North Avenue has benefited in recent years from significant investment in its public streetscape (the third phase of which is currently underway), but private commercial investment has lagged and contributes in many locations to a distressed appearance and lack of economic vitality.

To address this challenge, the City Council voted last night to adopt new zoning standards for the North Avenue corridor, from Eastchester Road to the Memorial Highway overpass. Our vote concludes a years-long process of study, discussion and public comment.

The most significant changes are: (1) an increase in the maximum height of buildings, which will now be set at three stories or forty feet; and (2) an increase in the maximum floor-area-ratio, newly set at 2.0, up from the previous 0.5. There are, of course, many other details, which you can read here.

The new zoning standards aim to enhance the value and marketability of land on the corridor by expanding the range of investment and development possibilities. It should be noted that the original planning analysis presented to the City Council recommended a more dramatic change, including building height of up to twelve stories in certain limited circumstances. These original recommendations, however, received a largely negative reaction from the community, with many arguing that the burdens of such density would outweigh any benefits. The final iteration of the zoning represents a sort of lowest common denominator with which most interested parties were comfortable. Whether it is, in fact, sufficient to accomplish the objective of economic renewal can only be discovered with time.

Incidentally, the stretch of North Avenue from the Memorial overpass to Burling Lane was dropped from this change, because its existing DB (Downtown Business) zone already permits more flexibility than that allowed in the new NA (North Avenue) zone. There may be opportunities to reexamine this portion of North Avenue in conjunction with a broader look at transit-oriented growth and development.

The vote of the Council was 6 to 1 in favor, with Council Member Roxie Stowe dissenting. Council Member Stowe did not object to the new zoning standards per se, but rather to the remapping of a several parcels on Fifth Avenue, immediately to the east of North Avenue.