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City Plans Special Commercial District for Fourth Ave.

The Department of City Planning released plans that aim to encourage retail and neighborhood development on the avenue.

Borough President Marty Markowitz may get his grand “Brooklyn Boulevard” after all.

City officials today announced plans that would help transform at least a portion of the speedway into a “local commercial district”—furthering Markowitz’s ultimate hopes of transforming the avenue from "a 'traffic chute' into a grand 'Brooklyn Boulevard.’”

Department of City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden said that the agency will begin a public review processes to develop the avenue into a Special Fourth Avenue Enhanced Commercial District, encouraging mixed-use of new developments and prevent buildings like the controversial Argyle development from lining the avenue with ugly street front ventilation shafts and parking garages that do nothing to foster neighborhood development and activity.

Markowitz and Councilmember Brad Lander to adopt such measures changing the avenue’s zoning in a way that would encourage more commercial activity–and with it, make the avenue more pedestrian-friendly to accommodate the avenue as an ever-growing residential district.

According to a statement, this special commercial district would foster “a vibrant mix of active uses, including stores and offices along Fourth Avenue in Park Slope and South Park Slope.”

New developments would be required to build either commercial or community facilities on ground floors, with parking entrances restricted to side streets. In the district, lobby frontages and blank walls would also be limited.

The proposed rezoning area would space 56 blocks along Fourth Avenue, from Atlantic Avenue to 24th Street.

"I'm very pleased with City Planning's proposal for new zoning on Fourth Avenue to require active ground-floor retail uses in new development,” said Lander in a statement. “Thanks to the leadership of the Park Slope Civic Council, an openness to learn from the past, and a partnership between civic groups, the community boards, elected officials, and City Planning, future development will bring neighborhood vitality – in the form of new stores and businesses–to the Fourth Avenue streetscape."

“Today’s announcement is a significant step forward for the continued revitalization of Fourth Avenue. I believe that this proposal will maximize the enormous potential of Fourth Avenue as a vibrant, mixed-use corridor,” Councilmember Steve Levin added in the statement.

The Park Slope Civic Council and many others have long pointed to new condominium developments on the avenue as one of the main setbacks in fostering a social community environment.

The Park Slope portion of the avenue was largely rezoned in 2003 and 2005 in order to stimulate new residential development and satiate developers who sought to build on nearby brownstone blocks in Park Slope. But while the giant, residential mega towers indeed began popping up along the avenue, a vibrant retail district and general neighborhood vibe has been slow to follow.

Josh Levy, a trustee on the PSCC, and point man for Fourth Avenue at the PSCC, has pointed to the mega-condo The Argyle as a great example of what the avenue is missing. The Argyle scrapped retail on the first floor in favor of a parking garage – meaning that huge, garish metal ventilation grates face the street.

After holding an initial public forum on the future of Fourth Avenue last year, the PSCC came to a few conclusions. Mainly, they found the avenue was badly in need beautification, traffic-calming measures, and, perhaps most importantly, commerce.

The DCP’s plan is comprised of three major components. First off, new developments will be required to utilize at least 50 percent of the ground floor frontage for retail, with parking no longer allowed to face the avenue. Retail shops will be required to have largely glass storefronts, to allow for window shopping and “breaking down the barriers between the pedestrians on the sidewalk and activities inside.” And finally, DCP plans to cut down on sidewalk curb cuts to provide an “uninterrupted pedestrian experience.”

“Our goal at City Planning is to foster complete neighborhoods, where commercial and community services, jobs and open space are all within a walkable community,” said Burden. “Fourth Avenue is a wide, transit-rich corridor with new housing and residents, but often lacks an active pedestrian environment. This new proposal will help ensure the continued transformation of the avenue into a dynamic commercial corridor and provide much needed services to its surrounding communities.”

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