If the Freightway redevelopment project were a baseball game, it would be the top of the second inning, according to Mayor Marc Samwick, who presided at a village board work session May 15.
The session was held to inform the community about the timeline and process as the project commences.
In 2010, the village put together for the village a comprehensive plan which identified redevelopment for the aging garage as an opportunity. It wasn’t until April 2017, though, that the village continued its exploration of various development options.
An ad hoc committee was assembled and, in February 2018, a presentation featured options for the village to consider. The committee conducted surveys, walking tours, public meetings and focus groups to gather feedback from the community on what type of development should go at the site.
Since the conversations about the redevelopment started, residents had the opportunity to comment on what they hope to see in the space, and the May 15 meeting was another chance to talk about what they’d like to see and any potential concerns they may have.
Residents said they’d like to see the space used for community activities, such as a movie theater, an indoor pool or a multicultural space.
They also talked about having multifamily housing units in the space.
“The visioning study showed that any future development at the Freightway site should be a signature project that positively contributes to the vibrancy of the village center, while maintaining its current function as a commuter lot,” said Assistant Village Manager Ingrid Richards.
Freightway is used for commuter parking with about 700 spaces, including a five-story parking garage and two parking lots.
The village put out a request for expression of interest from developers and received responses from RFEI Toll Brothers, East End Capital, Gateway Development Group, Avalon Bay, LCOR, LMC and BRP.
Toll Brothers of Horsham, Pennsylvania, had a plan that incorporates a three-story parking structure with retail and a seven-story garage on the northern part of the site. There would be a two-story parking segment and five-story residential building on the top of the center and southern parts of the site. The sidewalk along the Popham Road bridge would have an urban plaza and retail uses with pedestrian access.
Manhattan-based East End Capital suggested having the building façade include features from the Tudor architectural style, which resembles the rest of the village center. The plan would also incorporate two publicly accessible plazas, commercial and retail spaces on Scarsdale Avenue and a service drive that segregates service circulation from both commuter and public parking access and from resident and drop-off circulation. The design also incorporated a community theater and a music school.
Gateway Development Group of Riverside, Connecticut, introduced its plan to have public space at the pedestrian level along Popham Road, which would serve as a plaza that would include retail. Scarsdale Avenue would have a pedestrian walkway and a small park with a rain garden. The plan also considers a vehicular and pedestrian bridge across the Metro-North tracks from Scarsdale Avenue that would arrive at the upper level of the new garage.
Avalon Bay Communities, based in Arlington, Virginia, presented a plan that would incorporate two garages — the first being a six-level commuter and visitor parking garage and the second one used for residential parking located under the five-story residential building, located at the north end of the site. The plan also incorporates 3,500 square feet of retail/residential/work space along the Popham Road bridge; it also includes a plaza at the corner of Popham Road and Scarsdale Avenue.
LMC, a firm with offices in multiple cities, also planned to incorporate the village’s Tudor architectural style with contemporary elements. It proposed building a platform for communitywide concerts, seasonal space for movie nights and holiday pop-up stores. A pedestrian plaza would be on the east side of the redevelopment site along Popham Road, with 40,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, which is less than 10% of the gross floor area.
Manhattan-based LCOR was another firm that incorporated Tudor design features, including a corner tower inspired by the Harwood building. Townhomes would be located on Scarsdale Avenue and it would have a curb cut on Popham Road to ease congestion on Garth Road.
Finally, Manhattan-based BRP had plans to incorporate a seven-story parking structure and eight stories of residential space with a new pedestrian access bridge connecting the site to Scarsdale Avenue. The public space would be located next to Popham Road and would have a community park, commuter plaza and kiosk.
Moving forward, Richards said the community will continue to have an opportunity for input and feedback on various points, such as selecting the developer and designs.
Representatives from AKRF, the planning firm hired to work alongside the village on the project, also presented at the meeting.
Vice president Nina Peek said the firm has worked with the village for the last month to get up to speed on what’s going on, and has discussed the best path moving forward.
Peter Feroe, who will be acting as project manager, discussed the details of the timeline for the project.
Though the village is planning to put out a request for proposals from the developer community, it’s still a long way to having the first shovel in the ground. And, even if the village settles on a developer, it doesn’t mean the project specifications and design have been decided yet.
Here’s where the timeline kicks in.
Feroe said the village will evaluate and select finalists, who will then present their plans to the public so the public can see what the developers propose.
“There will be information that won’t be totally made public,” Feroe said.
That lack of transparency is common — when going through plans and designs, certain things are kept from the public in the interest of getting the best financial deal or simply because there are confidential matters that must be kept private.
“The village will select the preferred developer based on the criteria, like best design and what would have the best track record,” Feroe said. “Scarsdale needs and deserves … a successful project.”
Once a developer is selected, that developer submits an application with the project. The developer also will put together an environmental impact statement (DEIS) scoping outline, which will be open to review from the community, county, state, school district and other agencies. Public hearings will be held to comment on the DEIS, zoning and development agreements.
Then, a new phase begins where the preferred developer submits the site plan to the Planning Board and the Board of Architectural Review. A public hearing follows the application, and depending on how the trustees and public feel about the plan, the site plan is approved. The preferred developer then has the right to apply for a building permit and the work can begin.
It’s a long process with many steps, but it’s in line with other projects that are as monumental as the Freightway redevelopment project.
“There is a long process ahead of us,” Samwick said. “We realized the village has an opportunity and a challenge.”
Conversations are ongoing and the village has not scheduled another public meeting, though residents are encouraged to email questions and concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.