Street for Another Day

The plaza on the left is getting refurbished, but a shared space plan for this street was tabled in part because it's used as a display space for a motorcycle dealership. Photo: Google Maps
The plaza on the left is getting refurbished, but a shared space plan for the street was tabled because, among other reasons, it's used as a display space for a motorcycle dealership. Photo: Google Maps
The plaza on the left is getting refurbished, but a shared space plan for this street was tabled in part because it's used as a display space for a motorcycle dealership. Photo: Google Maps

A plan to convert a two-block street on the border of Soho and Hudson Square into shared space is going to sit on the shelf -- for now.

The Parks Department and the Hudson Square Connection Business Improvement District are splitting the cost of a $6 million plan to overhaul a triangular park along Sixth Avenue between Spring and Broome Streets. Conceptual plans for the space from 2012 showed Little Sixth Avenue, a two-block street on the west side of the park, being converted to a pedestrian-priority street that would slow drivers by blurring the line between street and sidewalk. But that was dropped from the project over concerns about utility work, costs, and loss of on-street parking.

“We’re not precluding it, but we don’t have the budget to include it," said Signe Nielsen of landscape architecture firm Mathews Nielsen, which is designing the revamped plaza and worked on the previous conceptual plan. “We’re totally in favor of it. It was an initiative that we actually recommended in our master plan study, but we’re aware that DOT requires a lot of backup before they will allow such a thing to go through.”

Mathews Nielsen studied three options for Little Sixth Avenue: Eliminating curbs and rebuilding the roadbed to the same height as adjacent sidewalks; adding raised crosswalks; and painting or replacing the existing asphalt surface. The last option was deemed too minor of a change. But because of drainage and utility work, the construction costs of raised crosswalks or shared space were too high given the resources available.

A plaza rehab on the border of Soho and Hudson Square will not include upgrades to Little Sixth Avenue -- for now. Image: Mathews Nielsen landscape architects
A plaza rehab on the border of Soho and Hudson Square will not include upgrades to Little Sixth Avenue -- for now. Image: Mathews Nielsen landscape architects
A plaza rehab on the border of Soho and Hudson Square will not include upgrades to Little Sixth Avenue -- for now. Image: Mathews Nielsen landscape architects

Nielsen spoke with DOT about a similar shared space project in Downtown Brooklyn. “It tends be very site-specific because of adjacent land uses," she said of shared space. "Some things are applicable from one site to another, but some are not."

Nielsen says parking on Little Sixth Avenue came up as an issue at a community board meeting on the plan this week. A motorcycle dealership regularly sets up its vehicles in the street for display, and teachers from Chelsea Career and Technical Education High School use the remainder of the street's curbside parking for their daily commutes.

“We are happy to consider options for Little Sixth Avenue as an extension of the plaza or as a shared street in the future, in conjunction with the Hudson Square BID and the local community,” said a DOT spokesperson.

While shared space is on hold, the plan to rebuild the existing plaza space is not. The project includes a water fountain, new trees, and an increase in permeable surfaces from 7.5 percent of the site to 35 percent. It also features new lighting, benches, chairs, and tables. The project relocates a Citi Bike station that currently sits in the plaza to a space nearby, though DOT has not yet settled on a new location.

The plan, backed by the Community Board 2 parks committee, is set for a vote before the full board on February 19, according to DNAinfo, before going to the Public Design Commission on March 2. Construction could begin in spring 2016 and wrap before the end of 2017.

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