Oculus - Spring 2014 - (Page 16)
some blocks over
Sprucing Up Shopfronts Post Sandy
A year after Hurricane Sandy, New York City provides grants and design
expertise to rework damaged storefronts in four boroughs
B Y C LA IRE WILS O N
he question was inevitable: Why now? But when Susan G.
Doban, AIA, of Doban Architecture, showed up at 35 shops
around the city last fall with the promise of improvements, no
one turned down her offer of a design for a spiffed-up storefront.
Each had qualified under a special program offered by New
York City's Department of Small Business Services (SBS), which
offered up to $20,000 apiece to improve shop façades and give a
lift to damaged neighborhoods where foot traffic had not quite
returned to normal. "Making new façades and upgrading gives
an area new life and gets people back on the streets," Doban says.
The South Street Seaport is one neighborhood that still needs
help drawing visitors. Amanda Byron Zink repaired the water
damage to Salty Paw, her pet accessories shop on Peck Slip, but
needed new visuals for the front of the store, which is landmarked and severely restricted. Doban suggested moving the
blade sign, putting the store's name above the door, and keeping
the windows clear for catchy displays. "We needed people to
know it was a dog store, to give it something to stand out and
have more consumer appeal," says Byron Zink. "Susan took my
ideas and ran with them."
Other neighborhoods to get SBS grants include Red Hook
and Coney Island in Brooklyn; the Rockaways, Queens; and
Midland Avenue, Staten Island. Eventually, up to 75 businesses
might get grants, according to the SBS.
Each project was as different as the businesses themselves,
according to Doban, who worked with Jason Gorsline, design director of Think Fabricate, Doban Architecture's multidisciplinary
design studio. In addition to a new façade and repairs, some
needed logos, others awnings, and still others advice on how to
clean up crowded visuals in the windows. There was a butcher, a
surf shop, a Russian language pharmacy, a fish restaurant morphing into a Mexican eatery, and an empty store with a clown mural
taken from an amusement facility. In other places, small groups
of shops were unified with interesting colors and textures.
Erin Norris, owner of Grindhaus, a restaurant in Red Hook,
already had something in mind for her façade and was doing
a lot of the work herself. She'd lost everything to water damage, but didn't get any Sandy relief funds because the restaurant
wasn't yet open when the storm hit. When the SBS funds came
along she was able to realize what she'd long envisioned: a façade
of rough cedar planks, copper shingles in the entryway, and
a handmade copper awning she'd wanted but couldn't afford
(left) The Grindhaus restaurant
in Red Hook, Brooklyn,
before its facelift by Doban
(below) Rendering of the
without the grant. Grindhaus finally opened late last fall, a year
behind schedule. "The designers had a vision for my storefront,
and were delighted with what I already had here," says Norris. "I
was thrilled to work with them."
Doban says the hardest part was a very tight schedule. The
architect would blitz a neighborhood, meet with shop owners,
see what they needed, do a rendering, come back with it for
comments, and revise. "We didn't have a lot of time for the typical process," she says.
Russell Whitmore, owner of the seven-year-old Erie Basin
jewelry store in Red Hook, didn't mind the pressure. The grant
allowed him to paint the façade, enhance the lighting, and
replace the roof over the storefront corners with a copper version
that doesn't leak. He would have done it all eventually, he says,
"but it was nice to have a deadline to inspire me to do it all at
Claire Wilson writes for the New York Times.
Oculus Spring 2014
Civic Spirit: Civic Visions
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Spring 2014
Letter From the President
Letter From the Editor
Center for Architecture
Some Blocks Over
Opener: Open to the Public: Civic Space Now
The Search for the Soul of Cities
A Different Tale of Two Cities
Public Space Reasserts Its Political Role
Gatherings of One
Time to Welcome Woonerfs
Redesigning the Crossroads of the World
A Magical Place on the Water
How to Remember a Plague
Sustainable Models for a Just City
Index to Advertisers
Oculus - Spring 2014
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