The future of 3.7-acres in downtown Nyack was very much on the minds of village residents and officials yesterday night.
More than 200 people crowded the auditorium of the Nyack Center to hear the preliminary findings of the Superblock study. The project is designed to redevelop the area containing the Riverspace Theatre, M&T Bank property and adjacent parking lots into more attractive and lucrative real estate.
The study—and last evening's discussion—was carried out by representatives with HR&A Advisors, the consulting company that conducted the $75,000 study.
The meeting began with village trustee Doug Foster giving a brief history of the project's importance. He noted village officials in the 1950s through the 1970s were committed to urban renewal and three primary goals: removing sub-standard buildings, eradicating flooding and increasing parking availability.
Some residents feel these efforts—while initially beneficial to Nyack—gradually eroded the artistic and aesthetic quality of the village. Foster said Nyack understands the importance of these qualities, and wants to restore them.
Within the past several months, village officials hired a number of financial, architectural and engineering firms led by HR&A. Last night was the first chance the public had to interact with the company.
HR&A partner James Lima gave a 30-minute slide presentation highlighting four planning principles his firm believes could maximize revitalization efforts of the downtown property.
The first principal brought forward was the need to create increased retail and pedestrian activity along Main Street, which runs adjacent to a good portion of the more-than-three-acre parcel. Lima said this could be done by introducing mixed-use zoning, or ground floor retail and upper-floor apartments.
"This action could attract more pedestrians to the downtown, bring about greater land proceeds and increase the number of residents in the village," Lima explained.
Another aspect of the principal Lima stressed was the importance of creating a connection between Main Street and Nyack's waterfront area.
Next, Lima focused on enhancing fiscal opportunities. He said it is important that the end result of the Superblock project be more revenue for the village.
The third principal discussed was making the project relevant to all residents. Lima said the final creation should be something that reflects the ambiance and picturesque nature of Nyack.
Finally, Lima suggested the village consider making Nyack a greater destination. He stressed Nyack is a rustic location situated in a suburban region—and maintaining that balance might be an important topic to think about when going forward with any project.
Following Lima's presentation, John Fontillas— a partner at H3 Hardy Collaboration Architects, an urban design firm in New York City—gave his own presentation and highlighted several Superblock outcomes. They included:
- Developing only public land
- Renovating the Riverspace Theatre into a multiplex cinema
- Constructing a small arts and media center
- Building a 300-seat or 1,000 seat theater
Fontillas showed what each option could look like using art.
Lima added these designs are merely preliminary, and nothing is set in stone.
"Our work will be driven by what your collective vision is," Lima told residents. "We will go forward using your vision to create what you want."
After Fontillas concluded, a lengthy question and answer session ensued. Residents offered opinions on a variety of subjects such as the project's cost, how it might impact the availability of low income housing and the threat of increased taxes.
Others said they are just looking forward to seeing a revitalization project become action instead of talk.
"The ideas presented are great, and I support any kind of development," said Daniel Gottfried, who chaired the downtown committee when Nyack established its Comprehensive Plan.
"The issue is implementation," he added. "Money should be spent on moving forward and making this happen."
Jerry Ilowite, chair of the South Nyack Comprehensive Planning Board, said he was intrigued by some of the planning principles discussed, and looks forward to seeing how the finished product might inspire his village's revitalization efforts.
South Nyack resident and Rockland County Legislator Connie Coker also weighed in.
"I like the fact that those involved are truly committed to including all residents as a guiding force," she said.
Another public meeting is scheduled for November.