Pelham village officials are hopeful that a proposal to build a mixed-use, 110-unit apartment building will flourish and eventually become a catalyst for commercial development in the downtown area.
But some community members worry that the preliminary plan, if completed, could add more stress to the Pelham school system.
During Tuesday’s board, village trustees discussed a memorandum of understanding with Connecticut-based Spinnaker Real Estate Partners to build on an L-shaped stretch of village owned property located between Fourth and Fifth avenues and Third Street and Lincoln Avenue.
Village Mayor Edward Hotchkiss said Spinnaker real estate willl be available at the next village board meeting on June 5 to give a more detailed presentation of their plan.
“What we’d like to do with the development of the village is that we’d like to increase the tax base and the viability of the downtown area,” Hotchkiss said. “ So, part of the master plan was to basically increase density on Fifth Avenue and Wolfs Lane.”
Hotchkiss said village officials put out a request for proposal to develop the property more than a year ago.
Developers had expressed limited interest in the property initially, Hotchkiss said. The original request for proposal wanted developers to replace the parking that already exist in that area and consider replacing the village firehouse. It is estimated that it would cost the village about $3 million to build a new firehouse.
After a while, Spinnacher and another developer came forward with a plan to develop the property.
“The reason we like these particular individuals is that we’ve seen the work that they’ve done in other places,” Hotchkiss said. “And particularly if you got South Norwalk, they’ve done a tremendous amount of work with revitalizing the area over a number of years.”
Examples of Spinnaker’s work can be found here.
Hotchkiss emphasized that the village was only signing a memorandum of understanding that shows both parties mutual interest in the project. Spinnacher would still have to need to additional engineering work and the village would still need tor work up an agreement to sale the property. The project would also have to satisfy local zoning and state environmental reviews before it could proceed.
The village would receive a total roughly $4.1 million from the developer. The breakdown would be $1.5 million in cash; $100,000 to help renovate the firehouse; and 100 parking spaces valued at about $25,000 each.
Trustee Suzan Marciona believes the project will bring much needed foot traffic to the village.
“From a planning and trends point of view, from attending a number of planning seminars offered by the county abouts what’s happening in other communities....this would be really consistent with what other municipalities and what the county promoting,” Marciona said.
She said the project would provide the village infill. The majority of the units would be made up of one bedroom apartments that would be attractive to young professionals, divorcees and senior looking to downsize.
Preliminary projections predict the development adding approximately 30 new school children to the district if it is built.
Mari Doyle, a Pelham resident, worried about the impact the project will have on Hutchinson Elementary School. Even though Spinnacher’s plan would be marketed to a certain demographic, Doyle said it will still attract families who want to send their child to Pelham schools.
Doyle, who teaches at Eastchester schools, said she’s visited many families who live in one-bedroom apartments. She believes additional studies need to be done to get a handle on the real impact the development could have on the school system.
“A hundred and ten apartments could, theoretically could be 110 extra kids If you have half the apartments and they have two children,” Doyle said.
Claire Persanis, another Pelham resident, said she isn’t anti-development. But she said a high level of mobility already exists with students at Hutchinson Elementary School.
“My son graduated with 62 kids in fifth-grade and only 38 of those kids were there in kindergarten,” said Persanis, Hutchinson Elementary School parent. “Last August, we got 38 new kids. I went on class trip with my third-grade son [Tuesday]. There were four kids there who weren’t there two months ago.”
Board members said they would take all of those concerns into consideration if the project proceeds and makes it to the review process.