Securing the Future of West Village Houses
West Village House’s planning principles are most clearly visible from above.
Recent reports indicate that the board of West Village Houses, the 42-building, 420-unit development on six blocks in the Far West Village, are considering plans for the development’s future that could include a deal with a developer involving demolition and new construction on the site – read here. GVSHP has been closely monitoring the situation, as we have a special interest in West Village Houses, the only development that Jane Jacobs had a hand in shaping, which embodies the highly influential and noteworthy planning principles she espoused.
West Village Houses resulted from the local community’s successful efforts to stop Robert Moses’ plans to bulldoze this area and build a sea of high-rise towers. The community-initiated plan which took its place consisted of simple walk-up buildings arranged around small front yards and communal backyards which reflected the historic pattern of residential development in the Village and other older neighborhoods. This simple idea was radical for its time, and presaged a wave of similar infill and contextual development in later years. While financial constraints resulted in a simplified version of the design when built, the planning principles remained, and the West Village Houses served as affordable housing that formed the backbone of the Far West Village for over forty years (read more here).
But in 2006 the owner of West Village Houses bought out of the program which kept the development affordable, and a deal was struck with the city to extend that affordability for another twelve years.Elements of that deal will soon expire, and avenues are being explored to allow the development to remain affordable.
GVSHP is supportive of such efforts. However, we also feel very strongly that preserving the important design principles and the legacy of Jane Jacobs found in the West Village Houses is also vital, and believe that the best outcome will preserve both the affordability of the houses and their historic significance to maximum degree practicable. We have communicated those concerns to those involved with exploring options for the house’s future, and have suggested solutions to pursue which would not involve demolition or new development. GVSHP also secured zoning protections and limitations for almost all of the West Village Houses and much of the Far West Village in 2005, and would be extremely concerned about any plan that involved undoing or weakening any of those protections. GVSHP has been and will remain in communication with residents of the houses, its board, elected officials representing the area, neighbors, and concerned individuals and organizations from across the city and country who also recognize the unique legacy this development represents and the need to protect it.