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Ambitious Parking, Retail Plan Unveiled in Ridgewood

Multi-tiered plan features space for a large retail 'anchor' store and a pair of parking garages in the downtown.

A small force of Ridgewood landlords, business owners and developers say an ambitious new parking/retail plan could be the key to revitalizing the village's downtown.

Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce president , landlord Ed Sullivan, realtor , developer John Saraceno, owner Paul Vagianos, architects Ken Schear and Rocco Orlando envision a bolder business district with multiple parking garages and a large retail 'anchor' storefront.

If all goes well, they see developers clamoring to and other empty stores.

"The parking garages will simply act as a catylyst to reigniting the downtown," said Sullivan. "With every fire you need a match. Here's the match that will start the fire to re-ignite the downtown."

Added Vagianos, who's been in town for nearly two decades: "All the stars may be in line to get this done. We are very, very hopeful that it can get done. I would say this project has the best chance of seeing a parking garage since I came to town. But that's all it is, a chance."

The group presented their plan to the village council on Wednesday, Aug. 8.

The plan

The proposal, in the works since around January, is somewhat domino-like in its structure – the village would put out a request for proposals (RFP) for a developer to construct a two-story 12,000 sq ft. retail building (split 6,000 sq ft. per floor) to replace the small parking lot between and .

The developer would sign a land lease, which along with property taxes would enable the village to fund the second phase of the project, a 29-foot-tall .

The parking garage, if built, would accomodate for both shoppers and commuters, boasting around 100 spots. Also included in the grade+two level facility is a 4,450 sq. ft. retail space, which would mirror the first component of the plan, with a land lease bid out to a developer.

Finally, if all goes well and competitive bids flutter in, another parking garage at 26 feet would be constructed on at the site of an earlier parking garage proposal, which a previous council killed in 2008.

Another 100 or so parking spots would be built there, for a total somewhere around 180-230 new spots. The figure – like the plan – is fluid and flexible, the planners said.

All property is solely owned by the village; the plan does not call for any land swaps.

Under the best case scenario, according to Vagianos, construction would start in two years with completion in three.

Challenges

There's no slam dunk any of this comes to fruition.

The council must first agree to put the plan into motion and begin the bidding process. Its time-frame is unknown and how specifically-worded the RFP is would likely have a large impact on the developer interest.

If the bids fall short of what's needed to finance the project or there are no bidders for the first component of the plan, the rest falls apart.

"The market dictates what someone is willing to pay on a land lease," said Vagianos. "Projections are just that – projections, but there's no risk in going out to bid on it."

According to Bill Gilsenan, the facility between his building and the Gap should yield about $180,000 annually in rent. The lease of the retail facility built at the Hudson lot would yield about $44,500 in annual rent, he estimated. Taxes generated on both lots could total $134,500, he said, for a grand total of $359,000 in revenue.

Gilsenan estimated the cost of building the parking structures to be roughly $8 million. He said the bond offering should be satisfied by the $360,000 revenue stream.

While 200 or so parking spots will make some dent in the lack of parking, it won't be a cure-all. A study conducted several years ago found the village was deficient by more than three times the amount of parking proposed in this plan. The group has, however, called it a good "first step."

"Every single parking study that has been done in the last 50 years has identified a need for parking," said Sullivan, who added that while there may be spots available, hidden away at certain times, consumers are frustrated driving in circles and more likely not to come back.

"The perception of inadequate parking is even more than the actual deficit but perception is reality in the consumer's mind," Sullivan said.

Business reborn?

The idea, the group said, is not to compete directly with the malls, but rather to showcase more unique offerings along with a "critical mass" of retail that allows other stores to flourish.

"It's about offering something a little different. Unless you have a critical mass of stores, the alternative falls short," said Vagianos. "One store won't fix it."

The council is expected to be discussing the plan at most work sessions throughout the fall.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor James Kleimann at James.Kleimann@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Boyd A. Loving August 09, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Financial liability for Ridgewood's residential taxpayers is significant should the anticipated revenue stream be broken because of unexpected vacancies in the proposed storefronts. "Build it and they will rent" should not be taken for granted.
Boyd A. Loving August 09, 2012 at 11:21 AM
Dom: Read the recent article in The Record regarding "retail anchors" fleeing another downtown Bergen County community. The place to be now, from retailers' perspective, is shopping malls because there is more foot traffic. Small storefronts with locally owned and operated service businesses seem to be the new savior of downtowns. http://www.northjersey.com/news/bergen/bergen_news/165042656_Smaller_businesses_rediscover_Englewood_s_downtown_rediscover_downtown.html?scpromo=1
News Man August 09, 2012 at 11:22 AM
A 'Retail Anchor' is the key to this project. Have there been some interested nibbles to that possibity? Perhaps releasing some names would generate a lot more interest from our local and nearby shoppers. I remember shoppers came here from all over to shop here for the wide varieties goods and services. Perhaps this is the new beginning we have been looking for? The 'nimby' groups will all be lining up to throw a wet blanket on this project, I hope not.
Boyd A. Loving August 09, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Dom: Please read this recent article from The Record regarding "retail anchors" who are leaving another downtown Bergen County community in mass to relocate at nearby malls. National chains want heavy foot traffic locations. The savior of local downtowns now seems to be smaller storefronts hosting locally owned and operated service businesses. http://www.northjersey.com/news/bergen/bergen_news/165042656_Smaller_businesses_rediscover_Englewood_s_downtown_rediscover_downtown.html?scpromo=1
News Man August 09, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Boyd, the Record is not an official study group for 'Anchor' store requirements. Realtors and money investors are what drives the market. Let's wait and see who the possibilities are, you will surprised!
Joe the Electrician August 09, 2012 at 11:51 AM
Agreed.... Ridgewood retail rents are notoriously high and that's why so many businesses leave.
Anne LaGrange Loving August 09, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Some of the retailers that traditionally have big stores are now making smaller stores in downtown areas. Perhaps one of them would like to have a smaller version of their usual big store in the newly proposed building by Gilsenan and The Gap. One that comes to my mind is Staples; I read that they are now making smaller office supply stores in which they stock a lot less stuff. They are catering to people who walk in and only want to carry two reams of paper, not two cases. It would be great if we could get an office-supply store in town, as many of us sorely miss Drapkins.
Life-Long FL Resident August 09, 2012 at 01:42 PM
There is a smaller scale Staples in downtown Westfield and is usually very busy when I am there... all downtown stores run there for all of their clerical supply needs and the local residents dont have to brave the highways to get there either.... the closest Staples to Ridgewood I believe is the one on Rt-17 near Paramus Park.. It is very hard to get into said lot from cars entering the highway from the flyover ramp from PP.. Staples would be a great addition to R-Wood
Ridgewooder August 09, 2012 at 01:55 PM
To be brutally honest, people don't want mom and pop stores. Why are the malls so packed? We need higher end chain stores like J.Crew, Banana Republic, Victoria's Secret, William Sonoma, etc. to bring people in.
Ron Verdicchio August 09, 2012 at 01:57 PM
I continue to be amazed that the Village Council would entertain a proposal of this magnitude without ANY prior documentation from the presenters, The Chamber of Commerce. Yet, the Patch posted a story on the presentation at 6:45 PM 30 minutes prior to the public presentation by the Chamber. The Village Clerk said that the Council did not receive any written documentation or did they they discuss the proposal in executive session. So who was " in the know" prior to the public presentation? Also, who is the developer?
thetentman August 09, 2012 at 02:10 PM
I would love to see a hardware store in town. The whole of downtown is either food or places for womens things. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
News Man August 09, 2012 at 02:31 PM
An Anchor Store is what is needed in 'Our Village Mall'. Perhaps in would be helpful to understand 'what kind of an Anchor Store' would fit here in this 25,000 population Village. For more information, Click this link please: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anchor_store We are in an exploring stage, don't jump the gun just yet please.
Paul August 09, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Boyd & Anne Loving, I want to personally Thank you both for your speeches in front of the Town Council on Wednesday night 8/8 on the subject of Costly Radio Communication Upgrades. Bravo!! You really did your Homework. The taxpayers in this town should be Proud of you!! :]
Michael Sedon August 09, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Ron, I don't know for sure, but with John Saraceno involved I would speculate that Onyx developers would throw their hat into the possible pool of interested parking garage developers. I vividly remember the last time Ridgewood came close to building a parking garage at the North Walnut Street municipal lot before it was killed in 2008. I also remember some interesting exchanges between Mr. Saraceno and Mr. Aronsohn.
News Man August 09, 2012 at 06:03 PM
An Anchor Store would need some help to open on Sundays, can the Village help? Paint and Hardware stores are allow to open on Sundays. Even movie theatres, couldn't open on Sundays one time. Shoppers still travel across County Lines easily, don't they?
Chris Cortazzo August 09, 2012 at 07:32 PM
I like the idea of adding at least one garage to the downtown. You need to offer something that customers can't get by driving to Paramus. In Ridgewood, it's the beauty of the town with the ability to walk and eat outside, to spend time someplace nice and linger over a cup of coffee. If I had my druthers, I would build the two parking decks, add some upscale retailers, and actually remove some of the parking spots on the sidestreets to expand the sidewalk to allow for more outside seating and walking. Couple this with a little more manicuring of the sidestreets, and I think you have the bones of a revitalization.
Pete McKenna August 09, 2012 at 09:58 PM
I think a garage would be a welcome addition to downtown, but I don't think this is going to be the silver bullet to aid Ridgewood's retail, their landlords and ultimately our tax base. I think there is a sigificant threat to small retail coming in the next year or two. Amazon is going to offer same-day delivery, that is why they are opening two distribution centers in NJ. This gives customers immediate gratification and will allow niche online sites to compete with every downtown shopping district in the state. The Village already has enough riding on the vacancy rate downtown, we don't need the Village adding space and competing with professional landlords for tenants. I hate to say it, but a study of comparable locales in the tri-state area to see what's working and what isn't, makes more sense to me than this approach.
Lee R. August 09, 2012 at 10:47 PM
Or, perhaps an Anthropologie.
JAFO August 09, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Build a garage and sell advertising for each space. This way you can remember where you parked your car - "I'm parked on the second level in the Daily Treat spot". Unfortunately, in short time the entire garage will begin to smell like urine, much like the train underpass. But the ads will make it all better.
michele haas August 10, 2012 at 12:21 PM
How about making Ridgewood Ave. one way with angle in parking on both sides of the road? It would probably add many spots and it could help with pedestrian safety.
anonymous August 10, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Interesting idea. It would also cause people to drive on Franklin, which would help aid revitalization there as well.
Alex T August 10, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Sounds like a great idea, but not a new idea. The Village analyzed that idea many years ago and additional parking was minimal. Safety issue is another matter, and would probably help.
News Man August 10, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Be patient folks, no need to chose sides on this issue so quickly. Let the information and process continue till everyone understands what the future holds for this venture. It's a good start. It's a solid recommentation to be considered when all the possibilities are known.
Graydon4ever August 10, 2012 at 06:51 PM
How about doing nothing? That seems to be the most popular approach and has worked so well in the past............."Ridgewood - just say No"
Public Safety Anon August 10, 2012 at 08:09 PM
I had replied to this comment, but Patch apparently decided to censor our comments. Wouldn't want to support Patch's biggest supporter...
News Man August 10, 2012 at 10:08 PM
"Doing nothing" may seem to be popular but it sounds like a deathnell for Ridgewood weaklings.
News Man September 05, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Village Council will discuss this project tonight at Council meeting I believe. Suggest that now would be a good time to share an opinion. Unless you are busy watching the NDC like I will.

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