ZARA’s 2nd Floor Becomes Ground Zero for SoHo Rezoning Debate
David Thall, a resident who lives directly behind ZARA on Mercer Street, testified that the mall store is scaring off boutique retailers lining Mercer Street. Thall explained that more than four storefronts are currently vacant and that Max Mara vacated his building in large part of because of ZARA. (Boogie confirmed that there are indeed four vacant storefronts on Mercer Street directly behind the block-through Zara building.)
Despite detailed testimony and a lengthy ULURP, the hearing ended without a vote or decisive measure from City Council. And the future of the SoHo/NoHo Report remains equally ambiguous. Roundly criticized as too vague, advocates and critics of the special permit application continue to find language in the Report that supports their position. For now, the legality of ZARA’s second floor appears stalled in a political conundrum where city officials charged with special permitting are also the sponsors of a community-led zoning study.
But in the end, it was ZARA itself that may have inadvertently provided the best case to deny the application. Lead counsel testified that the City never contemplated the M1-5B zoning restrictions for “mixed-used areas” like Broadway in SoHo, and that the real intention was to prevent the construction of malls in manufacturing areas surrounding the suburbs of the city. But now, as SoHo finds itself “mallified,” these comments actually expressed the desire of community activists, residents and many retailers to maintain some measure of the current zoning rules to prevent any further suburbanization of the City.