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September 23, 2019Cart

Business

by Westchester County Business Journal
by WCBJ

Hartsdale landlords, residents push new vision for struggling Four Corners

At the Four Corners intersection in Hartsdale, where Hartsdale and Central Park avenues meet, lies “a sea of asphalt” that residents describe as overburdened by traffic, hostile to pedestrians and tough for business.

But hidden behind honking vehicles at rush hour, residents of nearby neighborhoods see the potential for a community gathering place with greenery, retail and new spaces to live and work.

A collaboration between longtime landlords and a planning and architecture firm based in Hartsdale is leading an effort to push for new zoning that could bring that vision to fruition. The group’s plan is backed by a neighborhood group as well.

Patrice Ingrassia and Christine Broda, founders of the Hartsdale-based real estate consulting firm Inspired Places LLC, walked the Greenburgh Town Board through a vision for Four Corners at its April 10 meeting.

“We want to talk about a neighborhood — which we don’t have by the way, we have an intersection — where people live, work and play,” Ingrassia, a markets consultant, told the board. “We want to talk about how Four Corners becomes a destination, a place where people like to linger.”

One path to get there, the firm says, is through a form-based zoning code that allows for mixed uses and includes measures to alleviate traffic and make the area more pedestrian friendly.

Inspired Places started looking at ways to revitalize the Four Corners last summer, Ingrassia said in a phone interview following the meeting. The company was approached by the Chen Corp., a family business that’s owned properties on the southeast corner of Four Corners for more than 20 years.

They asked what could be done with their properties to make them more viable. After reviewing the zoning for the area, the answer was not much.

That realization set Inspired Places to work on developing a framework for modernized zoning. The company got other landlords on board as well, as the firm is also working with property owners on the northeast corner of Four Corners, Michael Corotolo and James Cartelli.

The firm’s plan is also backed by the Hartsdale Neighbors Association, a community group founded in 2016 to address a range of issues of interest to Hartsdale residents.

Susan Seal is chairwoman of a committee the neighbors association created to advocate for improvements at Four Corners. She said once they heard about Inspired Places’ efforts, they asked Ingrassia and Broda to present their plans last fall. More than 100 residents showed up, Seal said, and voiced unanimous approval.

The neighborhood group circulated a petition in favor of Inspired Place’s outlined proposal before the Greenburgh Town Board meeting that received more than 500 signatures

“It’s an intersection you drive through and say, Oh, there’s another ‘For Rent’ sign,” Seal said of Four Corners. “We’d like to see it be a place where people enjoy a sense of community.”

The intersection already has strong numbers: 14,000 cars drive by each day. It is near the center of a hamlet with about 5,000 residents and a median income that Census data show is well above the regional average.

But those numbers haven’t added up to a strong business district. Neighbors have noted only “transactional” businesses have survived, with few retail destinations. Landlords say finding retail tenants in the district is “nearly impossible,” and the ones they do find have low success rates, according to a summary of the research by
Inspired Places.

Ingrassia and Broda walked the town board through slides showing the heavy traffic, empty storefronts and unsightly power lines emblematic of the area’s area.

“We want to go from pictures of what you just saw, which are downright depressing, to a vibrant, revitalized and neighborhood-focused area,” Ingrassia said. “Where people can live in a downtown hub, have easy access to transit and vibrant stores and neighborhoods that are reconnected, where businesses can thrive.”

The revitalization would focus on attracting millennials priced out of New York City and other downtowns for the residential portion, as well as empty nesters downsizing. The main attraction would be its location near the Hartsdale train station.

The vision for Four Corners described by Ingrassia and Broda would add modern, smaller scale mixed-use apartment buildings and community-oriented designs that could combine with the Hartsdale Village and East Hartsdale Avenue to create a true downtown vibe.

“We really could create a destination,” Ingrassia said. “Talk about taking a problem market and re-engineering it so it can become an attractive market.”

Inspired Places asked the town board to consider adding a supplement to its comprehensive plan which would allow it to initiate a study for rezoning the area.

Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner wrote in an email to residents following the presentation that he has asked the town’s school district and fire commissioners to designate a liaison for a rezoning effort. He encouraged residents to watch the video of the presentation online.

“With Amazon and the changing business environment, if we don’t act now we’re going to lose Central Avenue,” Feiner said at the meeting. “This is a major opportunity to really do something before it’s too late.”