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“Low Overhead”

Pilot Projects is launching our blog with this little challenge: We believe this shop in our neighborhood is the smallest piece of commercial real estate in NYC. There! If anyone has a contender, send it to us. We’ll issue a wonderful prize to the smallest at the end of February. (Prize specifics tbd!)

More importantly, we love this example of urban adaptation with culture and infrastructure so fully intertwined. This can-do spirit in the face of massive constraints is what propels entrepreneurs and innovators to truly unique and functional solutions. Could this outcome happen in another context, with a non-immigrant shop owner or a more formal regulatory system? Probably not. In our neighborhood, for better or worse, culture is still the system that dominates the realm of the possible. Even the customers have to embrace this context in order to do business.

But the importance of the built infrastructure shouldn’t be discounted either. The space has to be 'just right'. Three and a half feet of headroom works for sitting on a small stool (two feet doesn’t). A hair dryer makes a perfect heating system for 27 cubic feet, even when your curtain wall is… a clear vinyl curtain. Tools are important, they have to be in easy reach. And the location has to have good... "foot traffic." Physical space, tools and structures are critical, intentionally designed or not. Pilot Projects sees “design” and “adaptation” as synonymous in an urban context, invigorating the city with meaning and opportunity for change.

This is the essence of our work: To find and create opportunities in our built environment to share in the greater human project: to co-create the good life. We know this journey, like all worthwhile journeys, will be contentious and fraught with conflict. Sometimes this means working in New York City’s smallest piece of real estate. Sometimes it means endless conversations with city officials to get a project done. With creativity, faith and playfulness we move forward. Without them what’s the point?

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