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Will the TOD help or harm Main Street Beacon?

Dear Main Street business owners and all,

Please note that this message is intended to only address Main Street business issues. I understand that there are many aspects to the broader TOD and development discussion which will be addressed in other messages.

There was one business owner at the public hearing on September 8th that made a comment that deserves a follow-up. His point was that Main Street will be harmed by the TOD. Actually he said the city was selling-out Main Street. I do not know if that view is wide spread among the business community so I wish to develop the argument and explain why I believe the TOD will be a benefit to Main Street.

We are working hard to make a good zoning law that will contain non-competitive language for Main Street businesses. At this point it will limit business to water and TOD related types and limit their individual size. Agreed, if successful this will not completely remove competitive businesses but it will help to keep them to a minimum.

More importantly I believe the majority of businesses on Main Street are not just struggling now, but have been even before the economic downturn. Beacon has never had a large enough customer base for our shops to thrive. I’ve seen good business go out and know that some are holding on out of sheer hope and belief in their community. This is a challenge I take to heart. I strongly believe the development planned in Beacon including the TOD will HELP, not harm our Main Street businesses. Help will come in the form of the approximate 20% population growth this development will represent. Approximately 1,500 new units give the businesses on Main Street more than 3,000 new potential customers. That simply has to help. It was one of the reasons I supported the conclusions of the Comprehensive Plan.

But let’s just look at the TOD zone and assume that no other development will take place. That’s 600 units or 1,200 more customers for Main Street. Yes there will be a commercial and retail component but I completely reject the idea that customers who now shop/dine on Main Street will be sucked down to the TOD (forever) and stop going to their favorite places on Main. And I completely reject the notion that the TOD residents will only stay in their zone afraid to venture out. That too will not happen. I firmly believe the 1,200 new residents will browse Main Street, find their favorite shops, galleries and restaurants. They will be attracted to Main Street and adopt Beacon the way we all have. Maybe they will walk; maybe they will drive to Main Street like most of the city. Hopefully we will find a way to get a subsidized shuttle as soon as possible or perhaps there will be enough ridership for it to be privately operated.

Lastly, if the TOD is designed well it may also bring new people into Beacon to see it. It may add to our general tourism appeal. It may help to get DIA visitors out of the museum and give them incentive to walk up Main Street by starting at the TOD. It may provide the finances to make a shuttle bus feasible. It may do none of those things but the fact of the matter is that the TOD zone alone will provide Beacon’s Main Street with a potential of 1,200 more potential customers. When combined with the other developments the total of 3,000 customers is the single fact that Main Street businesses should be looking forward to taking place.

Thank you,
Steve Gold
mayor@cityofbeacon.org

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Main Street is not doomed, it's just a very difficult business environment, and it needs to be approached creatively to make it fertile ground again, to enhance the town and allow businesses a good chance for success. And I never claimed or implied that the businesses I mentioned were all "great, well run, well-capitalized businesses, with product that appealed to folks who spent money on things." This is the real world, not "Charlene Vesuvius's" world.

People who now live two measly flat blocks from Main do not go there often--and almost never would if a convenience store moved in next to them. That's related to my original point about adding to the population not having a significant impact. In the last 6-8 years, I would think we've seen already 3000 people move here that belong to the same demographic you are fixated on, to no great effect.

Again, I'm not denying the appeal of living in a development on the Beacon waterfront. In fact, I think it has fantastic potential. But only if it's done right. It is not primarily about building some buildings for people who may or may not drop a few dimes on Main Street.

For the last time, the TOD is not about catering to some high income, high education sophisticates to be sequestered with it's own mini-downtown on one of the choicest chunks of real estate around. Which, by the way, is a strange focus for Beacon's renowned (though unknown, of course) champion of social justice, diversity, and green jobs for Beacon.

If you want Beacon to truly represent the latest in environmental science, green jobs, and diversity, and not just pay lip service, I again suggest you read the Transit-oriented development zoning draft, and also learn what a TOD is and is not, then come back with your fabulously simple, black and white solution.
I've only been in Beacon for six months but I can see that there's one glaring problem that nobody seems to be taking steps to address, namely the separation of Dia and the riverfront to Main Street. Only last week a woman walked towards me, up the hill on Beekman coming from the station, and asked where she could sit down and get some coffee. When I pointed the way and told her how far it was she grimaced and turned back. In other towns I've visited all over the world where their "Main Street" was some way from either a riverfront or seafront there has been a transport infrastructure in place to ferry people from one to the other, or the route has been lined with restaurants and shops, drawing people onwards and linking the two. It may not seem any distance to walk for those of us who live here, but to visitors, especially those who arrive on the train and don't have their car, that extra haul up the hill and down to Main Street is daunting enough to make them think twice about undertaking it. There isn't even an indication of how far Main Street is once you get up onto 9D, and I'm sure some turn back, not knowing how much further they have to walk. I fully understand and acknowledge the cost factor, but a small shuttle from the station, via Dia, to Main Street would bring many hundreds more visitors and their dollars.
Steve...I know you are reading this so it shouldn't come as a surprise that this is one of the most pressing issues concerning the survival of Main street. Without belaboring the point that the Main Street shops are suffering greatly because of the lack of visitors, isn't it time that the city put forth the effort to find the financial resources to bring the shuttle back to life. Houndjog makes such a valid point that riverfront towns all over the world have solved this problem.

Yes we know that the city is suffering a financial hardship and we are certainly appreciative of the efforts put forth to give us a better quality of life but in the end it's the survival of our town that's at stake. You are no stranger to the boarded up storefronts and the for rent signs. Watching all of the potential Main St. visitors get back on the train after their visit to DIA without given the opportunity to see what our town has to offer is heartbreaking.

HoundJog said:
I've only been in Beacon for six months but I can see that there's one glaring problem that nobody seems to be taking steps to address, namely the separation of Dia and the riverfront to Main Street. Only last week a woman walked towards me, up the hill on Beekman coming from the station, and asked where she could sit down and get some coffee. When I pointed the way and told her how far it was she grimaced and turned back. In other towns I've visited all over the world where their "Main Street" was some way from either a riverfront or seafront there has been a transport infrastructure in place to ferry people from one to the other, or the route has been lined with restaurants and shops, drawing people onwards and linking the two. It may not seem any distance to walk for those of us who live here, but to visitors, especially those who arrive on the train and don't have their car, that extra haul up the hill and down to Main Street is daunting enough to make them think twice about undertaking it. There isn't even an indication of how far Main Street is once you get up onto 9D, and I'm sure some turn back, not knowing how much further they have to walk. I fully understand and acknowledge the cost factor, but a small shuttle from the station, via Dia, to Main Street would bring many hundreds more visitors and their dollars.
Interesting thread going..historically for those of you who don't know, Beacon is actually two villages combined..Matteawan..mostly the current Main Street, it's surrounds including the mountain folk and Fishkill Landing the village by the Hudson that declined along with all the other manufacturing on the river after WW2 and was ultimately mostly destroyed by Urban Renewal..Given that context the TOD plan seems only a plan to revitalize an historically vibrant area..personally I see no problem with the concept although I am not at all informed on the details. The issues with Main Street I think should be viewed entirely separately. Somehow the idea that providing housing, stores etc. down would help or hurt Main Street seems like apples and oranges. Help might come to the tax base but only time will determine if the plan turns out to be good for the city as a whole or not. As far as Main Street, having had a successful business here since 1992 and before that in Cold Spring from 1983 my thoughts are these..The businesses that stay are those that either are designed to sell items that the people who live here require for their daily needs; that are competitively priced or convenient and the businesses that offer items or goods and services that the locals or the out of towners who travel here find interesting, unique, have value, offer fun or plain good service. The business that I see come and go are usually the latter type and their success or failure is based on how well they fulfill those needs based on the client base available. Any business can be easy and successful if your client base matches up with what you have to offer. So how do you get enough clientele to come to your town to keep the businesses in business. Have you ventured to Cold Spring any of these past weekends? Aside from a train that stops ON the Main Street there is usually not a parking spot to be found. How did it happen? I saw it happen from 1980 to 1990. A lot Cold Spring's success can be traced to a man named Jack Kelly..head of PROCO ..Preservation and Revitalization of Cold Spring..hard to imagine that there was a time when Cold Spring a shortage of upscale spending visitors. Jack worked tirelessly promoting, writing news releases, getting the NY Times to talk about CS as a destination, cajoling our struggling group of business owners to pony up $$$ for group ads..lots of them..billboards ..fliers, promotional material all over..it took time and work but it did work..A plan that looks to appease Main Street with the hope that all these new buyers will descend upon us is just smoke..I takes a huge volume of people to pass through goods and services stores selling goods and services that lets face it most people can do without especially in challenging times..it's certainly not going to come from a few new homeowners down the block...Reading these comments leads me to believe there are a lot of 3 digit IQ's out there that might try to get together and start to consider some real promotion plans to get people here, to draw them from Westchester, Conn, NYC, NJ..There are tens of millions of people within a two hour drive....riding DIA's coattails I think by now has proven to be a mistake to a certain degree..I do see real attempts by hard working people to keep there business current and interesting but you need warm bodies..they are out there. To certain extant I think that it really does take a village to make the village a vibrant, successful, continually evolving concern

Jo Barber said:
I agree! I know if I were a visitor I would be looking for a cab or something! I'm not into walking up hill just to see what's on the other side. I understand there are younger people in better shape who may want to do this but there are more who wouldn't. And I certainly wouldn't even think about doing it once it got dark~!

HoundJog said:
I've only been in Beacon for six months but I can see that there's one glaring problem that nobody seems to be taking steps to address, namely the separation of Dia and the riverfront to Main Street. Only last week a woman walked towards me, up the hill on Beekman coming from the station, and asked where she could sit down and get some coffee. When I pointed the way and told her how far it was she grimaced and turned back. In other towns I've visited all over the world where their "Main Street" was some way from either a riverfront or seafront there has been a transport infrastructure in place to ferry people from one to the other, or the route has been lined with restaurants and shops, drawing people onwards and linking the two. It may not seem any distance to walk for those of us who live here, but to visitors, especially those who arrive on the train and don't have their car, that extra haul up the hill and down to Main Street is daunting enough to make them think twice about undertaking it. There isn't even an indication of how far Main Street is once you get up onto 9D, and I'm sure some turn back, not knowing how much further they have to walk. I fully understand and acknowledge the cost factor, but a small shuttle from the station, via Dia, to Main Street would bring many hundreds more visitors and their dollars.
About to vote... but taking a moment from the day to reply. I see a somewhat larger picture here. Problems with main street against new growth. All new growth possibilities are weighed against a struggling main street. Hmmm.

I look forward to continued growth with my business. I dream of the day when I can open my shop on Main Street, for some local traffic, but mostly to add to a culturally diverse palette of businesses. Imagine a shop for brass players that brings in some of the best french horn players around the world. My business, if continuing on the same path of growth, it will introduce dynamic people to Beacon as a whole. It already is now, just not with a storefront on Main street.

I mention this above to demonstrate how important I believe Main Street is to the charm and interest Beacon has now... at face value. Why are so many well educated, young couples interested in moving to Beacon from places much closer to where they work?

However, there are a couple of things I can't help but question... as I sit enjoying my raw Oysters and cocktail sitting on the beautiful waterfront at Torches on the Hudson.

There are 2 things that will never change.... our beautiful mountain, and our beautiful waterfront.

Disconnected from these two assets lies Main Street.

Development on the waterfront, so that I do not have to cross the bridge to enjoy an Oyster, and the sound of the water... as well as connecting that relaxing atmosphere with public parks, hotel, marina, and a museum to Main Street... should be priority number 1. It addresses today's need for what people want and enjoy. Keeping this as
a goal will inherently increase population, tax base, customers, tourists.

Anything developed on the Hudson must be more accessible than our current situation. If I want to walk to the Hudson.... it isn't easy, and I live here. Draw a straight line and make a walkway, with signs and light poles with advertising.. so that a tourist knows something special is just up the hill.

Connect the end of main to a functioning rail system to the top of Mt. Beacon... easy access will bring people from Mountain to water and use the Main street as the way to do it.

I know this isn't new. However, when bogged down with thoughts of why Main Street is struggling... I think it helps to keep the big picture in mind... our assets. Mt. Beacon, and the Hudson River.

With a nice marina, wouldn't we also see boat traffic during the summer months?

If people choose to eat at a restaurant at the top of Mt. Beacon, or on the waterfront, can't we embrace that as a Beacon experience? Can't this also be weighted with pride, even if it isn't consumed on Main Street? This competition for consumers directly on Main Street will naturally create better businesses on Main Street. Restaurants will have to provide better foods and service... and other shops will also benefit.

I know this isn't an answer.... however I hope it is perspective. Problems with Main Street are just that. Problems with Main Street. Those problems shouldn't hinder development of our greatest assets, but help shape them. Fears and concerns are normal... but those fears come from lack of knowledge and understanding. Both of which can be addressed through forums such as this.
Well said Scott. A hotel/restaurant on the top of Mt. Beacon would be a true asset to the city. If the waterfront also had a decent restaurant/bar that could give those in Newburgh a run for their money, and a shuttle linked Mt. Beacon - Riverfront - Dia to Main Street, you'd have an irresistible combination of attractions.

Scott H. Bacon said:
About to vote... but taking a moment from the day to reply. I see a somewhat larger picture here. Problems with main street against new growth. All new growth possibilities are weighed against a struggling main street. Hmmm.

I look forward to continued growth with my business. I dream of the day when I can open my shop on Main Street, for some local traffic, but mostly to add to a culturally diverse palette of businesses. Imagine a shop for brass players that brings in some of the best french horn players around the world. My business, if continuing on the same path of growth, it will introduce dynamic people to Beacon as a whole. It already is now, just not with a storefront on Main street.

I mention this above to demonstrate how important I believe Main Street is to the charm and interest Beacon has now... at face value. Why are so many well educated, young couples interested in moving to Beacon from places much closer to where they work?

However, there are a couple of things I can't help but question... as I sit enjoying my raw Oysters and cocktail sitting on the beautiful waterfront at Torches on the Hudson.

There are 2 things that will never change.... our beautiful mountain, and our beautiful waterfront.

Disconnected from these two assets lies Main Street.

Development on the waterfront, so that I do not have to cross the bridge to enjoy an Oyster, and the sound of the water... as well as connecting that relaxing atmosphere with public parks, hotel, marina, and a museum to Main Street... should be priority number 1. It addresses today's need for what people want and enjoy. Keeping this as
a goal will inherently increase population, tax base, customers, tourists.

Anything developed on the Hudson must be more accessible than our current situation. If I want to walk to the Hudson.... it isn't easy, and I live here. Draw a straight line and make a walkway, with signs and light poles with advertising.. so that a tourist knows something special is just up the hill.

Connect the end of main to a functioning rail system to the top of Mt. Beacon... easy access will bring people from Mountain to water and use the Main street as the way to do it.

I know this isn't new. However, when bogged down with thoughts of why Main Street is struggling... I think it helps to keep the big picture in mind... our assets. Mt. Beacon, and the Hudson River.

With a nice marina, wouldn't we also see boat traffic during the summer months?

If people choose to eat at a restaurant at the top of Mt. Beacon, or on the waterfront, can't we embrace that as a Beacon experience? Can't this also be weighted with pride, even if it isn't consumed on Main Street? This competition for consumers directly on Main Street will naturally create better businesses on Main Street. Restaurants will have to provide better foods and service... and other shops will also benefit.

I know this isn't an answer.... however I hope it is perspective. Problems with Main Street are just that. Problems with Main Street. Those problems shouldn't hinder development of our greatest assets, but help shape them. Fears and concerns are normal... but those fears come from lack of knowledge and understanding. Both of which can be addressed through forums such as this.
A rail idea is wonderful, though all the way to the top of the mountain would be costly. However at one point the trolley tracks ran right to the base of the mountain, where passengers could then transfer to the Incline.

There is already a rail line in existence that will be perfect for linking the waterfront to Main Street. It also travels past the proposed Tioranda and Madame Brett development sites, to East Main and the proposed boutique hotel, and could go as far as Fishkill (stopping before crossing Rt. 9, which I understand was one of the sticking points). I've heard it discussed on and off over the years, but now is the time to really explore this incredible asset. I don't know if Conrail owns it, but if they do, they are listed as one of the developers for the TOD.

I think fire safety concerns will be problematic for any public structures at the top of Mt. Beacon in the foreseeable future. The casino up there burned to the ground several times over.

I for one do not see the Newburgh waterfront as any model to aspire to. It's actually a good example of what can happen when you divorce the waterfront from the city.
Mark,

I would agree with you about the waterfront, if, in fact, your definition of the City of Beacon starts and ends on Main Street... alas it does not.

You would have to cite reasons why such a development would divorce itself from the City. I see it as opportunity for not only those in the city, but beyond, to have access to one of the most beautiful rivers of the world.

Cheers.


Mark Roland said:
A rail idea is wonderful, though all the way to the top of the mountain would be costly. However at one point the trolley tracks ran right to the base of the mountain, where passengers could then transfer to the Incline.

There is already a rail line in existence that will be perfect for linking the waterfront to Main Street. It also travels past the proposed Tioranda and Madame Brett development sites, to East Main and the proposed boutique hotel, and could go as far as Fishkill (stopping before crossing Rt. 9, which I understand was one of the sticking points). I've heard it discussed on and off over the years, but now is the time to really explore this incredible asset. I don't know if Conrail owns it, but if they do, they are listed as one of the developers for the TOD.

I think fire safety concerns will be problematic for any public structures at the top of Mt. Beacon in the foreseeable future. The casino up there burned to the ground several times over.

I for one do not see the Newburgh waterfront as any model to aspire to. It's actually a good example of what can happen when you divorce the waterfront from the city.
Dear Mayor Gold and Other Beacon Citizens:

I strongly agree with others that a critical failure in Beacon currently is linking the train station, DIA, and Main St (as well as linking the River Front Park to the rest of Beacon). By elegantly linking these areas, we will achieve goals consistent with TOD without requiring additional development. Linkages are a critical and low-cost first step. I have a master's degree in urban planning and one of the key misconceptions that we learned was that adding more housing provides additional net income for a city. Unless the population are retirees with no children and the development is all in-fill using all existing infrastructure, it costs cities MORE money to provide services to new and especially, young families with school age children. The proposal to increase Beacon's population by 10% seems very hasty and will likely increase the budget more than 10% and over burden the schools, traffic, and other infrastructure...rapid growth is not a sustainable development strategy and often results in ugly, cookie cutter development which will detract of Beacon's character. I think there is a place for improving the waterfront as a place that is accessible, attractive, environmentally and aesthetically appropriate, and builds on the beauty and function of the river and other recreation opportunities of the region. I think a significantly smaller development--maybe 100 units of retirement and general condo development that is done while preserving the appearance of the riverfront, protecting the environment, and maintaining public access to the river would be acceptable. I think Beacon with its arts community and accessibility to NYC is more attract to retirees from Westchester and elsewhere than daily commuters--unless you work right by Grand Central its pretty much 4 hours of communting a day...not very enticing to live in a condo. A core aspect of the TOD philosophy is to make communities less reliant on car transportation. Obviously, commuters that live in new development by the train station will meet this goal, however, it will not build on the walkability of Beacon's commercial district which is a major reason why myself and many others are moving to Beacon. We need to build on the assets that we already have--the mountains, the river, and a traditional main street with a growing number of interesting shops, restaurants, and galleries.
Thank you all for you interesting perspectives. I've glanced through some but need some time to read them thoroughly. If you haven't yet looked at the city's website and read the comprehensive plan regarding Main Street and the importance of connecting the waterfront to Main Street, many of the ideas you've expressed are in there. While you read the Comp Plan it will give me a little time to read your suggestions and comments above. I hope to get back to you in a few days.

BTW i am working on getting the last council's public hearing TOD comments up on the city's website and some of the discussions and reactions the council made at the last workshop. Remember you can attend the next council meeting on Monday September 21st and offer more comments. Also, we've scheduled a TOD/City wide Development Town Hall Meeting at the Memorial Building on October 1st at 7:00.
Thank you,
Steve
Scott wrote: I would agree with you about the waterfront, if, in fact, your definition of the City of Beacon starts and ends on Main Street... alas it does not.

Exactly my point about the waterfront. Newburgh's is an artificial creation with no connection to the city. As Neil Vaughn pointed out earlier, Urban Renewal destroyed Beacon's connection to its waterfront. The proposed TOD development would be the biggest development our city has seen since then. Let's use it to help undue some of that damage.

As for funds, Jo, the people behind these developments (MTA (TOD), Erlich (Edgewater)and others) stand to make many millions of dollars with this prime real estate. Otherwise they would not be pushing for these zoning changes or doing the project in the first place. It is our job to make sure it is done in a way that is beneficial to the city. If it's not, and, like it stands now, will just create burdens, then there would be no justification to go forward.

Steve Gold said:
Thank you all for you interesting perspectives. I've glanced through some but need some time to read them thoroughly. If you haven't yet looked at the city's website and read the comprehensive plan regarding Main Street and the importance of connecting the waterfront to Main Street, many of the ideas you've expressed are in there. While you read the Comp Plan it will give me a little time to read your suggestions and comments above. I hope to get back to you in a few days.

Yes, many of the ideas are expressed in the Comprehensive Plan. Not many of which have made it into the TOD zoning. Which is also subject to further specific design elements, goals, and conditions if it is to meet the designation of transit-oriented development.
Dear Mayor Gold,

regarding the Beacon Transit Oriented Development

The MTA and the City of Beacon have a great opportunity to bring something unique and inspiring to our waterfront. As a point of arrival the TOD will be the first impression many visitors will have of our city. Yet, it is imperative that this first impression creates instant curiosity, desire and awe.

We suggest the TOD adopt an ultra-modern and contemporary appearance (like the Bard college concert hall) that way that area can be the connecting link between the DIA, the waterfront and Main Street which will ultimately result in increased business on Main Street.

Beacon, having DIA and Storm King Art Center close by, is already the central location for contemporary art in the Hudson Valley. Since this strong contemporary art movement already exists it would only make sense to latch on to these powerful attractions by creating an ultra modern architectural structure that will strengthen Beacon’s contemporary image and propel us even more into the national and international spotlight.

We also encourage such architecture to spill over onto Main Street. That will connect the dots and attract people to our city while inspiring and stimulating our citizens.

Combining Beacon’s existing industrial, residential and brick buildings with architectural elements - such as transparent facades, flowing movements and green standards – will elevate Beacon to a ‘one-of-a-kind’ in the Hudson Valley. Beacon has the chance to stand out as a contemporary art as well as an architectural destination.

Stewart airport has also turned out to be another asset that puts us on the map! Creating an inviting TOD zone will increase the flow of business people and tourists that might otherwise just use Beacon’s train station as a transit point without giving Beacon and its attractions a second thought.

Our suggestions are:
• We urge the MTA and the City council to open a competition to all architects to create a contemporary design for the TOD.
• We understand that the Block version that was suggested on Aug 3rd was only an example, however, it was yet another uninspiring design. We urge the MTA to create an exciting structure and not conform to mediocrity.
• Furthermore, we should contemplate encouraging all new structures in the city to be of a contemporary design thus creating an ultra-modern look for Beacon.

We hope for the TOD and the city of Beacon to be stunning rather than mediocre. We want people's reactions to be ‘Wow, I want to visit that city’.

regards,

Janine Lambers and Mark Hurley

We include internet links of contemporary / ultra modern design along with the architect’s details.

http://www.herzogdemeuron-film.com/en/trailer/ by architects Herzog & de Meuron

http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=ghery&um=1&ie=U... by architect Frank Gehry

http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=shigeru+ban&um=1&am...... by architect Shigeru Ban
http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=jean%20nouvelle%20archi... by architect Jean Nouvelle
http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&um=1&sa=1&q=moder... images of modern architecture
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Permalink Reply by Steve Gold on September 8, 2009 at 10:18pm

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