Union Square Partnership kicked-off 2021 with a transformative plan for the Union Square-14th Street area, concentrating on five key improvements with a focus on accessibility, district-wide connectivity, and substantial increases in public open space.
Save the date, Tuesday, January 26th for the virtual launch event. Let’s take a look at a few of the renderings.
The 2021 Vision Plan presented by Union Square Partnership and Marvel will build on past district improvement work, while bringing together under one cohesive vision, several City initiatives including NYC Parks’ Parks Without Borders, and NYC Dot’s Plaza Program, the 14th Street Busway, and their plans for the pedestrianization of Broadway.
Taking a look at the five key improvements, the vision plan includes:
- Transform 14th Street into a world-class boulevard and permanent crosstown transitway. The plan envisions 14th Street as a world-class boulevard by building on the initial positive effects of the City’s busway program. This includes expanded pedestrian areas and designated bus boarding zones, as well as prioritizing access and connectivity to create an activated streetscape. New parklets, trees, planters, and other elements will enhance the walking experience. Sidewalks at Union Square will be doubled in width to alleviate congestion at transit entrances and allow for ground-floor retail activation.
2. Increase public open space 33% by expanding Union Square Park to the surrounding building edges. Enlarging the pedestrian area along the full length of Union Square West will create a more unified “town square” feeling and help reduce pedestrian crowding. The plan proposes installing additional seating, encouraging active ground-floor uses, enlarging the subway entrance at 16th Street with an escalator and elevator, and building permanent flexible infrastructure for the Greenmarket.
3. Streetscape elements including new trees, lighting, trash containers, and pedestrian-friendly “micro parks.” Currently, Triangle Plaza at 4th Avenue is an underutilized public space within a large traffic island. The Plan proposes opening the southbound side of Union Square East to pedestrians to join the plaza to the park and create a large new open space for walking, gathering, and programming. A new pathway through the triangle will improve sightlines and pedestrian access.
4. Enhanced Broadway plaza at 17th Street, the gateway to Union Square and the terminus of the 2.5-mile pedestrian corridor stretching down from Columbus Circle. In 2011, the NYC Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) implemented a temporary plaza at 17th Street and Broadway, where the roadway widens to meet Union Square Park. The vision for Broadway Gateway Plaza makes this plaza permanent so that it becomes a welcoming “gateway” into the square with a unified paving scheme and park-like elements. This aligns with NYC DOT’s Broadway Visioning plan to complete a 2.5-mile pedestrian-friendly corridor stretching down from Columbus Circle.
5. Park master plan to address infrastructure such as landscaping and utilities, ADA accessibility, permanent farmers market stalls, and new subway entrances. Creating a new master plan for Union Square Park is vital to meet the needs of today – including neighborhood dynamics and transportation realities – and prepare for the needs of tomorrow. A master plan will be a multi- year undertaking that will result in critical upgrades to the park’s infrastructure, including amenities (such as bike parking and upgraded public restrooms), utilities (e.g., high-speed data, new lighting, better drainage), and landscape (e.g., renovated dog run, improved wheelchair access, new accessible subway entrance).
The Union Square-14th Street District Vision Plan is a multi-phased 10-20 year initiative with an estimated cost of $100 million. Funding sources will include Union Square Partnership funds ($2M-10M) for design + short-term projects; Bond financing ($10m-20m) for custom street furniture; Private contributions ($10m-20M) for park features; and Government funds ($40M+) for infrastructure + utilities.
Since its opening in 1839, Union Square Park has undergone several design changes, each of which have incrementally made it a more welcoming and pedestrian-friendly urban public square. This plan seeks to expand the benefits of this great public space into the surrounding community. All told, the plan comprises reconstruction of roughly 1 mile of streets and 3.5 acres of existing park land, construction of a new accessible subway entrance with elevator and escalator, and installation of district-wide streetscape improvements in an area of 20 city blocks.
“The Union Square Partnership has a long history of implementing streetscape and park improvements that continue to make Union Square one of New York’s more cherished spaces and most desirable neighborhoods. This Vision Plan is the culmination of a two-year-long process with input from community members, local business leaders, urban designers, landscape architects, and transportation experts all aiming to invest in the districts’ future,” said Lynne Brown & William Abramson, Union Square Partnership Board Chairs. “This plan will increase public space by 33 percent, facilitate transit access, and beautify the district for residents, businesses, and visitors alike.”
Having lived and worked in and around Union Square for over 35 years, I’ve experienced just about every moment of evolution and development in the Park and its surrounding neighborhood,” said Danny Meyer, Founder, and CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group. “Now, after a year in which so many in our community have been isolated and forced to be socially distanced, it’s refreshing to re-imagine a once again thriving Union Square made more commodious with additional public space carved out for people to be with people. We crave and need that.”
“Not only do BIDs create vibrant, clean, and safe districts – they are uniquely positioned to help design an ideal neighborhood landscape for the changing times,” said Jonnel Doris, Commissioner of NYC Department of Small Business Services. “The Union Square Partnership’s Vision Plan is an excellent example of proactive leadership and foresight that can positively transform the district and support its stakeholders, including businesses, and residents.”
“GrowNYCs Union Square Greenmarket has served as a vital community resource for 44 years, while helping to secure nearly 20,000 regional acres of farmland”, said Marcel Van Ooyen, President and CEO of GrowNYC. “The infrastructure investment within the Union Square Partnership Vision Plan, as well as its transformation of space for pedestrian uses, from sitting with friends, to biking safely, to enhanced greenspace, will help to ensure the market’s success for future generations.”
The Union Square-14th Street District Vision Plan events will include community conversations with dates and times to be announced. If you are interested in being included, sign up for updates. This is a great way to meet the Union Square Partnership team and all others involved in the plan’s development.
Join the Urban Design forum and the Union Square Partnership for the launch of the Union Square 14th Street Vision Plan on Zoom, January 26th from Noon to 1:30pm with RSVP.
Over 1,000 people provided feedback, including residents, businesses, commuters, visitors, and other community stakeholders through annual community opinion surveys, stakeholder working sessions, neighborhood pop-ups and community forums.
About Union Square Partnership ~ The Union Square Partnership was born out of a time when New York City faced financial struggles like those confronting us today. Founded in 1976 during the City’s fiscal crisis, the Partnership serves as the steward for the Union Square-14th Street district and to provides a long-term vision for its future. For more than 45 years, Union Square Partnership has been improving the neighborhood for our 75,000 residents, 150,000 daily workers, and millions of annual visitors. Learn more at https://www.unionsquarenyc.org
About Marvel ~ For almost a decade, Marvel (MarvelDesigns.com) has worked at the intersection of public and private space, creating intentionally timeless design solutions that integrate nature and context. The recipient of over 125 international industry awards—among them the AIA’s highest honor, the 2019 Presidential Citation for integrating design and community service and WEDG Certification for Public Waterfront Design Excellence—its portfolio spans a range of sectors, including affordable housing, commercial, cultural institutions, schools and higher education, civic and public works, hospitality, high-end residential, recreational projects, workspaces, and parks and gardens. The firm has offices in New York City and San Juan, Puerto Rico.