Study expands space at Fordham Plaza

The city is looking at big changes for Fordham Plaza.

On Tuesday, August 10, the Economic Development Corp. and Department of Transportation released a plan for opening up the crowded Fordham Plaza and making it more pedestrian-friendly.

The study was conducted by WXY Architecture and Urban Design and has slowly been developing over the past two years.

“I think it’s a great plan,” said Daniel Bernstein, deputy executive director of the Fordham Road Business Improvement District. “It would be great to improve that area, and it will hopefully attract more people. It is definitely something the BID would promote.”

The plan focuses on increasing walking space and greenery for visitors by turning Third Avenue, on the east side of the plaza, into a thoroughfare for buses and clearing out the existing bus loop that circles the area.

Currently, the plaza is a hub for 12 bus routes and as a result, public transit dominates the north end of the plaza. A vendors’ market is the focal point of the southern end, but there is little room for anything else.

The study envisions opening up the space to other activities, which would allow Fordham Plaza to become a cultural hub with special events. Concerts and movie screenings could be held regularly.

The project would also add a new entrance canopy to the Metro-North station, install an LED sign with transit information, and bicycle racks.

The plan also makes room for additional retail space and greenery at the northeast corner of the plaza, and a turf lawn for recreation at the southern end.

With 80,000 pedestrians walking through the plaza each day, city officials hope that by overhauling the area, retailers can tap into the growing retail possibilities they see there.

Marketing research conducted as part of the study found that the spending potential in a one-mile radius around the plaza is more than $1.1 billion, which is more than double the $439 million that consumers spent in the area last year.

For Bernstein, the only thing the plan does not address is the ever-present problem of parking.

“That is always mentioned when it comes to Fordham Road and it’s something we’ve been trying to address for a long time,” he said, adding that the BID was consulted in this plan despite its boundaries ending at the border of the plaza.

“Lack of parking is obviously something that’s on the minds of the merchants and the people who shop there,” he said. “We would like to see it included in the plan.”

So far officials have secured $7.5 million.

They’ll need more than that — the City estimates the project will cost $26 million to complete.

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