Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Saturday, July 24, 2010

ROSAS: Commercial Design Guidelines

Not so long ago, according to longtime Slope residents, "Park Slope" was a lot smaller than it is today, ending at perhaps 3rd Street or maybe 9th Street on the south. The "South Slope" was seen as a distinct neighborhood, with its own set of needs, which would best be served by a separate neighborhood association. Such was the rationale for ROSAS, which stood for "Revitalization of the Southern Area of the Slope."

By the late 1990s, however, the South Slope was booming, along with the rest of Brooklyn's brownstone belt. The need for a separate neighborhood association having subsided, ROSAS decided to merge itself into the Park Slope Civic Council in about 1998 or 1999. (Some wags contend that ROSAS, having successfully revitalized the South Slope, next decided to "revitalize" the Park Slope Civic Council through an influx of new Trustees!)

ROSAS is not often remembered now, but one of its signature projects, a booklet called "Design Guidelines for Facade Improvement," has come into our hands, and we decided to scan it in and make it available on the web along with our photo archive, block history archive, etc.

Our understanding is that the 7th Avenue commercial corridor above 9th Street was dying out, through conversion of ground-floor commercial space into residential, which obviously tends to kill off a shopping street. The folks at ROSAS did not want to see their local commercial street die, and this manual is one manifestation of their efforts to sustain the local economy, similar to today's "shop local" campaigns and "business improvement districts."

The manual is of interest as a historical artifact, but it also contains useful information for anyone contemplating a commercial storefront renovation/restoration, and is highly recommended for this purpose.

The manual also reflects the aspirations of the early South Slope "brownstoners". One page contrasts the garish signage of a hypothetical "Cheap Charlie's" with that of the more restrained "Park Slope Gourmet:"

We have to say, we too prefer the more understated signage. But in today's Park Slope, where the concern is no longer revitalization, but hyper-gentrification, we'd be quite happy to see "Cheap Charlie's" stick around. Which begs an interesting question... would "Cheap Charlie's" still be "Cheap Charlie's" if it had signage like "Park Slope Gourmet"?

1 comment:

richbrooklyn said...

ROSAS (founded in 1978) actually merged with the Park Slope Civic Council in 2001 (see Civic News Summer 2001 announcement). From 1984-1987 ROSAS secured grants from the city and state which enabled grants to 33 stores on 7th Avenue for renovations and facade improvements (generating around $750,000 in private investment) and for other street improvements including tree plantings and garbage receptacles. As a former longtime board member and briefly a co-president of ROSAS I hope that ROSAS has not been entirely forgotten not just for its contributions to physical improvements in the Slope but also for promoting the feeling of living in a real neighborhood through meetings on local concerns and interests, grants to other community organizations and projects, and awards recognizing the contributions of outstanding contributors to community life