Special City Council Presentation, Attracting Retail Businesses to Downtown New Rochelle
By Stephen E. Lipken
At the Tuesday, January 18th New Rochelle City Council Regular Legislative Meeting (RLM), Chief of Staff Corporation Counsel Kathleen Gill relayed Council’s request to attract new retail and retain existing retail, challenges and recommendations going forward. Adam Salgado, Commissioner of Economic Development introduced Jorge Ventura, Director of Economic Development, who presented a slide show.
“In a good urban setting, the ground floors of the buildings work symbiotically with the public realm. Together they combine a continuous network of pathways and experiences that are active, safe, comfortable and engaging. The ground floor retail is one of many good ways for buildings to meet the street and generate vibrancy in the public realm,” Ventura began.
“The problem is high vacancy of retail spaces; limited attraction of available retail spaces; changing retail market landscape/trends; inactive ground floor/storefronts and poor street-level activity/interactions,” noting that a foundation can be built up with transit rich, walkable streets; diverse and attractive building stock. Old + New=Vibrancy.
“An assessment came up with 300 ground floor retail spaces; 450,000 square feet of ground floor space; range from 400-4,000 SF; 60 vacant spaces (-100,000 SF) within ‘highly distressed area.’” Challenges include Legacy Spaces [Landlords, Tenants] and New Spaces [Landlords, Tenants].
“Other Challenges: Parking can make it difficult for properties to change use; not sufficient financial incentives to motivate property owners to lease up vacant spaces; no counter incentives to discourage long-term vacancies; financial burdens hinder efforts for the adoptive reuse of spaces in older buildings.” Tools encompass financial incentives; zoning changes; consulting services and partnerships. Recommendations: creating Retail Task Force of interested Council members, community, appointed by City Manager; hire Retail Consultant.
Other significant legislation included a Resolution by Councilwoman Martha Lopez to create a proposed Hispanic-American Advisory Committee to City Council with seven members serving three-year terms, appointed by City Manager.