Foot traffic—a term economists use to describe the number of customers that enter a location—is a measure of a place’s quality of life and prosperity. High foot traffic is good for people, public health, and business. This October, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced the four design teams that will carry out his administration’s Future of Fifth program, a long-term project that would boost foot traffic in Midtown Manhattan by permanently pedestrianizing parts of Fifth Avenue between Bryant Square and Central Park.
The selected teams include Field Operations, Sam Schwartz, Arcadis, and Public Works Partners. The award-winning landscape architecture firm Field Operations will be the project’s design lead, oversee its design vision, urban design, and landscape architecture; and co-lead the public engagement process. Sam Schwartz, the lauded transportation planning office, will manage the team’s day-to-day operations and lead civil engineering, traffic engineering, and transportation planning. Arcadis, the architecture and urbanism consultancy, will work as the project’s prime consultant and administrative manager, and lead implementation and construction phasing strategy. Public Works Partners will lead the zoning analysis and co-lead the public engagement process with Field Operations.
Aiding the four core team members will be a slew of supporting offices. These include Jan Gehl, BJH Advisors, SiteWorks, Tillotson Design, Toscano Clements Taylor, MFS Engineers and Surveyors, Gallas Survey Group, Introba, and TYLin/Silman. In line with the mayor’s commitment to ensuring city contracts are awarded equally to all New Yorkers, seven of the 14 firms are minority- and women-owned businesses.
Today, Fifth Avenue is a five-lane road: two of the lanes are for buses while the other three are for cars. The design team will be tasked with delivering an actionable plan to convert one of the car lanes into pedestrian space; virtually extending the sidewalk into the street.
The announcement follows a comprehensive study by Mastercard completed in 2022 that revealed just how lucrative pedestrianization and increased foot traffic can be for local businesses. Economists observed that merchants whose storefronts abut Fifth Avenue saw a 6.6 increase in revenue when the city transformed eleven city blocks into pedestrian-friendly public spaces on Fifth Avenue between Bryant Square and Central Park for three weeks in winter 2022. The street closures from the Open Streets program yielded an additional $3 million for the business owners.
The Future of Fifth program is a coalition between the mayor’s office, NYC Economic Development Corporation, NYC Department of Transportation, the Fifth Avenue Association, the Grand Central Partnership, the Bryant Park Association, and the Central Park Conservancy, among other area groups.
The Adams administration and the design teams will release a comprehensive Fifth Avenue masterplan in mid-2024. The city notes that schematic design should be complete in early-2025. Next steps will also include the design teams participating in public events, meetings, surveys, and more for public outreach.