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Split Council Pursuing Early Cost Analysis for Retail, Parking Garage Plan

"We can walk and chew gum at the same time," Deputy Mayor Albert Pucciarelli said against the concerns of rushing the process from two dissenting council members.

In a 3-2 decision, the Ridgewood Village Council elected to pursue drafting a request for proposals (RFP) on a large downtown real estate property to assess if it can generate enough revenue to .

Members of the that if funded would see the construction of a two-story 12,000 sq. ft. retail facility between Gilsenan's and The Gap and parking garages at the Hudson and Walnust Street lots. All properties are village-owned.

Chamber members said they would only support pursuing construction if the plan was completely "revenue neutral," a point echoed again Wednesday night. The retail components – which also includes a 4,000 sq. ft. building at the Hudson garage location – are designed to fund the cost of bonding the project.

Chamber of Commerce President Tom Hillmann said they expect the bi-level parcel between Gilsenan's and The Gap could yield $180,000 a year for a land lease.

"This will allow us to know how much funding we will have to possibly build something on Hudson or down the road at Walnut," Hillmann told the council. "We have to start somewhere. We've been talking about this for years. We feel this project will be self-funding."

Not including revenue generated on taxes, he said there stands a good shot it would be enough money to finance the garages. He estimated the retail building could conservatively go for $15 a square foot, comparable if lower than similar properties.

RFPs for the garages would be done separately, should the process even get that far, Hillmann said. The RFP will largely be done in house by village staff.

Still, with no formal study having been undertaken, Councilman Tom Riche was apprehensive moving forward with the RFP this early in the process.

"I think we're putting the cart before the horse here," he said, adding he felt there were a lot of unanswered questions on process. It's a process he found to be less than "thoughtful".

"We haven't even had a discussion yet in terms of whether we think it's a good idea to give up that village property for something other than parking," the councilman said. "I think that discussion has to take place before we even think about the RFP."

Before embarking on an RFP, Riche preferred seeing studies on the impact of parking revenue declines if the large retail building is constructed, as well as the impact on parking spaces while the garages are under construction.

Councilwoman Gwenn Hauck disagreed.

"I think the parking problem in Ridgewood has been addressed and readdressed and readdressed for the past 50 years," Hauck remarked. "We have to take a little bit of a risk."

Counterpart Bernadette Walsh wanted further numbers before taking the RFP plunge.

"I don't feel like I have anything tangible to go forward with an RFP," she said. "There's really no data."

In dissent, Walsh said she believed the cost of an RFP to fully understand the value of the property would cost several thousand dollars and not the "minimal" in-house cost.

Deputy Mayor Albert Pucciarelli, in contrast to Riche, felt the process has been better than given credit.

"I think this process is starting in a very thoughtful way," he said. "I think we can walk and chew gum at the same time." 

thetentman September 11, 2012 at 10:58 AM
"rushing the process"? - I was a kid in the 1960s and they were talking about it then. How could we be rushing the process? Just do it!
Dennis Martinez September 11, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Agree with the tentman. This has been talked about and studied what seems like forever. It sounds like Councilwoman Hauck understands that.
jp1 September 11, 2012 at 12:18 PM
I also agree, we need to start at some point and now seems to be it.
RdgwdGRock September 11, 2012 at 12:32 PM
just noticed last night that the Ken Smith dealship was empty; what is the scoop on that location? before these grand plans are acted on, can the town sustain these developments? "If you build it, they will come"
Bill Connor September 11, 2012 at 12:53 PM
We should try to get a corporate Hotel sponsorship on the Ken Smith Property adjacent to the Multi Million Dollar New Jersey Transit Ridgewood station/ Has anyone visited Morristown NJ on a weekend to see what economic development is all about.
Ridgewood Mom 26 September 11, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Also agree with thetentman. The studies seem exhaustive at this point, and I never hear anyone but Council members say that they don't want this. It looks like a sound plan. Do what you have to, and get it done!
Ridgewooder September 11, 2012 at 02:03 PM
Pathetic. GET IT DONE. DO YOUR JOB. We need more parking. We need to attrract more "mall" type chain stores like J Crew, Apple, Victoria's Secret, Banana Republic, etc. Nobody wants mom and pop stores anymore.
JAFO September 11, 2012 at 02:42 PM
I disagree that we need more parking. I think we need more people who aren't lazy and afraid to walk two blocks, but instead insist on finding a parking spot within 25 feet of their destination. But I agree that mainstream stores would be a welcome addition.
RdgwdGRock September 11, 2012 at 02:49 PM
perhaps Satin Dolls may want to relocate to downtown 'Wood.
Boyd A. Loving September 11, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Do we really need another 12,000 square feet of retail space in that section of the Central Business District? Aren't there already several vacant properties just east of the Warner Theater? And wasn't there recently a conceptual plan presented to the Planning Board regarding development of the property where the Zabriskie parking lot is located? Have all property owners and lease holders near The Gap agreed that the loss of those parking spaces won't create a hardship? Walk and chew your gum Mr. Mayor, just don't walk off of a cliff in the process.
News Man September 11, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Gently Boyd, interesting comment except for the last line. The gum chewer is not the Mayor but, former Neputy Mayor Riche. You will have time to understand the reasoning and purpose of the plan better. Perhaps, you might LISTEN and be patient for awhile and offer some concrete positive opinions later that will be helpful.
Lynn Martinez September 11, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Retail spaces are empty because businesses continue to close. Ridgewood needs more than town traffic to survive. That is not happening without additional parking. The word is out. We are known as a town where there is never enough parking and where ticketing is aggressive.
AMAMOM September 11, 2012 at 04:03 PM
I believe it was Yogi Berra who said " No one goes there anymore, it's too crowded"!!!!!!
Boyd A. Loving September 11, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Sorry; it was the Deputy Mayor who commented about walking and chewing gum at the same time, not Mayor Aronsohn. I stand corrected.
Anne LaGrange Loving September 11, 2012 at 06:49 PM
I have spoken with two store managers down near the Gilsenan-Gap proposed building, and both are VERY unhappy about the possible loss of many parking spaces near their businesses. Are there any retail store managers on the team that has brought this plan forward (other than the Greek restaurant owner, who is way at the other end of the avenue)?
News Man September 11, 2012 at 07:46 PM
All those that shared in the presentation are listed in the above copy. I have reserved my parking space right in front of the Daily Treat Restaurant. It is open when I arrive at 6:30 am and some kind friends pick up the Breakfast Check. I will reserve a table for Luncheon on me next chance I get for those lifetime friends, No politicians invited. D
James Bombace September 11, 2012 at 10:29 PM
The thetentman is correct, this parking problem has been discussed for a very long time. Another way to look at this current proposal is to assume that a building already exists between the Gilsenan-Gap buildings and that building is occupied as a retail store. Now the Village determines that there is a need for more parking spaces. Would it make sense for the Village buy that building and property, tear ithe building down to make parking spaces in the middle of the block. I don't think so, those parking places are on prime commercial property which could be put to better use. I think the proposed plan has merit, however before the Council can support it they must be positive this proposal would NOT need taxpayer funding from the residents to make it happen.
News Man September 12, 2012 at 03:45 AM
Readers need to reread this topic again to understand the proposal being made. A modest fund RFP is needed to travel forward. To just keep up conversation "on taxpayer funding" adds little or nothing to the discussion. Council members seeking a solution must not be further hampered by those members that say "I need more detail' before I make a decision", that's what the RFP is all about, don't they get it yet?
Michael Sedon September 12, 2012 at 04:33 PM
I have to agree with the News Man and Mr. Bombace. I think an RFP could provide more solid details on costs and other aspects of the proposal, but it is also very important that this project doesn't end up costing village taxpayers millions of dollars. An RFP done in-house could help move this project forward for little or no cost, and if it turns out that the numbers are too high or no good proposals are received, there is nothing that would bind the village to having to build anything.
Ron Verdicchio September 12, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Now that the Kent Smith Motors property appears to be vacant that leaves available several large commercial properties for development: Former Village Ford, The bank, The Brogan sprawl on Broad Street, and the Bolger property on Chestnut. There is also a vacant commercial building on Chestnut as well. Mr. Puccarelli spoke of the need of a master plan for the CBD. He is quite correct. The operative word is PLAN. Maybe the Council and planning board should shift their priority to re-development.
William Sneirson September 12, 2012 at 08:07 PM
I'd love to know what assumptions were built into the C of C proposal. The commercial vacancy rate in Ridgewood was around 7% even before Ken Smith Motors suddenly disappeared. Did the Chamber's parking/commercial development proposal assume this same vacancy rate as the village as a whole, or is at as pollyanna as Christie's discredited NJ revenue assumptions?

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