The 161st Street Business Improvement District showed off their neighborhood to a unique group of out-of-towners on Monday, October 20.
Developers and architects from around the country and the world toured the neighborhood as part of the Urban Land Institute Conference taking place in Manhattan that week. About half the group was comprised of graduate students from Tulane University enrolled in a Master of Sustainable Real Estate program at the School of Architecture.
The tour was led by the BID’s executive director, Cary Goodman, who wanted to highlight the opportunities for development in the area—five properties in the immediate vicinity of Yankee Stadium that were rezoned in 2009 to allow for residential buildings up to 30 stories tall.
Although developers from around the country could find rezoning information online, Goodman wanted to raise awareness of the potential of the neighborhood.
“It’s not the same thing as walking up to Yankee Stadium, looking around and saying, ‘what would a tower look like here?’” said Goodman.
Even if the far-flung developers don’t have plans to expand to New York anytime soon, Goodman said the tour could improve the image of the area.
“I hope they go back to conference and talk about the Bronx,” Goodman. “Let others know they had a enjoyable and enriching visit here.”
Goodman’s tour included a trip to the new Macombs Dam Park on the site of the old stadium, the under utilized parking garage that has been floated as a location for a possible soccer stadium, and the construction site at 810 River Avenue, where the first of the five rezoned properties will be turned into a 17-story residential and commercial building. Goodman explained the BID’s vision for increased an economic diversity in the neighborhood where business is primarily driven by the stadium, and their hopes to capitalize on the transportation hub that provides easy access to Manhattan.
After the tour, the group ate lunch at Yankee Tavern, where Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. joined them to talk about development across the borough.
“We’ve been working so hard collectively,” said Diaz. ”Over the last two decades we’ve made tremendous strides.”
Diaz addressed old stereotypes, touted low crime numbers and falling unemployment rates, and highlighted the major developments in the borough—including the Mall at Bay Plaza, the new Marriot hotel, the Trump golf course at Ferry Point Park, and the pending Kingsbridge Ice Center.
He said the borough is trying to rezone industrial areas strategically, to spark development without displacing existing residents.
“We are what I call ‘planning with a purpose,’” said Diaz.
One developer from Denver, Glen Sibley, came to see if the neighborhood has changed since the last time he visited the stadium. Although it hadn’t changed much, he said he sees opportunities for the neighborhood to move forward.
“It has some potential,” said Sibley.
Sibley said in his experience with downtown Denver, residential development must take place before broader economic development can follow.
A professor with the Tulane Program, Joy Willig, was a longtime Bronx resident before moving to New Orleans. She wanted her students to see how infrastructure and parks can create potential for great neighborhoods, in addition to exposing them to more of the city than just Manhattan.
“I wanted to be sure they saw the Bronx,” she said.