Made in Midtown 2009–2012

Made in Midtown showed how the Garment District supports design innovation, influencing the city's thinking about the neighborhood. Making Midtown, the project's second phase, created a vision for how the Garment District could revitalize its public realm and bolster its position as a fashion R&D hub. 

  1. Phase I
  2. Phase II
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Photo: Chris Kannen

Released in October, 2012, the Making Midtown report provides actionable recommendations for how the City can strengthen the Garment District as a vital hub for creative production – a crucial component of a 21st century city – by way of zoning and land use regulations, programming, branding and other strategies to ensure the enduring success of the District. 


Based on years of research and extensive work with stakeholders to generate innovative and implementable strategies, Making Midtown: A New Vision for a 21st Century Garment District in New York City provides a roadmap for revitalizing the Garment District with fashion design and manufacturing at its core. Our recommendations establish a model for New York and other cities to create a new kind of urban creative district–one that leverages, rather than replaces, a given neighborhood's existing resources to create real estate value, support jobs, and capture a distinct neighborhood identity and character. 

Making Midtown, although not the first set of recommendations for the Garment District, is the first comprehensive effort to include all stakeholders in building a shared vision. Every recommendation in our report is achievable through coordinated private and public sector investment over the next 10 years. If our recommendations are implemented, $340 million dollars in unrealized real estate value will be effectively "unlocked" for the neighborhood, along with $8 million dollars in tax revenue for the city. 


Few places in NYC are as underappreciated–or have a more promising future–than the Garment District. Unlike any other neighborhood in the city, the District is both the historic birthplace and the current research and development hub for American fashion. At a time when American manufacturing is once again a growth sector, the Garment District is still home to hundreds of garment manufacturers, employing roughly 7,100 patternmakers, seamstresses, graders and markers, cutters and others who help make NYC a global fashion capital – and contributing $2.1 billion dollars to the city's economy. 

Phase I of this project, called Made in Midtown, found that the Garment District is still a vibrant cluster economy: designers, patternmakers, graders, sewers, textile suppliers, button manufacturers and all others involved in translating a clothing line from idea to reality are housed within blocks–or even floors–of one another. 

As a result of Made in Midtown, city officials abandoned plans to rezone the Garment District.  However, two overarching questions remained about the neighborhood’s future at the conclusion of the first phase for us to address: "How can fashion design and garment production in midtown Manhattan sustain itself as land values increase?" and "What should the public and private sector's role be in achieving a new model for sustaining light industry in the Garment District?"  

In July 2011, we launched this second phase in partnership with CFDA to develop strategies to revitalize the Garment District as a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood with fashion design and production at its core. 


The Design Trust recognized that plans for the Garment District must consider the neighborhood as a whole along with its broader Midtown context, and must be developed in partnership with all of the District's key stakeholders. To do this, we assembled a new team of Project Fellows, including architects and economic development consultants, who: 

  • Documented the District's built environment, including its building stock, streetscape, traffic patterns, public realm, and neighborhood identity
  • Conducted a real estate, zoning, and financial analysis of the District
  • Led a participatory planning process with District stakeholders, convening more than 60 property owners, city officials, manufacturers and designers to generate and test strategies to guide future development in the District
  • Developed recommendations to promote NYC-made fashion, improve the District's public realm, and sustain a diverse mix of uses in the District
The resulting report repositions the Garment District in Midtown Manhattan as an “Innovation District” with fashion design and production at its core. 

Thanks to the Design Trust, we now have new ideas and strategies to strengthen the resources in the Garment District.

Nanette Lepore

Key Milestones

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Define scope

April 2011

Together with our project partner, we define the scope, schedule, and budget for this new phase of the project, calling it Making Midtown to indicate its future-focus. 

Illustration: Glen Cummings 

Assemble team

July 2011

We bring on a new team of Fellows to lead the research for this second phase: two architects, an urban designer, and an economic development consultant. 

Conduct research

August 2011

The research phase begins with Fellow Andrew Bernheimer documenting every aspect of the District's built environment–its buildings, streets, and sidewalks. 

Drawing: Andrew Bernheimer 

Synthesize findings

October 2011

The team synthesizes their initial research and findings, holding working sessions with outside experts and developing proposals to test with stakeholders. 

Gather community input

December 2011

We convene over sixty stakeholders on a Saturday for structured discussions on the three proposals presented by the Fellow team. 

Photo: Chris Kannen 

Draft recommendations

March 2012

After gathering valuable input from stakeholders in the first workshop, the Fellows work to refine and adjust their recommendations. 

Rendering: Andrew Bernheimer

Testing and peer review

June 2012

In a second participatory workshop, the Fellows present their recommendations and break participants out into small groups for discussion and feedback. 

Produce deliverables

August 2012

Working closely with the staff, the Fellows finalize their recommendations for the project publication. 

Release findings

October 2012

Alongside fashion designers, manufacturers, and City representatives, the Design Trust releases the Making Midtown report at a press conference inside the CFDA Fashion Incubator space in the Garment District. 

Promote and inform

May 2013

The Design Trust organizes a public roundtable discussion for the inaugural "NYCxDesign Week" on strategies to maintain, retain, and create manufacturing in NYC. 

Recent Output

Recent Activity

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013 @ 6:30 PM

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