Tarrytown considers waterfront development ideas

After years of studies, planning and gathering feedback, village officials unveiled an array of possible development scenarios for the area surrounding the Metro-North train station and village hall in Tarrytown.

“Because it’s our village, it’s up to us to decide what changes we want and how we want it to serve us in the future, what we want it to be,” said David Aukland, a member of the planning board. “That’s precisely what’s been happening down at the station area. We are taking a collective look.”

The development ideas are part of “Tarrytown, Connected,” a report that outlines a framework for the redevelopment of the waterfront area that runs from the Department of Public Works at 4 Division St. to the American Independent Paper Co. site at 15 Depot Plaza. Officials presented the report during an informational meeting on Jan. 5.

“It’s a very exciting project and a re-look at the waterfront and this area around the village hall,” Mayor Drew Fixell said. “It has a lot of potential, and it’s very busy now, and it’s going to take a real hard look to figure out what we ought to do with it.”

Following the success of Hudson Harbor, a waterfront residential and commercial district at 11 River St. near the Tarrytown train station, village officials said that area has seen increased interest from developers.

“The point of (Tarrytown, Connected) is to really put the village in the driver’s seat,” said Melissa Kaplan-Macey, principal of Collaborative Planning Studio, a Larchmont-based urban planning consultancy firm hired by the village.

“We really want to be in a position where the village isn’t just reacting to something and making a decision based on (a developer) coming to the village, but really understands what we’d like to see happen.”

The concepts detailed in the report were designed to help illustrate the various impacts associated with a number of land uses for the waterfront and station areas, Kaplan-Macey said.

In a “park concept”, the waterfront area includes expanded parkland surrounding the Tarrytown Boat Club at 236 Green St. A “destination concept” includes a boutique hotel and a waterfront mixed-use area, with ground-floor retail and restaurants below residential units. A third concept transforms the waterfront into a residential neighborhood with public open space. The report also outlined residential and commercial development ideas for the site surrounding village hall along Depot Plaza.

Kaplan-Macey said that the concepts included in the report are not development proposals. Instead, they were designed to “provide a point of reference for what different scenarios could look like with some costs and benefits.”

The report is the result of a two-year-long study headed by a steering committee composed of members from Tarrytown’s board of trustees and planning board, a representative from the Westchester County Planning Department, village residents and business owners.

Aukland, who is co-chair of the steering committee, said the study was an effort “to try and get ahead” of any development proposals.

“As all of this change is coming along, the board has wanted to be sure that whatever is coming next really is right for the village, right for all of us, not just for a developer here or some industrial owner there,” he said.

Prior to publishing the report, the steering committee took in public comment from its website and hosted open houses and public meetings.

“Not everybody agreed, but we felt like there was a clear consensus around these conversations about a vision,” Kaplan-Macey said.

That vision includes making the area more walkable and pedestrian-friendly. The report also identified a number of capital improvements the village could undertake, including the reopening of a pedestrian tunnel that connects the Metro-North station to the waterfront.

“That’s a big piece of the connectivity,” Kaplan-Macey said.

The study also explored the idea of relocating village-owned parking lots that sit on “very critical” property on both sides of the Metro-North station.

“I think most people – possibly not everybody – would agree that cars sunbathing all day is perhaps not the highest and best use,” she said.

Kaplan-Macey stressed that various developments happening around Tarrytown should “not be a bunch of piece parts, but really, a whole.”

“We’re framing this as part of an economic development strategy for the village, so that what happens here isn’t happening in isolation,” she said. “It’s important that this is well connected to the fabric of the village in many ways.”

The station area is zoned for a mix of residential, commercial and industrial uses, but officials said that in order to realize the village’s vision for the area, rezoning may be necessary. Additionally, the village plans to make amendments to its comprehensive plan to reflect its vision for future development.

Joan Raiselis, a planning board member and co-chair of the steering committee, said those revisions could take around two years.

“There has been a lot of interest by developers already in this area, and we’re sort of putting them off a little bit, because we want to make sure this framework is concrete enough that we can hand it to them and say, ‘Try to work within this framework,’” she said.

“After that, it’s sort of anybody’s bet.”

By Aleesia Forni