The developer that hopes to build Centro Larchmont, a 26 unit luxury condominium residence and a two story parking garage in the central business district of Larchmont, says the “world class project brought to the Village has been extremely and thoroughly vetted by the Village Board and other professionals.”
Gary Hirsch, Chairman of Rye-based Elk Homes, says Larchmont’s Board of Trustees is one of the “most challenging” of all Westchester County cities, towns and villages in which Elk Homes has built, and that Larchmont’s leaders have been among the most vigilant in addressing specific concerns before moving forward.
The project has an estimated value of $40 million as currently designed, plus additional infrastructure benefits Hirsch says the developer will be giving the community.
At a recent public hearing at Larchmont Board of Trustees, an overflow crowd of residents, many angry, and most opposing the development, voiced specific concerns about the five story residential building and garage.
But Hirsch says that as a result of working with Village officials and residents on this public/private partnership, these concerns have been studied and addressed. When people’s passions are inflamed,” he says, “It’s hard for them to really listen.”
Those concerns include:
- Impact on school populations
- Traffic safety
- Scale of the project
In terms of school population, Trustee Sarah Bauer, says Hirsch, “was the one who has challenged us and persisted on learning about the impact on the schools and we were able to satisfy her and the rest of the Board that it was minimal.”
After canvassing the number of students living in the apartments and condos in Westchester County, Elk Homes estimates that the 26 units will add 2-5 students, and at any one time those could be spread among the elementary, middle and high schools.
“In our two buildings in Mamaroneck we have only one or two students in 20 apartments while in Bronxville 60 apartments have 2 students,” he said.
Hirsch says the school district will receive incremental tax revenue from Centro residents of $400,000 per year. “It’s an enormous amount of money. It’s a real plus for the schools.”
In addition, “the Village is going to receive an incremental $150-160,000 revenue from property taxes. That’s one percent of the total budget of the Village.”
As far as traffic safety, the two level parking garage will help the business district, he argues, where parking is scant. And it should not affect traffic or safety, he says. The lot entrance, now 10 feet wide will be expanded to 20 feet for improved visibility. Delivery trucks, he says, are expected to use the main entrance on Chatsworth Avenue , not the back near the garage. Centro Larchmont residents’ parking will be below ground.
Elk Homes says it will provide and maintain a new 10-foot wide pedestrian walkway from Wendt Ave. to Chatsworth Ave., near the Larchmont Tavern. “This (garage) is fantastic for the residents but it’s also fantastic for the retailers because you can park here and walk directly to Winetasters, walk directly to Larchmont Tavern, walk directly to Anderson’s (book store).” Hirsch says Elk Homes also plans to treat rainwater and mitigate flooding in the area.
Before the first formal presentation at a Board of Trustees meeting in April, Hirsch and his team met with Wendt Ave and Vanderburgh Ave. residents and elected village trustees to discuss the proposal. Those meetings resulted in several changes to the original design, including changing the roof of the garage and reducing the footprint of the basement.
“Not only have we changed the facade at the request of the neighbors, believe it or not, one of the neighbors had a comment about the individual plants … because of an allergy, so we changed the plants…we’ve listened.”
Vacant storefronts, some having been empty for a decade or more, and dilapidated retail exteriors have long been a cry for commercial district revitalization, especially in contrast to the thriving business districts in neighboring Mamaroneck and other nearby villages. Yet many worry that the size of the Centro Larchmont complex will detract from the charm and character of the village.
Argues Hirsch, “ It will be the same height or lower than the building across the street from Lusardi’s. It’s the same height or lower than the building on East Avenue and it’s the same height or lower than the building next to the synagogue on Boston Post Road (Albee Court).”
“The reality is this, we are setting no new criteria for multi family development in the Village. This is the standard that is long established in the Village. This is not a new standard.”
The currently empty strip is slated to offer 5000 square feet of modern retail space with large windows, 13-foot ceilings and “lots of light.” Elk has also promised the Trustees there will be no leasing of storefront to banks or real estate offices.
Finally, despite a circulated petition signed by 250 people expressing concern over the building, Hirsch says his office is receiving many emails in support of Centro Larchmont, and several inquiries from prospective home buyers.
A second public hearing is scheduled for Monday, October 21 at 7:30pm. Please note that this meeting will be held at the Village Center (behind the library) at 119 Larchmont Ave.
For more information, go to the Centro Larchmont link on village of Larchmont website.
Debra Quintana has been reporting for The Loop for several years. After living in Larchmont for 20 years she and her husband moved to Mamaroneck 3 years ago. Debra was a television news reporter in Texas, Florida, Colorado before moving to New York where she worked at WPIX-TV and WCBS-TV. She currently serves as the manager of The Golden Shoestring in Larchmont.