New Zoning Incentives for Grocery Store Developments Proposed in New York City

Transit accessibility incentives are also included in a package of zoning reforms proposed this week that would provide incentives for grocery store developments in a wider swath of New York City.

March 11, 2021, 5:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

New York City Grocery Store

nyker / Shutterstock

Rebecca Baird-Remba reports on a bill proposed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio this week that would expand zoning incentives for grocery stores and transit station accessibility improvements, "allowing developers to get extra floor area in their buildings in exchange for including a supermarket or improving transit."

The grocery store incentives would expand the FRESH program, in place since 2009, to 11 new community districts, reports Baird-Remba.

"FRESH, which is an acronym for Food Retail Expansion to Support Health, allows developers to negotiate an additional 20,000 square feet of residential floor area in a new building in exchange for including a grocery store of at least 20,000 square feet," explains Baird-Remba.

The program has been controversial since its inception for a lack of progress in lower-income neighborhoods in the city.

"The Department of City Planning said that it plans to implement 'guidance' to prevent 'detrimental clustering of FRESH supermarkets' in gentrifying neighborhoods that have seen a significant amount of new residential development over the past decade," adds Baird-Remba. "The city also plans to waive up to 10,000 square feet of parking for a grocery store." 

In addition to the grocery store improvements, Mayor de Blasio is also proposing a "Zoning for Accessibility" initiative that would allow developers additional floor area in exchange for funding accessibility improvements at the city's transit stations—a challenge that currently falls well below thresholds of accessibility established by state and federal accessibility laws.

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