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Pratt Reports on Findings from SPURA Workshops

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Earlier this fall, neighborhood preservation organization GOLES and the Pratt Center for Community Development conducted three community meetings to learn more about what residents would like to see happen on the Seward Park redevelopment site. Pratt presented its findings to Community Board 3 earlier this month.  After the jump, you can see a summary of the report from Paula Crespo, the Pratt urban planner who facilitated the discussions. You can also see the full Power Point presentation (PDF alert!) here.

Purpose of public workshops: Late in the Summer, Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES) approached the Pratt Center out of concern that the general public was not getting an adequate opportunity to participate in the discussions taking place between members of the Community Board’s SPURA committee and the consultants hired by the city to be “planner-facilitators.” Recognizing that the desires of the broader community should inform the process of creating a development scenario for the SPURA site, GOLES wanted to host a series of public workshops to open up the process and create a forum for the community at-large a chance to go through the development exercise that the committee members completed in the Summer.

Analysis of findings:

Housing (in general, as a land use category)  —  Of the 19 scenarios, the average amount of space allocated for housing was 44%, and the median was 46%. (66% was the highest possible allocation i.e., a maximum of 20 out of 30 cards)

Affordable housing – All scenarios included these types of categories; only 2 did not include any “Extremely low income,” “Very low income,” or “Low income.” Housing.

Senior housing –  Like the committee, there was unanimous support: all 19 scenarios included it.

Market-rate housing – 10 out of 19 scenarios (53%) included it.

Retail –  There was unanimous support for small stores, and all but one of the scenarios included “larger” stores, which for the purposes of the exercise we defined as “stores that serve people both from the immediate neighborhood and a bit beyond, such as clothing and furniture stores.” Also, the notion of a public market a la Essex Street received strong support and showed up in 16 of the 19 scenarios.

Self-financing presumption – 12 of the 19 scenarios require additional subsidy i.e., they rejected the city’s presumption that the project be internally financed.

Conclusions / take-away thoughts

1) There is broad support for mixed-income housing, with emphasis on housing that is deeply affordable to the existing community.

The public scenarios show that there is acceptance of a small proportion of market-rate housing and lots of support for the extremely low, very low, and low income categories taken together. This suggests  that there is acknowledgement that market-rate housing — as long as it doesn’t overwhelm the residential component of the development– can help cross-subsidize other land uses.

2)  There is strong support for a mixed-use development scenario for SPURA.

While the development game was designed to encourage some level of mixed-use, participants could choose to create housing-heavy scenarios.  However, very few groups did that, so there seems to be a lot of appetite for mixed-use development.

3) People feel strongly about the need for neighborhood-serving, small-scale retail, with some interest in larger stores.

4)  There is a strong desire for a range of “community uses” to be housed on the site.
Public workshop participants offered up many ideas about the types of community facilities they’d like to see built on the site, often citing a lack of certain types of these uses. While some of this might be related to a perceived lack of things like art, health, and recreation centers in the neighborhood, this was a recurring theme expressed by workshop participants.

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