Ridgewood is nearly at the critical juncture that will determine if an ambitious plan to construct parking garages and a retail building downtown is financially feasible.
The council next week is likely to approve spending up to $15,000 on drafting a request for proposals (RFP) to gauge a developer's interest in leasing what's currently a parking lot on East Ridgewood Avenue and constructing a bi-level 12,000 square foot retail facility.
Ridgewood's chamber of commerce believes a developer would pay enough on the land lease and in property taxes to fund construction of a parking garage to replace the Hudson lot (which includes a 4,000 square foot retail facility), and possibly the Walnut Street lot as well.
In total, there projects to be 178 more spaces between the two garages if constructed. The parking garages are projected to cost $7,942,000, necessitating an annual $317,680 bond.
They key, according to Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce president Tom Hillmann is the RFP.
"Until we have the RFP we really can’t go forward with the plan," Hillmann said Wednesday night.
The chamber has "conservatively" estimated a $15 per square foot price at the retail facility. They say the plan should not require taxpayer funding.
Council members Bernadette Walsh and Tom Riche have been somewhat apprehensive about the process thus far.
On Wednesday, Walsh said the only person qualiied to determine the value of the property was a state-certified appraiser. The scope of the project is large, she said. Not just anyone can draft the proposal to maximize the revenue needed to pay the substantial bond, she contended.
Deputy Mayor Albert Pucciarelli responded by saying what matters is the current market for the property, which would be between Gilsenan's and The Gap. An appraiser can enter the fold later on, he said.
"To me it’s too good of an opportunity to ignore," Pucciarelli said of an RFP, adding spending up to $15,000 is an "investment" in the downtown. "If we don’t have adequate parking downtown it’s an invitation to strangle the CBD.”
Riche noted the village would have to develop a framework to ensure bids – favorable bids – were returned. Village Attorney Matt Rogers will be incorporating language cited by Riche and determining if an appraiser can be found for $15,000 or less.
A vote to draft an RFP is expected on Dec. 12.