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Getting Down To Business Real Estate

There are many Nyacks that live together in the one square mile of commercial, residential and recreational real estate clustered on the Hudson River.

Depending on where you sit, you might see a quaint village with a vibrant arts community and a hopping night life. Or you might see a village with too many empty storefronts, unable to nurture new businesses when they open with no one in charge of marketing and business planning — blissfully in denial about the existence of one of the largest malls in America located just up the street.

Last week Joseph Mitlof started a conversation about creating a “real estate czar” to coordinate business property interests in the village. Here’s his original post, followed by responses from J.P. Schutz, Marilyn Kaskel and Carlo Pellegrini from the Nyack Chamber of Commerce.

by Joseph Mitlof

Nyack should consider a “Real Estate Czar” to deal with the large number of commercial properties that are now vacant. As one example, an ‘overseer’ might be of help in filling the ‘Gateway’ locations on Main and 9W (Highland) and Waldron & Main. Someone who is retired but has a real estate background might be able to help both the Village of Nyack and the property owners. Here are a few reasons why this is worthy of consideration:

  • An objective professional could look at the BIG picture. Individual owners and realtors generally will not.
  • Give the community and the powers that be, a true, comprehensive view of the overall real estate picture. i.e. vacancies etc.
  • Promote creative possibilities, such as potentially combining contiguous properties for a broader, out of the region, market. Three contiguous properties are currently for sale along one of our most visible streets at the corner of Waldron & Main (Rte.59). The marketing possibilities are legion but not necessarily available to individual owners.
  • Explore the highest and best use, a long held real estate mantra. A good example is the Nyack waterfront. Arguably some of the most valuable real estate in the N.Y. Metro area, but we now use it to store snow and a few old boats.
by Marilyn Kaskel 

I agree with so much of what I’ve read from others who’ve posted on this subject. I actually mentioned this to the VB a couple of weeks ago as I had just returned from a trip to Beacon and was struck by how much construction is going on there…a boutique hotel, apts., stores, etc….and how one particular realtor in town seems to be taking the lead on much of it.

I think we should call for a meeting, sooner rather than later, on this very subject. How do we turn the tide in our village? Who can play a role in making this happen? Who should be held accountable for the flood of empty commercial spaces? Are the rents just too damn high

Get all the landlords to attend as well so that everyone has a say and everyone understands what’s really going on downtown. For those of us who live here and pay lots of taxes for that privilege…we certainly have the right to know. We all know the economy is bad but we can certainly start to create some forward-thinking ideas and plans for Nyack. The entire Village…not just the superblock.

Can this be arranged?

by John Patrick Schutz 

Though I am a realtor, I do see the bigger picture, and a commercial real estate ‘€œczar’€ is an excellent idea.

In many communities the Chamber of Commerce or the local Business Guild play that role, but that’s never really worked here in Nyack. I’ve seen Nyack be the best place for shopping when I was a kid in the ’60s, a depressed boarded up ghost town in the 70s, a happening new-age arts and antiques and boytique destination in the ’80s only to bust again when retail rents skyrocketed and most of the antique stores, almost all of the boutiques and the more modest priced cafes departed for less expensive pastures.

The rebound in the later 90s added VERY high-end restaurants, an Equity Theater at the Helen Hayes and some very tony retail shops making us into ‘€œSoho on the Hudson.’€ Up and up and up shot the rents, village bickering on who and what shops could and couldn’t open, the unbelievable ‘€œbuy 20 parking spaces that don’t actually exist and you can open your business rule’€ and the debacle of Helen Hayes/Riverspace/Unused theater hit just in time for the economic downturn giving us a perfect storm of economic conditions resulting in shop after shop closing,

with the only some of the most established long-term shops and restaurants holding on for dear life while the only successful new businesses are college bar after college bar after college bar. A few are nice, a lot can be a problem. 

We get fewer and fewer taxable businesses, no new ratables and our taxes frequently (but not this year, thank goodness) increase as more business shutter.

Some incentives for business NEED to be put in place, and put in place now. A business resource group that could be available as a resource to prospective new retail and dining (not soley drinking) establishments construct and implement a SENSIBLE BUSINESS PLAN rather than a pie-in-the-sky dream or a completely unworkable concept would help prevent the slew of ‘€œGrand Opening ‘€“ Going Out of Business in One Month’€ type shops we’ve seen open and close so many times. From a realtors’ point of view, I’ve looked at many of these ‘€œconcept shops’€ and thought ‘€œHow many people do you think are going to shop here for that limited of a line of product?’€ or worse, when you’ve got The Runcible Spoon on the north end of Broadway, the Art Cafe on the south end of Broadway, Starbucks on the east end of Main Street and Didier Dumont on the west end’€¦ did the village really have enough people to call for FIVE more coffee and tea shops to attempt to open only to see them close not long after, or even BEFORE opening? And another yet to come INSIDE the library? How does this make any economic sense?

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Who were their projected customers going to be? I see this over and over again and I think ‘€œAm I the only one that thinks this business has a snowballs’ chance’€¦?’€ A local business council that would work with people as they concieve and open could save a lot of heartbreak and economic loss, and save our downtown from yet one more empty storefront ‘€“ save us from another debacle like ‘€œTasha’€ which while beautifully renovated located itself across the street from the very cafe it bought its pastries from! Now we have a floor-to-ceiling glassed in fishbowl of a vacant property right on one of the most prominent corners in town ‘€“ and the only business who’ll want it in the current configuration will be a bar, mark my words. A bit of guidance would be helpful ‘€“ along with a bit of compromise from the village and from the property owners. And frankly there are lots of things that could make it easier to keep some of these boutique and specialty stores open.

As a realtor, 9-5 Monday to Friday is NOT a schedule I’m on ‘€“ why? Because a good portion of the rest of the world IS on that schedule and need to shop for homes in the evenings and on weekends. Logically, that should hold true for specialty shops ‘€“ why are they open AT ALL before noon, and why in goodness name do they CLOSE right when everyone else gets home from work? Open at noon and stay open until 8 especially on Thurs, Fri, Sat, Ever see crowds of people wandering around on Monday holidays with no shops to go into? I do too’€¦ why doesn’t the Chamber of Commerce encourage evening hours AND stick to the encouragement.

I have news, one or two weeks or even months is not enough to judge whether or not it is successful. A change like that needs a chance to grow and thrive, yet no one is willing to do so. I remember one business owner telling me, ‘€œwe tried that once ‘€“ it didn’t work’€. Once? Again, perhaps not a ‘€œczar’€ but a ‘€œbusiness council’€ that banded together to encourage business to thrive with a cohesive vision shared by the Village and Township government and the Orangetown Police would do alot ‘€“ perhaps a tax incentive or two, and a PR campaign to get rid of the poor image our ‘€œparking problem’€ (real or not) has given us? One person’s vision may not do it, but perhaps one person as a resource that would tie all the others together? THAT might work.

by Carlo Pellegrini 

Marilyn, John and Joseph:

All of you bring up excellent points and have some great tangible ideas to move Nyack toward its goal’€¦a thriving community. I would like to invite you to one of our Chamber Board meetings and ask you to consider joining the Chamber of Commerce as members. Your enthusiasm and ideas are welcome. Your expertise is welcome.

There are seven of us on the Board’€¦we are volunteers’€¦there is no paid staff. Each one of us has a particular expertise in either marketing, insurance, publicity, retail, merchandising, events, etc. But we don’t have a realtor on the Board’€¦and we could use one.

I know you are busy’€¦that’s what everyone with great ideas says. Join us and implement your ideas. The Chamber is only as good as its members and the ideas its members initiate and implement. We are all business people who run our own businesses: some of us run two and three businesses. Join us and get your great ideas done. Are you game? And just to clarify: The Chamber IS the ‘€˜business council’ you speak of and we continue to form bonds with the Village Trustees, Friends of the Nyacks and ACADA to build this village up together.

Help us build Nyack into the village it is supposed to be. Be active with us. Contact me and let’s start working together.

Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.

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