A Red Hook proposal - Building a Design District
Okay, I really don't have time to write this today, but I had said that I would post some ideas on how Ikea could be a better neighbor and I never got around to it. I've got a couple of ideas, but I'd like to throw the big one out there first...
A Design District on the Waterfront:
With a broad coalition across public and private lines, I believe we could promote the creation of Design District in Red Hook. Within, and immediately surrounding the neighborhood there are a number of institutions that could come together to form a consortium around home and interior design. With Ikea coming, and Lowe's and Home Depot already here, three of the largest home and interior design retailers are present. In addition, there are a number of small shops in the neighborhood that specialize in wood working, capentry, plumbing, used and refinished furniture, contracting, and marble and glasswork. In addition, one of the locals of the United Brotherhood of Capenters is located right here in the neighborhood. Together these institutions will have a tremendous capacity to make Red Hook a center for home design.
There are two things missing though - an educational element, and public intervention to bring all these actors together. Educational institutions are historically vital for these kinds of districts. They train local workers and entrenpeneurs for the commercial institutions, and they constantly introduce new innovations into the field which keeps the district sustainable. The best educational element would be a two tiered structure. One of the design schools of New York city (the Parson School, the Pratt Institute, the Fashion Institute Technology) should be invited into the neighborhood to establish an university level program in the neighborhood. They should be partnered with a New York City public high school that specializes in furniture, home and design. It may be necessary to create an entirely new school in the neighborhood. The high school would have a two track system. One would be focused on trades and skills, including small business management. By partnering with the local chapter of the Brotherhood of Carpenters, some graduates come out as skilled union members. The second track would focus on directing students toward university design school. Some will go straight to the partner university's program, others will go to other programs. The high school should draw most of its students from Red Hook Houses.
Public intervention will be required to make this happen. The City will have to offer incentives to bring these businesses together. The Deparment of Education will have to participate in organizing the high school. Whichever design college participates will need support to bring a campus to the neighborhood.
A dedicated Design District in Red Hook would make the community more of destination. It would promote practical education, and commercial activity. It would build on characteristics of the neighborhood that are already present. The mixed-used character of the neighborhood will not need to be overwhelmed. Small shops can co-exist with larger businesses and homes.
So that's one big idea for Red Hook. If anyone wants to forward this on to anyone who might get this going, please do!