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Building owners unveil effort to give New Yorkers back their mojo

Hudson Square Properties (HSP) is hoping to help New Yorkers get their mojo back with a new outdoor gathering space that puts the pop back in population.

After months in forced COVID isolation that has driven both residents and workers out of Manhattan, the Restorative Ground project will provide a city-center gathering place that meets all of the pandemic rules that have changed the way New Yorkers live.

“It is so important for all of us determined to see New York City yet again transcend challenging circumstances to act in ways large and small that can welcome and support all New Yorkers in sustaining this singular city,” said Tommy Craig, managing director of Hines, which is asset manager and partner in Hudson Square Properties. 

TOMMY CRAIG

“Hudson Square Properties is proud to support this creative initiative to reactivate our streetscapes, engage with our neighbors and tap into the dynamic energy of our community of businesses, residents, workers and visitors through design.”

HSP – a joint venture of Trinity Church Wall Street, Norges Bank and Hines that owns and operates 12 buildings in the Hudson Square neighborhood – backed a design initiative led by

Urban Design Forum and supported by the Hudson Square BID to create a kind of outdoor parlor that would let people gather to play, relax and socialize in a safe way.

Today (Wednesday) the partners announced that WIP Collaborative, a women-led design team, had submitted the best blueprint for the space on King Street and work is set to start on bringing their Restorative Ground to life.

“Restorative Ground is a multifaceted landscape of exploration, envisioned as an environment for both social interaction and sensory stimulation that allows for a full range of experiences from adventurous and playful to quiet and restorative,” said WIP Collaborative in a statement.

“The large footprint of the King Street site accommodates space for safe gathering, in a location within Hudson Square that offers the opportunity to act as a connector between existing community resources, cultural institutions and nearby green spaces.”

Located on King Street between Hudson and Greenwich streets, the site will be part of the Open Streets Program that was introduced to create more space in the dense city for restaurants and residents faced with capacity restrictions throughout the pandemic.

Using durable materials found commonly in playgrounds, like recycled rubber and AstroTurf, the installation will feature modular sections for seating and climbing.

“New York City can reorient the street as a site for culture, convening, and healing after months of social isolation,” said Dan McPhee, Executive Director of the Urban Design Forum. “Restorative Ground will reintroduce public life back into the neighborhood fabric with a safe and inclusive design.” 

“At the Hudson Square Business Improvement District, we are committed to public art as one of the cornerstones of the City’s recovery and renaissance. We are a city and a neighborhood where creators and makers have always shown the way forward,” said Ellen Baer President and C.E.O. of Hudson Square BID. “Together with our partners, we have selected a piece that invites the community to use our outdoor spaces to work, play and think – a very Hudson Square way of welcoming the neighborhood home again.”

Rendering of Restorative Ground

The Care for Hudson Square competition’s finalists and winner were selected by a jury from the Urban Design Forum’s network of fellows and judged proposals based on physical presence, evolving public health guidance, and inclusive design.

Two runners-up, Taller KEN and Dash Marshall with Public Policy Lab, proposed community-centered designs to reimagine the streetscape on Little 6th Avenue.

Urban Design Forum’s McPhee said he hopes this exercise – including the breadth of innovation, creativity, and community-centered approaches – serves as a call to action to replicate in other neighborhoods with new community partners and business improvement districts.

Since the start of the pandemic in March, it is estimated that some 246,000 people have relocated from NYC, according to figures released by the US Postal Service to ABC news.

In the month of March alone, there was a 256 percent increase in people moving out of the city compared to the same month last year.

Many wealthy families have relocated temporarily to summer homes to wait out the virus and just 80,000 of the city’s one million office workers have returned to work, according to a survey by the Partnership for New York City.

Summer protests and cutbacks in public services are also taking their toll, according to the Partnership, which last week issued to a call to Mayor Bill de Blasio to place a priority on “public safety, cleanliness and other quality of life issues that are contributing to deteriorating conditions in commercial districts and neighborhoods across the five boroughs.”

In the letter signed by 160 NYC employers, the Partnership wrote, “We need to send a strong, consistent message that our employees, customers, clients and visitors will be coming back to a safe and healthy work environment. People will be slow to return unless their concerns about security and the livability of our communities are addressed quickly and with respect and fairness for our city’s diverse populations.”

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