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 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.
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.
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.
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