In 1996, the General Motors Assembly Plant in Sleepy Hollow closed, resulting in a dark period for the town as residents lost their jobs and the economy plummeted. However, the resilient community resurfaced once again as a diverse, blue-collar town with thriving tourism and local businesses.
The former factory site is now being repurposed into a mixed-use development known as Edge-on-Hudson. The new project is a 70-acre site along the Hudson River located just 25 miles north of New York City and is poised to restore access to the Sleepy Hollow waterfront while jumpstarting economic development in the area. With the new Edge-on-Hudson and the $5 billion-dollar Hudson River bridge, the resurgence of Sleepy Hollow is well underway.
With this in mind, the village of Sleepy Hollow sought the outside advice of the Urban Land Institute New York (ULINY) and its Westchester/Fairfield District Councils. With a two-day technical assistance panel (TAP) we worked together to create a report that will help ensure the entire community can benefit from these upcoming changes.
The TAP panel was made up of ULINY volunteer professionals who have spent their careers working in the land-use industry to manage large projects and investments to strengthen and enhance communities. They understand how critical it is to prepare for both the challenges and opportunities this new development will bring. As framed in the report “A Vision for Sleepy Hollow: Managing Change & Building for Diversity” smart policies can help address the growing population, take advantage of new development and preserve the community’s rich economic and cultural diversity.
For example, since connectivity to the neighborhood is key, the plan recognizes that new development must come with enhanced transportation options. We analyzed existing public access to multimodal transit options and proposed improvements that could complement new investments. Strategies include creating pedestrian and bike access and expanding the bus shuttle service to the local Metro-North train station during peak times.
We recommended organizing a Beekman Avenue Merchants Association or business improvement district to address the needs of local businesses in the area. And making targeted changes to the tax and zoning codes could help foster additional growth throughout the village. In addition, we suggested organizing shop owners and merchants to assess and build demand for a shuttle bus because they too can benefit from bike tourism.
Since Sleepy Hollow is home to a diverse community of both recent immigrants and first-generation Americans, the panel suggested that the village reach out to residents and businesses in several languages and that the local chamber of commerce hosts meetings and runs promotions in English and Spanish. Bilingual outreach provides the entire community access to information and opportunities for their businesses and families. Reaching out to shop owners in the Latino community with detailed explanations and workshops on incentives can also help Sleepy Hollow win trust from civic leaders.
Another suggestion is replenishing Beekman and the downtown core by allowing five stories and 55-foot building heights; as well as higher density of buildings and double-width storefronts; coordinate seed funding for restaurants, bars and galleries; and planning and promoting festivals and outdoor events that celebrate the community’s history and diversity.
These and other transformative ideas laid out in the TAP report could facilitate smart and sustainable growth in the community. There is no doubt that we have an opportunity to make Sleepy Hollow a better place to live, work and visit for generations to come. Through comprehensive and inclusive planning, we can ensure that all current and future residents can reap the benefits.
Kim Morque is president of Spinnaker Real Estate Partners LLC and served as chair of the ULI Technical Assistance Panel. ULI’s New York and Westchester/Fairfield District Councils partnered with the village of Sleepy Hollow to convene a technical assistance panel to analyze the village’s geography and demographics, review current laws and policies and speak with residents and business owners to learn about the challenges they face. Contact him at Kim@spinrep.com.