by Dave Zornow
Nyack, September 18 — A capacity audience at the Nyack Center on Tuesday heard four possible arts center configurations for the proposed village Superblock. Ranging in size from a 1,000 seat “regional roadhouse” to a more modest “arts and media incubator,” the presentation also included two possible intermediate 300-350 seat theaters.
Plans and conversations about redeveloping Nyack’s downtown go back fifty years. “The 3.7 acre superblock is part of a 14 acre area that was wiped clean and redeveloped in a period of a different sensibility called urban renewal,” says Nyack Village trustee Doug Foster. Original plans called for federal financing of a parking garage — which was never built. Regarding the long history of redevelopment in downtown Nyack, Foster said, “What a long strange trip it’s been.”
James Lima, a partner at lead feasibility consultant HR&A, says the latest plan adheres to four basic development principles: improving parking options, being fiscally responsible, meeting the needs of all community members and increasing Nyack’s attraction as a regional destination.
“Redevelopment should enhance downtown and create greater connectivity between the attractions of the village,” Lima says. The project needs to be fiscally responsible and not become an additional burden for taxpayers. “The selected plan should enhance the finances of the village.” Lima adds that a configuration that creates more walking paths and parking space can enhance the existing retail space.
The third principle assures that any new development addresses the needs of all residents. “Whatever is chosen has to serve the needs of everyone in the village, celebrating Nyack’s diverse cultural heritage.” Superblock development should also create job opportunities for young adults and all village residents, he says.
The final principle addresses tourism and marketing opportunities for the village, increasing Nyack’s value as a regional cultural destination. HR&A’s initial study found that although Memorial Park is a great neighborhood park, its greater potential lies in creating a larger usable landscaped riverfront park. By adding more views and pathways to the river, the village can capitalize on Nyack’s unique position as one of the few public access points to the Hudson. According to HR&A’s study of the region, there are about three million people within a 25 minute drive of the village many of whom live in upscale communities with average yearly households over $100,000 a year.
Community response at the meeting was positive, particularly in response to the idea of connecting downtown to Memorial Park and South Nyack via “greenway” pedestrian paths. 1960’s urban renewal development covered part of Nyack brook to deal with historical flooding. The consulting team suggested that the stream can be uncovered to create useful downtown greenways for foot traffic.
“Our downtown used to be much more vibrant and thriving. We have lost so much of the variety and diversity that have historically attracted visitors,” says Denise Cohen, owner of Sign Of The Times on Main Street. “Doing NOTHING is a really bad option at this time.” Cohen says day time foot traffic has declined in the last few years and that Nyack is in danger of becoming a “night” town with only with bars and restaurants. “Change is needed if we want to assure that Nyack merchants have a solid chance for survival.”
Nyack Planning Board Chairman Peter Klose likes what he heard — but was disappointed in the lack of community support for additional parking. “I left wondering why the community seems to ignore the need for stacked parking, a parking garage, to foster, assist and encourage our village to flourish,” he says. Klose believes thinks the village should build more parking while also encouraging pedestrian use of the entire downtown. “Ignoring the need for an influx of cash and eclectic residents and tourists alike is wrong,” he says.
“Responsible development can solve problems,” says Riverspace board member Josh Goldberg. “It can expand the tax base, stimulate local businesses and serve cultural and educational needs in the community.” Goldberg says that one of the goals of Riverspace Downtown, the private non-profit redevelopment plan that preceded the Superblock study, was to replace the “dead zone…in the heart of the village” with a cultural center. “What kind of village do the stakeholders want ? Destination or not?”
The feasibility consulting team of HR&A, H3, Saccardi & Schiff and John Collins Engineers will use public comments to shape their final recommendation to the Nyack Village Board due in November. Additional comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Nyack-NY.gov, PDF of the Sept 14 Superblock presentation / slideshow at the Nyack Center.
- Residents, Officials, Architects Discuss Proposed Superblock Project, Patch.com, 9/15/2010
- Nyack residents discuss “superblock” concepts, Journal News, 9/15/2010