Bronxville examines downtown

By DANIEL OFFNER
Faced with a slew of vacant storefronts in its business district, the Village of Bronxville is looking for ways to improve its business climate and attract new businesses.

To that end, village officials hired  Phillips Preiss Grygiel LLC, a planning and real estate consulting firm, over the summer to examine the central business district along Pondfield Road and devise a strategy to revitalize the retail hub.

Bronxville Mayor Mary Marvin, a Republican, said the decision to commission a study of the retail district was in response to the volume of vacant storefronts in the area coupled with less robust sales for some existing businesses in the village.

“It’s good help to get a different set of eyes,” Marvin said. “We’re only part way into [the study]…and we’ve already learned a lot.”

Marvin added that the purpose of the study—conducted in partnership with members of the Bronxville Chamber of Commerce—looks to ensure the village does not pose any disincentives to detract new business from opening doors in Bronxville as opposed to other neighboring communities.

“We wanted to take a hard look at the business practices in the district,” said Susan Miele, director of the Bronxville Chamber of Commerce. “The chamber heard from members that the number of vacancies is a big concern…because of the economic implications.”

Miele said there are approximately 10 vacant retail properties at present in the village’s business district, which have caused concern from existing store owners surrounding the impact they pose on local commerce.

“It affects neighboring businesses,” Miele said. “They won’t see as many people.”

The consultants, in their preliminary examinations, raised several issues, including the active discouragement of national franchises from opening doors in the village, time and location restrictions placed on service businesses and parking issues for both merchants and patrons within the retail district.

“All of it needs to be taken into consideration,” Miele said regarding the suggestions on enhancing the business district.

After hiring outside consultants, Miele convened a realtor roundtable consisting of landlords, restaurateurs, and store owners, which collectively submitted a request to the village Zoning Board to revisit some of the existing zoning laws in the business district, which they felt are antiquated and need to be revamped.

Expanding the project to incorporate all facets of the business district, the study went beyond just simply providing insight on how to fill the vacant retail space, by providing recommendations on how to preserve and enhance existing commerce and examining different options that would help the retail district to thrive, including topics like: outdoor dining, street-side display of merchandise, signage, aesthetics, parking and zoning restrictions.

Currently midway through the study, Marvin said she expects to receive another update from the consultants in the near future and anticipates the village will heed any future recommendations.

Contact: dan@hometwn.com

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About Daniel Offner

Daniel Offner joined Hometown Media Group as a staff reporter in 2012 after working as a freelancer and has since covered the Town/Village of Harrison and the villages of Bronxville and Larchmont. Offner holds a B.A. in journalism from SUNY Stony Brook and has previous experience as an intern for WSHU, an NPR affiliate in Fairfield, Conn. He is also an avid photographer, occasional blogger, and an amateur web designer who aspires to one day write for a national publication. Reach Dan at 914-653-1000 x26 or dan@hometwn.com; follow him on Twitter @harrisonreport.