Submitted by Janet O’Connell
Many building owners are listed as LLCs & the address is in care of a managing agent in NYC
Mamaroneck Avenue is bustling, in strong contrast to downtown Larchmont. Storefronts remain boarded up for months, even years.
The Larchmont-Mamaroneck Local Summit heard from four panelists last week who are concerned about this: the Village of Larchmont Mayor Anne McAndrews, Village of Larchmont Administrator Justin Datino; Carolyn Fugere, Manager of the Larchmont office of Julia B Fee, Sotheby’s and Head of the Larchmont Chamber of Commerce; and Tiffany Smith, Co-founder of the Facebook group Love Larchmont 10538.
Carolyn Fugere said that both as a realtor and the head of the Chamber of Commerce, she is anxious to build up the community in which she is selling homes. The Chamber of Commerce has grown substantially since she joined the organization and then became its head, growing from 35 businesses to over 100 in just a year’s time.
A few months ago, Larchmont resident Tiffany Smith, together with her friend and fellow Chatsworth mom, Amy Sullivan, was dismayed by the number of empty stores in Larchmont and seeing a need they created a Facebook page called “Love Larchmont 10538” with a heart in place of the zero in the zip code and an image of the Manor Park gazebo superimposed in the heart.
Tiffany reported that the response to both the Facebook page and a survey they created was overwhelming. The group received over 1300 responses to the survey and there are 2000 members in the Facebook group. Of the respondents to the survey 85% have children and 65% said that they were new arrivals in town. This group of residents is anxious for a lively and robust downtown.
The number one request in the survey was for a sports store.
Mayor Anne McAndrews explained what the Village has been doing to improve the appearance of the downtown, especially along Palmer Avenue. The Palmer Avenue Streetscape project is scheduled to be completed by the end of October, and she promised that new trees will be planted by then.
The Village is subject to many restrictions and different jurisdictions. For instance Boston Post Road is a U.S. route and any changes are subject to regulations and restrictions. She noted that many people have asked why they did not bury the overhead wires along Palmer Avenue, but she said that ConEd would not allow it, and it would have been prohibitively expensive. There is bedrock throughout the area and in some places it is only about eighteen inches below the surface making it impossible to bury the wires.
Justin Patino came to Larchmont three months ago after working as an assistant to the Scarsdale Town Manager. His role is to keep open the lines of communication between departments. Personnel is the largest expense of the Village, he reported.
The Village has almost no power to say how an empty store must look other than by appealing to the building owner’s good will. According to the tax rolls, many building owners are listed as LLCs and the address is in care of a managing agent in Manhattan.
The Mayor was finally able to track down the owner of the building where Active Sports used to be (next door to Citibank), and she prevailed upon him to do some work on the building. He is spending about $200,000, mostly inside, to reinforce the unstable floor and to satisfy some fire codes. The owner has promised to do something about the façade and the sidewalk.
Tiffany Smith’s group also put some pressure on him. She said that the law needs to be rewritten because at present public opinion is the only recourse we have to get a building owner to act.
Carolyn Fugere added that there is no local commercial brokerage agency in Larchmont. Each individual landlord seeks a tenant for his or her storefront which may contribute to the odd mix of establishments and leads to too many nail salons, banks and the like. Ms. Fugere reported that Julia B Fee is putting together a package/brochure for commercial realtors demonstrating the attractiveness of our town, its residents and their potential as shoppers. She added that she started working on a video before the streetscape project began but then had to put it on hold until the streetscape is complete.
Ms. Smith noted that surprisingly Larchmont has lower rents than some of our neighboring communities, including Bronxville, Rye and Scarsdale, and confirmed that we have the wrong mix of stores.
Having two shopping districts is a problem. The Boston Post Road district benefits from having the Chatsworth parents stopping by after dropping off their children at the school, but the Palmer Avenue area does not have this built-in shopping base. Ms. Smith reported that the survey showed that the Murray and Central parents want a place where they can go, with their strollers, after the morning drop-off. “If there was this morning draw, it would help the stores in that part of town.” She added that the Palmer Avenue area has a good draw in the evenings because of the many restaurants.