As excitement and discussion continue to build around what type of development will spring up at the Freightway garage site, one concern seems to be resolved — the development would have a minimal impact on the neighborhood school.
If there were residential units on the property, the residents’ younger kids would attend Fox Meadow Elementary School. But a footnote that was difficult to interpret in a report prepared by Manhattan-based BFJ Planning about the Freightway project raised concerns about whether the school had the capacity to serve an influx of new students.
At a joint meeting of the board of trustees and school board members March 11, Mayor Dan Hochvert set the record straight.
“We were able to analyze how many children were in the school system in the Fox Meadow district,” Hochvert said. “We looked at how many students were in Fox Meadow and at its height — it was 500 students, but it’s gone down to the 450 range and continues to decline.”
Assistant school superintendent Drew Patrick said he worked with the village to provide a five-year enrollment projection based on live births in the county.
“Generally, the enrollment is going down in Fox Meadow,” Patrick said, adding, “There’s certainly capacity in the physical structure of the school for [more] students.”
At the meeting, Trustee Jane Veron, who has worked closely with the Freightway redevelopment project as chair of the Land Use Committee, shared what she’s learned about the project along the way.
“What we’ve seen throughout the county and elsewhere is the most viable business model is redeveloped residential,” Veron said. She said the board hopes to attract empty nesters and millennials in particular if residences are included in the development plan.
For nearly two years, an ad hoc committee worked with BFJ Planning to come up with development options for the site. BFJ issued its report in February 2018 and a meeting soon after detailed options for the village to explore.
One option was to repair and refurbish the garage, with some development on the Popham Road side of the site.
Last September, BFJ’s Jon Martin said the market for the Freightway site would be residential development. Any retail would be minimal because the driving principle of the project isn’t to compete with the village center, but to complement it.
The second option is similar to the first, but with a new link to Scarsdale Avenue over the railroad tracks.
Martin said this option could improve the connection with the village center and create the opportunity to have a small village green space.
The third option doesn’t extend over the tracks, but it assumes the development would be built as an addition to the existing parking area. Martin said any of the options presented would not result in any lost parking. In fact, it’s likely the amount of parking would increase.
The fourth option included pieces from the other options. It was similar to the third option with development on the open lot, but with an added proposal of the connection over the tracks from the second option.
Martin said this option would be cumulative, in a way.
The consultants reviewed the costs and impacts associated with each option.
In the first scenario, there would be a total development cost of $52 million to $57 million. The second scenario would cost between $96 million and $105 million. The third scenario would cost between $102 million and $110 million. The last scenario would be the most costly, estimated between $160 million and $173 million.
What garnered the most buzz and positive reaction was having a mixed-use plan with commercial and residential space.
In November, the village shared the results of a Request for Expression of Interest from seven firms.
Toll Brothers of Horsham, Pennsylvania, proposed 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 podium 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 goes along with 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, presented a plan that included public space at the pedestrian level along Popham Road, which would serve as a retail plaza, with a pedestrian walkway along Scarsdale Avenue as well as 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 and it includes a public plaza at the corner of Popham Road and Scarsdale Avenue.
LMC, a firm with offices nationwide, proposed to incorporate Tudor architectural style with contemporary elements. Its vision is to build a platform for community concerts, seasonal space for movie nights and holiday pop-up stores, and a pedestrian plaza at Popham Road on the east side of the redevelopment site. The plan also allows for 40,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, which is less than 10 percent 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 would have a curb cut on Popham Road to ease congestion on Garth Road.
Finally, a proposal by Manhattan-based BRP would 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.
Village trustees continue to meet in executive session regarding options for the Freightway project. Public hearings will likely be scheduled in the future.