As the City of New York and Amtrak embark on a master planning process to explore the future of Sunnyside Yard, take a deep dive into what master planning is.
Cities across the globe are experiencing unprecedented population growth, and NYC is no exception. As more people move to already densely populated areas of the city, neighborhoods face complex challenges around housing, jobs, infrastructure, and quality of life. Creating a master plan is a primary method cities use to coordinate between public agencies, community advocates, elected officials, and other parties to ensure that new development projects lead to equitable and sustainable growth.
So, what is a master plan?
In short, it is an outline that guides the growth and development of an area over time. Depending on the project, a master plan can include some or all of the following:
- Overall aspirational vision of what the area should be in the future
- Design and program guidelines (types and shapes of buildings and open spaces, zoning recommendations, etc.)
- Technical analysis and parameters that may influence future growth (engineering constraints, infrastructure requirements, etc.)
- Framework for implementation (phasing plan, financing strategies, transportation and infrastructure investment plan, etc.)
The master planning process includes collaboration among community stakeholders with local knowledge, technical experts, regional stakeholders, elected officials, and others that leads to formation of a master plan that outlines the goals and parameters for new development projects in an area. This may include recommendations about community facilities, infrastructure, urban design, building type (often called “building bulk”), zoning districts, and land use.
A final master plan document includes analysis of existing conditions, trends, and future growth projections to inform written principles and strategies with supporting maps, diagrams, drawings, and renderings. This document serves as a blueprint for new projects and investments that are then built over time.
The master plan serves as a structured yet flexible guide for a long-term vision that aims to strengthen an area. Because a master plan is often implemented in multiple phases, the plan is critical to address each interconnected piece of the “puzzle” while keeping the overarching, big-picture vision in mind.
Check out some examples of master plans in NYC and around the country:
Hunter’s Point South Plan: This master plan provided open and recreational space to a fast-growing area of Queens that was lacking such amenities.
Battery Park City Master Plan: The Battery Park City plan envisioned a mixed-use community with new schools, affordable housing, waterfront green space, and large open spaces for recreation.
King’s Cross Regeneration Strategy (London, UK): The plan maximized access to an important transportation hub by creating a network of walkable pathways around the site. This addressed challenges presented by the physical constraints of the existing infrastructure, which had posed challenges to connect the surrounding communities.
Philadelphia 30th Street Station District Plan: Through this plan, the 30th Street station will be able to serve more residents and visitors to the city and serve as an iconic gathering space with new plazas and public spaces.