The Port Washington community now has the chance to weigh in on a "model blocks" program, a proposed plan for a "new Main Street" that extends from Port Washington Boulevard to Haven Avenue.
The plan was presented on Thursday, Nov. 17, by Residents for A More Beautiful Port Washington at the .
"Main Street is old and outdated and it's clear that whatever planning was done 60 years ago is just not working anymore," Dan Donatelli, co-president of Residents for A More Beautiful Port Washington, told the audience.
The proposal is just for four blocks,"because we think it's prudent to move slowly and carefully," he said. "If it works, we can always expand it later on."
Representatives from the spoke at the meeting, as did those from the , and BJF Consulting, a New York-based firm whose expertise includes planning and whose work can be seen in Garden City, Southampton and more.
Donatelli pointed to the Town of North Hempstead visioning process, which took place from January through June in 2005. He spoke of "the community concensus that arose from those meetings." That concensus included reducing the number of empty storefronts and enhancing Main Street without diminishing its existing charm.
Now, he said, it's time to take the next step, moving to "specific zoning and planning tools that help us achieve those visioning goals."
The model blocks project is a "ground-up community-led effort," he said, encouraging local residents to provide their feedback on the recommendations.
Proposed plans included:
- Creating an overlay district that encourages mixed-use development and incentivizes building owners to "turn old, outdated buildings and unsightly apartments" into "beautiful, modern, more luxurious living and working spaces." Recommendations include zoning for four-story buildings of a maximum height of 48 feet. There would be a capacity here for shared parking, with residents who park in the area at night freeing up spaces by day when heading to work. Other recommendations include shared dumpsters and enforced refuse pickup to prevent litter on Main Street.
- Burying underground electric utility wires.
- Developing architectural design guidlines to enhance Port's charm. Recommendations include proportioned windows, well-designed awnings, limited size of commercial signage, flower boxes and attractive window displays.
- Making the most of parking facilities, including converting the Shields property visible on Port Washington Boulevard into merchant parking, thereby increasing shopper parking. Also, reconfiguring existing parking lots where possible to increase the number of spots.
- Enhancing streetscapes to encourage pedestrian-friendly shopping, strolling and dining.
- Beautifying the Main Street train station, so that the plaza in front of the station can double as a town square.
Residents for A More Beautiful Port Washington board members say they have worked with building owners, merchants, developers, special districts, the real estate community and local community groups in developing the model blocks program.
When the plan was presented to community members on Thursday, several audience members took issue with some of the elements of the plan.
Referring to the overlay district and the ability to convert buildings into four-story structures, Lauren Wolf, a local real estate agent, said, "You can't get permits in the Town of North Hempstead."
Others, who lived just steps away from the model blocks area thought the shared parking concept wouldn't fly, voicing concerns about the potential for increased traffic and density. "You can't get parking now," one resident said.
However, recommendations for burying the utility wires and reducing litter on Main Street drew applause.
Donatelli pointed out throughout the evening that this effort is a process. "The end result should be a Main Street we are all proud of."
Copies of the presentation are available at the library.