The Walt Disney Company’s new plan to build its headquarters in Hudson Square represented a huge milestone for the neighborhood. For those who have watched this community grow over the past decade, the announcement also signaled yet another step in its progression into one of the city’s most vibrant mixed-use districts.
The major news around Disney is the latest example of how public-private collaboration and investment in Hudson Square have driven one of New York City’s most successful neighborhood-building efforts in recent history. And the most exciting thing is that, in many ways, this is still just the beginning.
Hudson Square – which is roughly bounded by Clarkson Street to the north, Canal Street to the south, the Hudson River to the west and Sixth Avenue to the east – was once known as the Printing District. While it has drawn cutting-edge companies from previous generations, it had not always featured the pristine green spaces and human-centric atmosphere it enjoys today.
Major progress took place in 2009 when city officials worked with local stakeholders to create the Hudson Square Business Improvement District, which was tasked with truly making it a place for people. This was a crucial development that helped the neighborhood build a real sense of community alongside its role as a thriving creative hub.
Among other initiatives, the BID launched a $27 million public-private partnership with the city, known as Hudson Square is Now, which reshaped the streetscape into a greener, cleaner community that embodies the spirit of social connection and innovation. The neighborhood now boasts 13 city benches and 91 bike racks– up from zero a decade ago – as well as three CitiBike share stations. That work continued under the Hudson Square Standard program, which reimagined the potential for urban sidewalks through the planting and/or retrofitting of a total of 250 trees across virtually every block covered by the BID.
While those trees add to the beauty of the area, they also have a real human and environmental impact –when fully matured they will remove around 130,000 lbs of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and produce more than 12,000 lbs of oxygen. This will lead to improved air quality that reduce pollutants and the temperature on Hudson Street by around five degrees on average, making it more comfortable for visitors during warmer months. Additionally, the BID’s Pedestrian Safety Manager program added positive human impacts by increasing safety, reducing blocked crosswalks and intersections by 45 percent and reducing horn honking by more than 30 percent.
The result is that more people are in Hudson Square on a daily basis than ever before – with a daytime population of more than 60,000, around two-thirds of whom are office workers and more than 10 percent of whom are daily visitors.
And all of that work to improve our open spaces, plant trees and protect pedestrians did not just make Hudson Square a more welcoming place – it brought real results in the form of greater interest from high-profile creative and media firms that now make up around 70 percent of our local workforce. When Disney moves into its new headquarters, it will be sharing a neighborhood with Viacom, Warby Parker, ProPublica, Squarespace, Edelman and hundreds of other companies that have made Hudson Square their home.
The public-private collaboration spearheaded by the BID – and aided by a major 2013 rezoning – has also expanded the scope of progress in Hudson Square by turning it into one of the city’s most attractive new residential destinations. The same improved green spaces and pedestrian corridors that boosted its value for commercial tenants have also created a true 24/7 neighborhood that serves families and workers alike – with residential growth only expected to increase as new condos open in the years to come.
The bottom line here is that while Disney’s move to Hudson Square was major news, it was also a reminder of the power of partnership and investment in an area with real potential. The swiftness of this community’s growth over the past decade only goes to show that even bigger developments are likely on the horizon.
Ellen Baer is the President and CEO of Hudson Square Business Improvement District.