Town Board Special Meeting
Jefferson Valley Mall
July 11, 2012
Supervisor Grace and Councilmen Paganelli and Murphy met for about an hour with six representatives of Simon Properties and several staff members and members of ABACA to discuss the company’s plans to renovate the 30 year old mall.
The company is anxious to get moving on the renovation as soon as possible and town officials indicated their support for the project. Speaking for the Town, Supervisor Grace said that the continued viability of the mall was important for Yorktown and that town officials wanted to work closely with the company.
The informal daytime meeting was designed to give town staffers an opportunity to provide Simon with feedback on its conceptual plans and for Simon to get a better understanding of town procedures and processes in order to move the project forward as quickly as possible. Simon would like to begin work on Phase I of the renovation in early 2013 with an estimated 14-16 month construction schedule.
Simon outlined a two phase renovation program designed to make the outdated mall relevant to today’s shoppers. The overall goal is to create a village center feeling. To “animate’ the mall, Simon plans to reorient it to face outward with windows, doors and attractive signage. The company is currently carrying out a somewhat similar mall renovation in Nanuet.
Phase I of the renovation includes adding approximately 25,000-30,000 square feet of space in front of the existing building (on both levels) for a mix of new retail and restaurant use, new entrances to the interior, and some changes to the parking lot to make it more efficient. Plans will also be developed to either remove or alter the berm and row of trees along Route 6 that block the mall’s visibility from the road. No major changes in the layout of the parking lot are proposed.
Phase II, which is still in the conceptual stage, would include a 50,00 square feet stand alone building, also a mix of retail and restaurant use and possibly another small stand alone building. The timing of Phase II additions will depend on the results achieved by the Phase I renovations.
Although Simon did not indicate that it had any immediate plans to expand the footprint of the mall beyond the Phase I and Phase II plans, Supervisor Grace advised the company not to necessarily rule out that possibility in their long term plans.
The future of the vacant movie space remains in limbo. Simon representatives explained that with movie attendance declining, the company hasn’t been able to interest any potential movie tenants. And because of the expensive involved in renovating the space, a decision has been made for the present to “mothball” the space.
During the discussion, it became apparent that the zoning code provisions governing the regional shopping center zone are outdated and will have to be modified. Especially outdated are signage and parking requirements and language. Supervisor Grace suggested that the old language simply be thrown out and new language adopted that meets current needs and standards. He added that one of the goals of the new text should be to eliminate the need for Simon to return to a town board any time in the future it wants to make changes to an already approved master plan.
Staff members brought up the following issues:
Signage: All agreed that they liked the concept of a “village look” which would entail a mix of color and font on signs. Planning Director Tegeder cited the Palisades Mall as an example of what the Town would not want and suggested that there might be some positive examples in Pelham. Initially, the changes will only be made on the portions of the mall façade that Simon controls; Sears owns its own building and Macy’s, which leases its space, controls its area. The Simon representatives were optimistic, however, that once their efforts began to show results in revitalizing the mall, the two department stores would follow with changes to their facades.
Parking: A key issue that remains to be worked out is the berm along Route 6 that was designed 30 years to “shield” the building and which is not needed for safety reasons. The general sense was that while the visual impact of the parking lot should be softened, the revitalized exterior of the buildings did not have to be hidden. Mr. Tegeder suggested that with a creative landscaping plan, both the Town’s goal of retaining the greenway look along Route 6 and Simon’s goal of making the mall visible and inviting could be achieved. While the additional retail space in Phase I will not require any additional parking space, additional spaces will be needed in order to accommodate the Phase II buildings. Simon representatives were confident that there was room on the existing 50 acre site for the additional parking.
Process and timetable: While site plan issues are being worked out between Simon and staff, the company will submit a draft of the new zoning text to the town in approximately 2-3. The changes will be subject to a public hearing.
Working with town staff, Simon will decide how it wants to treat its Phase I and Phase II plans in order to comply with SEQRA requirements and avoid what is known as segmentation, or splitting up phases of a larger project. The issue may be addressed by having the Town approve site specific changes for Phase I at the same time a Master Plan for the site that incorporates Phase II is also approved but without specific details.
Additional work sessions with the Town Board will be scheduled as needed either in the daytime or evening.