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."