Last night at Community Board 3’s economic development committee, the Lower East Side BID presented its plan for a series of community festivals on Orchard Street. As we reported yesterday, the project is meant to reactivate the former “bargain district” as a modern Sunday shopping destination.
Bob Zuckerman, the BID’s executive director, said his organization has been talking with city officials for a few years about the idea. Orchard Street has been closed to automobiles on Sundays since 1973. But the city has put a moratorium on typical “street fairs,” with the requisite “tube socks and sausages.” They’re allowing the BID to hold a pilot event June 3rd. The requirements: the festival must be community oriented (featuring primarily local businesses) and it must include non-profit organizations (the Tenement Museum has already signed on).
The event will be called “DayLife,” a term created by a group of students at the School of Visual Arts. Dub Studios, an architectural firm, has come up with a design to transform the blocks between East Houston and Delancey streets. It’s built around the concept of large wooden boxes, which merchants will use as contemporary pushcarts. Each box contains a patch of astroturf, umbrellas and seating. The idea is to create a sort of urban backyard. In contrast to the usual street fairs, where vendors are walled off from customers, the DayLife set-up is meant to be as open and accessible as possible.
Each block will have its own distinct programming. The section of Orchard between Houston and Stanton will be food-focused since there are a lot of restaurants along this stretch. Boutiques will set up between Stanton and Rivington. The block closest to Delancey – “leather vending world,” as the BID’s architect put it will feature entertainment and games. Croquet, badminton and ping pong were mentioned. There’s room for a total of 36 vendors. Zuckerman said participants will be required to put down a deposit but will not pay a fee (at least not for the first event).
If the first event goes well, the BID hopes the city will sign off on 4-6 more festivals in the fall. The response from CB3 members was generally very positive. Meghan Joye, who co-owns Orchard Street bar Lucky Jack, called it “a great, fun idea… with a lot of potential.” There were some concerns about the festival’s sustainability. The point is to lure shoppers back to Orchard in an era of online commerce and big box stores.
Businesses on the street consist of some very high end boutiques on one end — and the discount leather shops on the opposite end. Everyone seems to agree a two-pronged approach is needed. Marketing is the first step. A second objective (arguably more difficult) involves creating a better mix of retail (as well as price points) on Orchard — focused on products both the local community and destination shoppers. Zuckerman said the BID is prepared to spend a significant portion of its marketing budget to make sure the events are heavily publicized and well attended.
Around 7 businesses have already agreed to take part. Zuckerman suggested future events might be built around special themes. The BID’s popular Pickle Day and Apple Day might be folded into the DayLife program.
The BID hooked up with Dub Studios through Design NYC, a New York-based non-profit organization.