The Ridgewood Village Council has had some time to chew on the Chamber of Commerce's ambitious retail/parking garage proposal, and soon the residents of the village will have the same opportunity in a public forum.
Paul Vagianos, owner of It's Greek to Me, and one of the lead designers of the project, said Wednesday night that they're planning an informal public forum next month to answer questions residents might have. The details have not yet been determined.
Vagianos on Wednesday night also strongly pushed the village council to move forward in tackling a between The Gap and Gilsenan's Realty could generate in a land lease.
The question of how much cash the land lease a developer agrees to is central to the project, which includes a planned construction of a parking garage on Hudson Street with an adjoined 4,000 square foot retail facility as well as potentially constructing another parking garage on Walnut Street.
The proposal has been lauded as "innovative" and forward thinking by some on the council, but two members have maintained skepticism.
"My trepidation is more of the process how everything's working," Councilwoman Bernadette Walsh said. "I don't know if the RFP is the first step."
Walsh, who has said she believes a detailed RFP would cost more than the village and chamber believes, also questioned the validity of the chamber's projections.
"The RFP is assuming all of the numbers are accurate," she said. "We have to take a step back to see if those numbers work."
Vagianos maintained that in using the only comparables for land leases in Ridgewood, the chamber members felt they were underestimating the revenue they'd receive.
Land leases for Valley National Bank, TD Bank and Columbia Bank all yielded about double the $15 a square foot projection the chamber has targeted for the retail space between Gilsenan's and The Gap, likely to be a 99-year land lease. The council can hire all the real estate experts they want, Vagianos said, but the business owner was confident they'd reach the same conclusions.
"The next step is the RFP," Vagianos said. "That's going to answer 99 percent of our questions."
Other concerns popped up, however. What if the developer goes belly up and the village becomes a landlord?
Though "nobody wants the village to be a landlord," Vagianos said the village would benefit under that scenario as owning the property outright without the expenses.
"We'd be free and clear," he said.
The revenue from the existing parking lot between The Gap and Gilsenan's yields about $18,000 a year. The chamber believes the land lease will yield $300,000 at the space. Taxes could generate further income, chamber members have said.
Any bonding for the total of the project would be split up per component, so the retail facility would be bonded separately from the garages. The projected cost for the entire project is $8 million.
The RFP will largely be written in-house.
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