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A Garment District With Some Big Ideas

GarmentDist

What to do about Manhattan’s shrinking garment district has been a point of debate among designers and their landlords for at least five years, as serious proposals have been made to concentrate factories in a single building, move them to another neighborhood or even relocate the fashion trade to New Jersey.

But until Wednesday, no one had suggested actually making the garment district bigger, which, in effect, is the surprising recommendation of a long-awaitedreport by the Design Trust for Public Space, a nonprofit group that studies urban planning. Since 2009, at the urging of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the trust has taken on a study of the district to determine its own recommendations.

Some of the plans are ambitious: the report recommends giving tax credits, like those given to the film industry, to designers and retailers who make or sell locally produced clothes, and changing zoning to allow landlords to develop new spaces (up to three times the square footage now permitted) for commercial or residential use.

But some of the ideas are a little pie in the sky, including a hypothetical garment district that, in 2022, would include a string of connected rooftop parks called a “fashion skyway” and pop-up shops installed in the loading docks of high-rise buildings. There would also be runway shows in the streets.

But getting to the point, after much research and some dreaming, the trust came to the conclusion that if New York wants to remain “the fashion capital of the world,” as politicians like to call it, the city will require a fashion industry. So the characteristics of the district, with its proximity to button and fabric suppliers, factories and schools, should be protected.

“To relocate the garment district won’t work,” said Jerome Chou, editor of the report. “When you destroy the community and the organism, it takes generations to rebuild, and it may not come back at all.”

To that end, the trust would like to see a campaign supporting “NYC Made” clothing and incentives for property owners, like putting up new high rises along Eighth Avenue and adding penthouse apartments to the tops of existing loft buildings.

While the look of the neighborhood would change under the plan, fashion would still live there, too.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 18, 2012

An earlier version of this article contained an outdated reference to Jerome Chou’s job title. He is the editor of the report, not a director of the Design Trust for Public Space.

By Eric Wilson, October 17, 2012, New York Times.  For the full article, please click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/18/fashion/garment-district-has-some-big-ideas.html?ref=fashion&_r=0

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