Pearl River and many New Jersey train stations are the hubs of their downtown with shopping and food for commuters and visitors. However, in Nanuet, it’s a different story.
One of the hot topics of last night’s meeting was making Nanuet more of a destination, especially with the incoming Shops at Nanuet, formerly the Nanuet Mall.
At Thursday night’s meeting. The Nanuet Chamber of Commerce invited representatives from Clarkstown to discuss upcoming ideas and changes for Nanuet.
Shops at Nanuet
“With the decline of the Nanuet Mall, we’ve seen the decline of the façade of the businesses in the Nanuet downtown area,” said Clarkstown Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner. She and Clarkstown Planner Joe Simoes quickly recapped the update on the Shops at Nanuet by the numbers:
- $150 million—total Simon Property is putting into the Shops at Nanuet project
- 1000 new retail jobs
- 70+ shops
- 1500 construction jobs
- approx $2.6 million in taxes annually, which will greatly benefit the school district.
Simoes described two parts to planning: short range and long range planning. Nanuet’s short range plan is the Shops at Nanuet and long range is zoning changes to the town's comprehensive plan.
To provide an incentive and help facilitate development, “we try to cut the time of development (without) cutting corners,” he said. The town wants to condense the time an economic project takes to be reviewed by the town and county “and make it faster for development to happen. The Nanuet Mall was reviewed … in 5 months, which was an ambitious time period.”
He said that as properties and applications come in, the town will try to get them through the departments as quickly as possible.
“As the shops come in, changes are happening. We already got an application for one of the out-parcels from TD Bank,” said Simoes. The out-parcels are standalone buildings along the edges of the Simon property, such as Banchetto Feast.
“There are a lot of possibilities for Nanuet. We’re not trying to change the character of the town. But we should be cognizant and use new Nanuet Mall as a push forward to find out how to sell ourselves,” said Hausner. “The involvement of the businesses and residents is crucial. We need to know what the everyday use is of your downtown and what you envision for it.”
Flynn added that there needs to be protection and incentives for businesses to stay along the border of the Shops at Nanuet.
“What can we do for the local landowners that own the properties (on Middletown Road bordering the Shops at Nanuet property) so that they can benefit from the mall? We’ve got a lot of Nanuet residents that are landlords that own these properties,” said Flynn. “I don’t want, where you wait five years and when the mall needs major room, they’ll wait for someone in your family to die and throw a few dollars at them.”
“The big advantage for Nanuet is the train station. The fact that Nanuet has a train station lends itself to a great deal of funding and state of the art zoning, something called transit oriented development,” said Simoes.
The train station labels Nanuet as transit-oriented development, which is a help in getting funding and grants for redevelopment.
“That’s something to capitalize on,” said Simoes.
“In Long Island they’ve gotten funding exclusively for an area around transit. You’ll see apartment buildings and shops,” added Hausner.
Simoes said that the train stations around town are more for freight than commuting, which is why there is light industrial office near (former commuter) train stations.
“Part of the difficulty is that we have NJ Transit and Metro North in this location and have to bridge the gap and get them to work together,” said Simoes. “Metro north has the rail and NJ Transit is the service provider.”
Nanuet Resident and Former County Legislator Bob Jackson asked if there could be political pressure used to speed up the revitalization of the train station area.
“If the hub of the train station was on the other side and the (commuter) parking lot was moved over, it’s a whole different feel for the town and (Nanuet becomes more walkable),” said Hausner.
In the meeting, it was mentioned that zoning changes could allow for mixed-use buildings on Main Street with apartments on top of retail stores.
Nanuet Resident and Chamber Member Jim Flynn said that would be fine, as well as apartment buildings near the train station, but it needs to be done smartly to benefit the hamlet and not hurt the Nanuet School District.
“We see everywhere where there’s a train station, they’ve got some type of condo or coop nearby. We’re bankrupting our school system sending all these kids from rental properties to the school. Maybe we don’t want to flood the school system with two or three bedroom (apartments), but maybe one bedrooms are good for us,” he said. “We need knowledge about those funds (such as development grants).”
“Don’t look at how it is now, think about what it could be,” said Hausner. “When you look at the transit, if you were a train station, what would you want around it? We’ve been to Park Ridge and other communities and seen how they have senior housing and loft spaces for young professionals and retail, but clearly we have to have the input from the residents and businesses in Nanuet.”
Nanuet has three levels of zoning:
- Community shopping – Middletown Road / Main Street; For the hamlet
- Regional shopping – Route 59; For the town and county
- Major regional shopping – the Shops at Nanuet and the Palisades Center. For town, county and possibly the tri-state area
“You have all three here; you don’t have that anywhere else in the town,” said Simoes. He added that with so many different shopping districts in one area, Nanuet has many possibilities with drawing people from outside.
“At the Metro North stops and trains, you see advertisements for different shopping areas in Westchester. This could be a real destination,” said Hausner. “It leaves it in our hands to make Nanuet a real destination. Maybe it’s something someone jumps on the NJ Transit train from Hoboken to come up to Nanuet for the day. Spend the day walking around the downtown area."
Hausner added that she wants to look into making the commuters more connected to Nanuet’s downtown so “maybe when they get off the train, before they go to their car, they’ll grab a slice of pizza … Like in Pearl River, where the shops are right across from the train station
Nanuet Resident and Chamber Secretary Susan Farese brought up the issue of parking for Nanuet’s downtown area
“That’s something we can do now. We can do (parking) signage now … signs with arrows directing people to parking,” said Hausner. “Nanuet is different from some of our other hamlet centers where there is some parking behind some of the businesses. There’s only so much street parking and people don’t realize that where there is more parking.”
“We’ve done parking utilization studies on these lots,” said Simoes. “The town lot is 100 percent. The county lot is about 60 percent and MTA lot, which you have to pay for, is 10 percent usage. There’s parking but it’s not being used effectively.”
Flynn said that one of the problems he sees with the properties along Main Street is that the “properties that were laid out many years ago are very narrow,” which makes it difficult to upgrade or do construction improvements.
Flynn added that he wanted to look into revitalizing the Fisher Avenue area.
“We need a large group of landlords (to decide) what do we want there,” he said.
"I’m exited about it. I can’t wait until Oct 1 and can’t wait for Shops at Nanuet,” said Jason Fitzmaurice, owner of Head People Salon, which borders the Simon property. “There’s going to be Fairway and I’m going to be between two supermarkets, like a sandwich.”
He’s been here since the 1970s and added that a change he’d like to see for Main Street is a “Big Ben clock in front of my shop.”
Mark Boyle, a Nanuet resident since 1968 and chair of the chamber’s beautification committee, said that he’s looking forward to cleaning up Nanuet to “make it look warm and have a draw.”
“You have to have a vision and a look for what will draw people to our community. That vision is a uniform look to the buildings, a clean look to the buildings, make sure the sidewalk that is inviting. We need specialty stores (since the Shops at Nanuet will most likely have corporate box stores).”
He added that the chamber needed to work with Simon to make this happen as well. For future ideas, he said he’d like to see an annual tree lighting near the holidays, possibly at the Veterans’ Memorial Park near the train station and Jackson’s rose garden.
“I think if you could fast forward, when we draw from outside of the Nanuet community, then u can put down a flag and say we’ve done this right.”
Hausner said that there are grants available through the NYS Regional Development Councils, which “the town has not received funding in this model, which was started two years ago."
Last year the regional council only gave funding to two projects in Rockland. They are looking for manufacturing, pharmaceutical, and job creation projects and there are businesses in Congers that may be a good fit for that.
One project NYS REDC gives funding out to is a Main Street Redevelopment Plan.
“It talks about façade changes and matching grant programs with businesses. (However), there are some economic levels and is for lower income areas or areas doing economic development. (We're) contacting state officials to find out if we’re eligible for it.”
Related Patch Articles:
- Fairway Market to Anchor the Shops at Nanuet
- 12-Screen Regal Cinemas Announced For Shops At Nanuet
- Electrical Contractor Awarded Projects at 4 Malls
- Banchetto Feast to Reopen
Simon and Clarkstown's October 25 meeting:
- Site’s open air Main Street concept
- Demolition timeline
- Parking at the mall and Q&A between Clarkstown and Simon
- Access during and after construction
Editor's Note: Corrections and updates have been made in regards to some of Hausner's statements