Did you know that the Garment District in NYC’s Midtown neighborhood is home to hundreds of garment manufacturers, employing more than 7,000 patternmakers, seamstresses, graders and markers, cutters and others who help make NYC a global fashion capital, contributing over $2 billion dollars to the city’s economy – and that it’s a primary source of economic diversity providing crucial jobs to recent immigrants especially?

Prior to the Design Trust’s Made in Midtown project in 2011, the City of New York planned to rezone this area from manufacturing use to make it ‘more valuable’. They thought that fashion manufacturing was probably not the best use of land in terms of financial returns. Surely there had to be better business alternatives to bring more money – hotels, luxury residences, etc. However, our Made in Midtown study found out that the fashion industry was well-equipped to unlock $340 million dollars in unrealized real estate value for the Garment District, along with $8 million dollars in tax revenue for the city.

Combining research that led to a comprehensive set of recommendations, and communication tools, such as a multimedia website, a pop-exhibition, and workshops, the Made in Midtown project brought out the stories of the hardworking people and their immense amount of production in the Garment District. It showed that there’s so much going on in the area, which is imbued with an unimaginable level of value that a casual observer would have no idea about.

As a result of Made in Midtown, city officials abandoned plans to rezone the Garment District.

“Proximity gives us an opportunity to innovate. If you want to stay on top of the game, the more hands you have closer to you, the better off you are.” – Yeohlee Teng, Fashion Designer and Project Partner

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