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Downtown Eyesore Faces Hurdles In Redevelopment

Applicant of the Franklin Avenue building needs the "redevelopment zone" tag changed to construction a mixed-use building that could eliminate several public parking spaces.

One of Ridgewood's most notable downtown eyesores could be receiving a major facelift, but not before clearing significant hurdles in parking and zoning process.

The – best known as the site of the – appeared before the planning board on Tuesday night looking for input and direction on its revised conceptual plan, which calls for a two-story mixed development.

After demolishing the Town Garage building that currently stands, the applicant envisions a two-story, 5,000 square-foot building set closer to Franklin Avenue with four apartments (including one affordable unit) above a retail space.

But there are challenges abound.

Before any hope of construction on a mixed-use project, the council must either rescind or amend the "redevelopment area" zoning designation codified in 2006.

Even if that is dealt with quickly, substantial discussions will need to be had over the parking configuration.

At the behest of the planning board from its April 2011 meeting, the planner scrapped the idea to have a driveway jutting out from Franklin Avenue to a building set further back on the thoroughfare. Parking, under that plan, would have been underground.

Now, according to planner Calisto Bertin, the applicant would use the adjacent municipal lot, ultimately removing a total of 4 metered spaces from the public. Access would be from the lot, not Franklin Avenue.

There were reservations from the planning board and town officials about ceding more parking in a downtown already lacking available spaces.

"We know there's a shortage," said Village Planner Blais Brancheau, calling it a "CBD-wide" issue. "Every time we allow a development that has inadequate parking, we overload the system."

Brancheau, tossing out an idea, suggested the village could make a land swap, moving the building to the corner of Franklin and Walnut and reconfiguring the parking altogether.

The idea held appeal to planning board vice chair – and councilman-elect – Albert Pucciarelli. It would strengthen the streetscape of Franklin Avenue, long a priority for the planning board, he said.

Aside from a wide array of zoning logistics that must be cleared, there's also remediation work that will need to be completed before any construction begins, and planners will have to justify the excessive building density ratio.

The planning board will be sending a letter to the village council asking them to make a decision on whether to change the zoning status to get the ball rolling on a plan.

For Pucciarelli, it can't come soon enough. "I'm sick of looking at that building," he said.

RdgwdGRock May 16, 2012 at 01:28 PM
given the endless review process, this could take years
News Man May 16, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Proper designing, if intelligently done by professional designers and giving their supportive reasons, should and would move along more quickly this time. Final decision will still remain with the NEW Council.
RdgwdGRock May 16, 2012 at 01:47 PM
NewsMan - as a homeowner here in town who has had remodeling work done, even with the proper design plans the various town hall dept's will nit-pick you endlessly. it is not a fun process. I wish the best to the developer.
News Man May 16, 2012 at 02:13 PM
I hear you RG12, This time around all town hall depts will feel a little heat to expedite the process more quickly. They won't mind improving services of their depts and suggest how to do it. . The newly elected Council can be depended upon to improve all Village services if and when advised by town citizens at public meetings and by mail copying the Village manager.
Marcia Ringel May 16, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Could this be a secret toehold into rewriting the zoning regulations to pave the way, literally, for a downtown full of multi-story apartment buildings and more? Beware.
Julia May 16, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Classic Ridgewood response. Don't bother looking to change or improve anything. Keep everything exactly the way it is! Empty! Deteriorating! Abandoned! But at least it's just like the good old days... This place is going to die a long and slow death if we don't start working together to make and manage some changes that are desperately needed to survive.
News Man May 16, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Don't panic Julia, the "status quo" philosophy has already done nothing to improve an improved Village. That has been the problem since 1969 with the left over "commissioners" form of government. Satisfactory changes will be coming for all those that have the vision to see it.
Boyd A. Loving May 17, 2012 at 10:20 AM
I'm all for change and improvement, but I'm dead set against a ill conceived plan that would possibly result in the loss of four (4) metered parking spaces, or potentially involve swapping valuable, tax payer owned property that fronts South Walnut Street for privately owned "back lot" property. Let's examine the options here more closely before we pull the trigger.
RdgwdGRock May 17, 2012 at 11:03 AM
yup, once again Ridgewood will apply the Velveeta approach: process, process, process
CPA May 18, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Put up a multi-tiered parking garage for the pedestrian mall that should be put in place on Friday evenings and Saturdays to revitalize the CBD.
News Man June 07, 2012 at 08:14 PM
There was an excellent discussion on this property at last Council meeting. Perhaps, reality is setting in and alternative solutions will be forth coming when the new Council is formed. Good luck.

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