Every community has gateways where arrivals first encounter its streets and residents and shops. Croton has three commercial gateways that have been studied: southerly at Croton Point Avenue, Route 9 and S. Riverside; centrally at Route 9, Municipal Place and Maple Avenue; and northerly at Route 9A/Albany Post Road border with Cortlandt.
An attractive, active gateway boosts a community’s sense of pride and, of course, a visitor’s desire to linger. So the question becomes what would best fit in a community like ours?
Think of a gateway overlay as a mild dress code for the sites that are the most visible in Croton. To create a better looking, more consistent, higher functioning gateway, sites within it are being asked—upon redevelopment—to dress up more than is the case for less visible sites further removed from the main entrances to the village.
Over time this dress code raises property values in the gateway and adjacent to the gateways. Investors and villagers both will like that long term economic benefit. In the long run, good design costs less and earns back more than lack of design.
What kind of dress code fits our village entrances? Through surveys, workshops and many public meetings, Crotonites have made specific preferences clear. We want a greater variety of shopping experiences. We want shops that are scaled to the small-town feel of the Upper Village or Harmon districts. We want high quality in what is offered, whether in services or goods. We want safe pedestrian and bicycle access and better sidewalks. We want to see plenty of greenery wherever we go in town. We do want places to park, but don’t want more strip-mall style parking lots. We don’t want large big-box stores. We don’t want a concrete and asphalt-only environment.
In 2004 Croton adopted a Gateway Zoning Overlay Law that provides specific guidelines for developing sites in the three commercially zoned entrances to our village. The Gateway law added specific design criteria to the already existing zoning in each of the three areas.
In response to citizen input and, in accord with well-established patterns in attractive gateways in other cities and towns, new development in the 3 Croton Gateways set out the following specifics:
Does a Gateway overlay benefit developers? Yes. Why? In simple terms, the improvements in the Gateway are those that (1) embody positive changes the community is seeking, (2) raise the overall aesthetic and functional value of the sites; (3) help ensure that each site will eventually be improved to a higher standard.
Potential developers benefit from knowing, in advance, what the community desires and what is likely to be approved regarding bulk, appearance, parking requirements, and green space. Avoiding contentious approval processes is a strong incentive to development. The Gateway law lets developers tailor proposals to what is approvable without a lengthy and contentious process.
Of course, defining a desirable gateway doesn’t make developers appear overnight. Once such a law is in place, a municipality must market its approach and desires. This type of marketing already occurred in bringing Zeytinia to Croton at a time when Grand Union had left and its entire site was almost totally unoccupied. Residents were asking the Village to be instrumental in bringing a new grocery to the area. Village-to-business marketing made that happen. That is what needs to happen now to help redevelop our Gateway areas.
We should note some uses are prohibited in the Gateway such as parking lots, dealerships, automobile storage lots, fast-food restaurants, and drive-through windows for some commercial establishments.
The criteria set in the Gateway law were based on extensive research on similar situations throughout the county. Examples currently in Mamaroneck and Mt. Kisco as well as other municipalities show small-scale, stroller-friendly commercial environments.
Under our Gateway criteria, chain stores such as a typical Starbucks at 1,500 square feet, or a Red Lobster at 5,000 square feet could be easily accommodated. On the other hand, a typical Stop & Shop at 70,000 square feet or a CVS/Eckerd Drugstore at 12,000-15,000 square feet would not.
Typical commercial and retail or office sizes in Croton fall well within the new ceiling of a 20,000 total square foot building and 8,000 square feet per use within that building. Of 132 commercial uses examined in Croton for the Gateway Zoning study, 54% or 71 were less than 2,000 square feet. The Gateway size range is designed to match existing sizes of commercial uses in the Village. As an example of these current uses, Zeytinia’s current size is 6950 square feet, soon to expand to 7,950 square feet. Other examples of existing uses which we all know are (in square feet) the Black Cow at 1,000, Wondrous Things at 6,872 , Wachovia Bank at 2,500 and the Post Office at 4,772.
Recently, key properties in the gateway areas have become available. If residents want these properties to be developed as we previously indicated we would like, we should be marketing them in the context of our larger plan. We currently have several opportunities to do that for both privately—and village-owned parcels. Additionally, I would be interested in hearing more (by email or public comment on the blog) from readers with thoughts on this issue.
— Ann Gallelli, Trustee, Croton-on-Hudson