4. Explore Other Approaches to Historic Preservation
A Genuine Mix of Uses > Recommendations

Special Zoning District (aka Special Purpose District) Designation

The New York City Planning Commission has been designating special zoning districts, also known as special purpose districts, since 1969 to achieve specific planning and urban design objectives in defined areas with unique characteristics. Special zoning districts respond to specific conditions and can contain regulatory provisions about scale, materials, and site configuration for new development, as well as design guidelines to preserve special architectural features and/or guide the design, massing, and materials used in new development. Many Bridging Gowanus participants expressed interest in exploring the use of this tool, as it could strike a balance between preservation of important neighborhood features and flexibility to modestly grow and change.

Conservation District Designation

The primary goal of a typical conservation district is to provide the community with design and preservation guidelines that shape new development and in some cases call for the retention of specific existing buildings or building features. Conservation districts are not regulated by State or Federal government, and regulation by a municipality is optional. Generally, guidelines are not focused on architectural details, but on the scale, massing and materials used in site development. Many U.S. cities employ conservation districts to guide the scale and design of new development in historic areas; however, this tool has not been used in New York City. Participants in Bridging Gowanus workshops expressed interest in learning more about and exploring the potential to establish a conservation district for the Gowanus community.

National Heritage Corridor (NHC) Designation

Created by Congress and administered by the State and/or local nonprofits, NHC designation is non-regulatory but can bring financial incentives. Corridors of this type are typically designated around public land, and in fact New York’s “premier” NHC is the Erie Canal Corridor. Used to spark economic development for the many towns and small cities along the Erie Canal, the NHC designation has brought grant and public funding opportunities, branding and marketing themes, and national status. Participants in Bridging Gowanus’ preservation workshop expressed interest in learning more about NHC designation, and community preservation organizations may want to pursue this with the assistance of their Congresswoman’s office.