On December 15, 2021 New York City Council passed a rezoning plan to SoHo and NoHo. This plan incorporates rezoning to mixed use zoning districts for commercial and residential uses with Mandatory Inclusionary Housing for residential developments within the newly zoned districts.
I am Jorge Fontan an architect in New York City, owner of Fontan Architecture. In this blog post I am going to discuss some of the key points of the SoHo rezoning plan and explain the key difference with the previous zoning regulations on SoHo and NoHo.
Background on SoHo Historic Zoning
SoHo was historically a Manufacturing Zoning District. There were industrial uses such as factories and warehouses. When manufacturing began to leave New York these formerly industrial buildings became obsolete. Artists began to illegally occupy these buildings for their live-work art studios.
The residential occupation of those buildings that we have come to refer to as “Lofts” was illegal as per the previous zoning regulations. New York city created new zoning districts that allowed residential use in a manufacturing district. There were specific requirements that fulfilled this allowance such as the JLWQA artist lofts codes. Aside from this, the owner of these buildings had to make upgrades for example adding fire sprinklers.
Decades later Lofts became one of the top valued forms of residential living in Manhattan. The Loft apartments identified as JLWQA have been purchased by celebrities and people who work in finance or real estate.
I am not going to go any further in this article on the history of SoHo but if you want to learn a little more here are a few other posts that may help.
JLWQA Artist Loft Zoning In this article I explain the Joint Live Work Quarters for Artists rules, which were created to legalize the illegally occupied lofts in built for manufacturing purposes within a non residential zoning district.
Architectural Characteristics of Lofts In this post, I discuss why lofts are so desirable due to their architectural character as a remnant of industrial architecture.
Proposed and Approved SoHo Rezoning Plan
New York City has three basic zoning districts. Commercial, Manufacturing, and Residential. SoHo was historically a Manufacturing District with some modifications made to allow residences for artist lofts.
The newly approved rezoning plan creates “Mixed Zoning Districts” or MX zoning. These are zoning districts with manufacturing and residential districts combined. This essentially means if you purchase a property in the newly rezoned mixed district, you have a property that is both in a manufacturing district (as it was historically) and a residential district.
New SoHo Zoning Districts:
- M1-5 / R7X
- M1-5 / R9X
- M1-6 / R10
JLWQA Conversion to Residential
You can now convert Joint Live Work Quarters for Artists or JLWQA Lofts (Artist Lofts) to unrestricted residential use. I have another blog post that outlines the process and requirements for removing artist requirements from these lofts: Converting Artis Lofts (JLWQA) to Residential.
Mandatory Inclusionary Housing
Aside from adding mixed manufacturing and residential zoning, the new rezoning plan incorporates Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. This is a zoning requirement for mixed income buildings where a percentage of the residential units must be reserved for affordable units.
In certain zoning districts, the Inclusionary Housing Program is an option, within the new SoHo rezoning plan it is “MIH” which means it is mandatory. I have another blog post I wrote with a deeper explanation if you would like to read more about the Inclusionary Housing Program.
Retail in SoHo
One change to the commercial side of zoning in SoHo is that the new zoning districts will allow for large retail (specifically big box stores).
2021 SoHo Rezoning
The main point of the SoHo rezoning is the addition of mixed zoning with residential use. This will increase the ability to convert buildings to residential use, as well as allow for new residential developments and enlargements of existing buildings. There will also be affordable housing requirements for these new developments, as well as large commercial use allowances as well.
Zoning is complicated. Please understand that this post is meant to be a general overview and not a complete analysis of the new zoning changes.
If you are interested in reading, I have another blog post I wrote on The Process of Applying for a Rezoning in NYC.
Thank You for Reading Our Blog Post on the SoHo Rezoning Plan of 2021.
I hope this was helpful. If you would like to speak with an architect about a potential project you can contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.
This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.