Larchmont Mayor Lorraine Walsh has seen the building permits and spoken to many of the merchants; She says the Palmer Avenue stretch of empty storefronts in the northwest part of the village is poised for a comeback.
“A few years ago we had the same problem on the Boston Post Road side of the village,” she told us, ” now it’s happened here for a variety of reasons.” There is no dispute, though, that the commercial stretch has become a grim series of blank spaces.
Palmer Avenue has had some tough breaks in recent years. It seems to have begun with the closing of the Larchmont Playhouse movie theater in 2016, a devastating fire that gutted an apartment building and storefronts in 2017, and a spectacular pickup truck crash earlier this year that closed three adjacent businesses. Still, merchants are planning to re-occupy most of the vacant spaces. The mayor insists those storefronts are “empty not vacant; There’s a difference. Renters are moving in.”
Mayor Walsh says the owner of the movie theater, Charles Cohen, has just secured an interior demolition permit and should be opening a new 4 screen art house theater at that location in 2020. “The facade will be maintained and upgraded,” she says, “and the theater will re-establish area foot traffic.”
Just steps away, the three businesses hit by the speeding pickup truck are all functioning at different locations: Elli Travel has moved to Larchmont Avenue, The stationery store Write-On is doing a holiday season pop-up location at Bread and Cocoa on Boston Post Road, and Beauty Bar survives on private appointments. The repairs at the 1969 Palmer Avenue crash site are wrapped up in what she describes as a “slow insurance tangle,” involving the driver, the landlord and the merchants.
The big news, though, is the construction at 1912 Palmer which was destroyed by fire; New apartments and modern new commercial space should be finished this year. “That’s more people who will shop and eat here and a modern commercial space which is sorely lacking in the village. We just don’t have a variety of inventory,” she says of the existing commercial spaces. ” Some of our storefronts don’t even have their own employee toilet facilities.”
“Businesses leave for a variety of reasons,” she said. Some of it involves competition from the on-line shopping operations like Amazon. “The one element we need most for a vibrant shopping area is for the people who live here to shop here. The more we buy on-line the harder it is for businesses to stay here.”