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Waterfront Linkage Committee Public Meeting

So I thought the meeting tonight was good. At least a hundred people were there. Lots of participation, some divergent views. The biggest points of contention seemed to be:

1. increasing the height of buildings. 4 stories, maybe even 5. lots of people for it and against it, mainly concerned about viewsheds of the mountain. The current mayor and the former mayor both weighed in on this issue, and a bunch of other people.

2. parking. The idea that there is too much parking. The idea that there is not enough parking. The idea there should be more walking.

3. infilling buildings towards the street, widening the street, or narrowing it, and middle of Main Street being much denser in general.

Just to recap, this is the area between Teller Avenue and Digger Phelps.

Then there is the linkage zone down to the train station, talk about development there, reducing the complex zoning regs currently in place, and talk about making it pedestrian friendly.

I spoke up about the need for people to get off the train, look up, and see the foot of Main Street, or at least be compelled to walk in that direction with some sort of pedestrian focused staircase or somesuch. A line of sight staircase is actually not possible: I was talking to Tom Church, there is an old Revolutionary War era graveyard behind the Dutch Reformed Church, oh well. But we need SOMETHING to compel pedestrians to walk up to Main Street, and this should be the backbone, the main focus, of whatever linkage plan is put through. Currently, you get off the train, you don't even know Main Street exists.

Another interesting part of the meeting was the historical component, the way Beacon used to be, pictures and reminisces from the audience and the presenters. And comparisons to other communities, from both the audience and the presenters, such as Saratoga Springs and Telluride.

Finally, June 14,Oliver and Lily of School of Jellyfish will be at the Beacon Institute on Dennings Point to present "Parametric City: Beacon The City as a Living Organism" which will deal with Beacon as a test case in the city as a self-sustaining entity. Sounds very cool. Be there:

http://schoolofjellyfish.com/blog/?p=563

Thank you presenters and thank you Beacon Main Street Linkage Committee for the excellent meeting!

Views: 1271

Tags: development, linkage, main street

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Comment by Gregory Richards on May 23, 2012 at 1:12pm

I'm sorry but I still don't get why being able to view Mt. Beacon is so important.

Comment by Abu KG on May 22, 2012 at 9:50am

beacon has lots of people. by that logic a ten story building is more successful than five. and five is better than four, etc. i don't disagree that mixed use is often good and efficient... i just don't think that we need a wall of mixed-use development all the way up and down main street or else our town is a "failure." and i don't think you'll get that, by the way, even if this revised zoning is adopted. 

i'll say it again and again.... there is ample commercial and residential space in beacon for entrepreneurs and new residents to come in and contribute. changing our character and values on the idea that developers will come in and fix everything is foolish. look up and down the hudson and you'll see lots of cautionary tales and very few success stories that followed this approach.

don't get confused - it's not landowners who build brand new five story mixed use buildings and apply to zoning committees for exemptions and rule changes. it's developers. you're taking what they're selling you at face value, which is rarely a good idea in politics.

Comment by Anna West on May 21, 2012 at 8:58pm

Abu, as it was presented if a small town Main Street, is successful if there are people. If you look at the two ends, they both have three story buildings with apartments-proof that the theory is correct. This wasn't written for "developers" which can be a bad word, perhaps landowners would be a better word?  Example the store front rent can be cheaper is there is an apartment or two above the store. Right?

Ben, why don't you get the long mental building to have a large mural with arrows showing directions for Main Street and Dia. Is that MTA?  You could organize a curated mural. That would be as effective as stairs. Stairs won't work because of disabilities laws. Yes, a young man might look at  hundreds of stairs as fun, but not older people.  

Anna

Comment by Abu KG on May 18, 2012 at 11:33pm

why is a one story building necessarily a failure? i just don't get the proscriptive attitude about needing particular structures or usage arrangements in order for the town to thrive. ask yourself, who does that attitude serve best? sounds like the same old pitch... let us in and your taxes will drop! anything under 3 stories is a "failure" and a "waste of space"! more, more, more!

Comment by Anna West on May 18, 2012 at 11:03am

My point was that  how it was presented in this post might give you the wrong idea.  They showed many slides demonstrating how the buildings can fit. One photo showed old and new mixed and it was fabulous.  You seem very interesting in Beacon's future, I am sorry you couldn't be there, you would have enjoyed. The blocks where it is parking lot, low buildings with just business, are the blocks that are "failures".  It is a waste of "air", to have the block where Natural Foods is, to have no apartments.  The more people, the less taxes for us.

The Comprehensive Plan committee should be commended, the same with the consultants. Hopefully, it will be up on Channel 22 so everyone can see it. I think our personal biases might disappear if we can watch it a couple times.

Comment by Abu KG on May 18, 2012 at 12:27am

anna - no, i wasn't, just responding to the summary and the frequent complaints on this site about inadequate parking. depending on specifics i would probably support elimination of parking mandates as you described. is that proposed for the linkage area, the central main street area, or both?

point taken with regard to mixed use and the sense of human presence / bustle. but i don't think that's the only way to achieve growth and desirable use on central main street. if anything, i feel like taller buildings in that stretch would look more out of place because there are so many low, squat structures and open spaces in that vicinity, as opposed to the two ends which have more density.

you're right, why would anyone develop if they can't make a profit? my feeling is, if they don't think they can make money while keeping within the character and aesthetics that we prefer, fine, stay away. when i think of the "success stories" of hudson valley, upstate, and new england towns, i can't think of many that owe their good fortune to developers. usually they retain their charm by keeping those elements at bay.

Comment by Anna West on May 17, 2012 at 11:23pm

Abu KG were you at the meeting?  Ben wrote a rather short recap. Very short and a bit misrepresentative of the educational segment.  They feel parking is just fine and some parts have very strict zoning forcing businesses to provide parking. They feel that should be loosen.

Having more people who live on Main Street adds life, provides human presence at all hours. That is what they suggest apartments above businesses. If you notice the west and east end have people living there. they pointed out keeping sunshine so some could be stepped back. Why would anyone develop if they can't make a profit. So it was suggested to allow some taller buildings, a story or two with step backs. They wouldhave to be approved by zoning anyway.

There was nothing about widening Main Street, but encouraging buildings to be closer to sidewalk to create the idea of a room. Encouraging hiding or changing or eliminating parking lots on Main Street

Now about the train, the old pictures were interesting. Beekman is pretty wide, so that could have additional parking which would slow down the cars. Adding some businesses, artist live/work along the route to Main Street would encourage people to follow to Main Street. Adding a small business on corner of City Hall (yeah, great idea).

Stairs will never happen. A view is pretty much impossible.

Anna

Comment by Abu KG on May 17, 2012 at 11:04pm

i've said it before but i don't view parking scarcity as a problem in beacon. have never spent more than 5 minutes looking for parking or had to walk an obscene distance to get where i'm going. i think adding substantial parking at the present level of commercial / residential use is ill advised. i'm not anti-car, i just don't see the need.

i think the idea that we will (or may) encourage attractive buildings by loosening zoning limits on building height is a complete bait and switch. ugly properties can still be profitable for landlords; don't assume that they will be bought up and beautified by developers just because we change building codes. there is a substantial vacancy rate in both residential and commercial properties in beacon, including on main street. building additional, bigger structures will not create demand - in fact, you can easily end up with overpriced eyesores that go vacant and get neglected.

in a lot of thriving, revitalized areas, you see creative and enterprising people make smart use of existing structures and spaces. downtown hudson is a good example - they have relatively low buildings, mostly mixed use, much of it old, and it works. you need a critical mass of attractive businesses, services and residents with disposable income; you can't legislate any of those things through zoning. so focus on quality of life, community involvement and getting the word out.

Comment by Dan McElduff on May 17, 2012 at 4:07pm

I think that allowing buildings taller than 3 stories on Main Street is a concession to developers that will bring unintended and expensive consequences (new fire engine with a bigger ladder).  A concession on Main Street will most certainly be followed by a concession elsewhere at some point down the road.  I'd be satisfied if we applied zoning that required architectural standards consistent with the old buildings on the east and west end.  If such standards were prohibitive to developers; in the worst case, we would be stuck with the status quo and still be the best city in the valley.  However, in the best case, I'd bet dollars to donuts that existing non-conforming buildings would be demolished and replaced by three story buildings with nice store fronts and modern apartments within 15 years and that business districts of Matteawan and Fishkill Landing would finally be the business district of Beacon.  We need only be firm and patient.

If the developers want 5 stories, send them to Poughkeepsie or Newburgh where their plans would be consistent with the surroundings.  I am not saying that facetiously.  Such plans are more consistent with the existing and beautiful architecture of those cities and both those cities could use a shot in the arm.  We do not lose by them gaining.  All boats should rise like ours has.

Comment by David Balogh on May 17, 2012 at 10:43am

Great to join this meeting, first public one for me (that's me behind Steve!). I think there were a lot of valid points from all sides. I wanted to hit on a couple:

1. We must set aside differences between the walkers and the drivers. Many people that commute into the city love the convenience of Key Food, and I get that. While I'm all for walking when possible especially with gas at $4/gal, knocking drivers by assuming they indeed live a block away isn't productive. That said, touting the convenience of Key Food over its ugliness isn't helpful either. The parking lot isn't ideal for traffic or the delivery trucks, so it CAN be made better to satisfy all of us. Its facade is dilapidated and clearly neglected, which is to the fault of either KF or the owner of the property. The beauty of Beacon will indeed be important both to tourists and to us that live here. There's no need to debate on whether or not this can be resolved, because simply, it can without taking away from anyone.

2. People seemed afraid that things will change for the worse. This presentation was about setting the right level of zoning limitations to attract residents and businesses while keeping what's important to all of us. Suggestions on tweaking the zoning will be important to its approval. Keeping the status quo will push us into stagnation.

3. I think making sure there's room for places of business/community centers to improve local livelihoods through adding more entertainment options for families/kids without going miles away to route 9 would also be important (think move theaters, indoor recreation, arcades, billiards, etc.).

4. There were good points about the view of Mt. Beacon. I don't think it wise to push 5-story buildings to any other area but Main St., it's either allow them on Main or don't allow them at all. We could easily ruin other people's views that way. While we need to be careful not to ruin that view, we need to encourage our views to not include ugly buildings as they are right now (think the check cashing place or car wash). Sure you can frame it, but it's still there. That's just reaffirming Mayor Casale's point.

5. Parking can be more resolved by looking at areas off of Main St. Being from north of Saratoga, I have visited there many times growing up and have watched it grow. Both Saratoga, Lake George, and Glens Falls all resolve parking by utilizing side streets. We have some problematic areas to do the same, but I'm sure there's some solutions to fix this issue.

Anyway presentation, and great dialogue from the audience!

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