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Public Comment Sought for 'New Main Street' Plan in Port Washington

Feedback wanted on a proposed 'model blocks' program.

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"Main Street is old and outdated and it's clear that whatever planning was done 60 years ago is just not working anymore," Dan Donatelli, co-president of Residents for A More Beautiful Port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  • Creating an overlay district that encourages mixed-use development and incentivizes building owners to "turn old, outdated buildings and unsightly apartments" into "beautiful, modern, more luxurious living and working spaces."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.

JC November 22, 2011 at 08:01 PM
It would be nice to have a more varied type of stores. Many people leave port to go to the Americana or Great Neck to shop for clothes and other things. Its nice to have small business but a mix that included those more established stores like Gap or A& F could better withstand the rents and the economic downturns so we'd see less vacant stores all the time.
Amanda Z. Lambertoli November 22, 2011 at 08:05 PM
I was at the meeting and some very nice members of the community spoke up and I think they are correct - I think the residents group did a nice job with proposing brick sidewalks, and utilities underground, and cleaning up the parking lots. And I agree that rezoning for mixed use is a bad idea. We don't want or need 3 & 4 story concrete buildings lined down main street, this only helps the builders, not the entire community. You don't need to rezone and add mixed use multi story buildings to improve main street. Someone at the meeting stated the hardware store and book store renovated their facade without guidelines and did a great job!
Local Resident November 23, 2011 at 06:47 PM
Since it appears that Residents is using the comment cards collected at the town meeting as a way to determine whether or not the rezoning proposals are favored: my vote is: NO...I am against the rezoning of Main Street.
Mark Johnson November 23, 2011 at 09:10 PM
As a Resident of Port Washington who lives close to the 4 block section of Main Street affected by these proposals, it heartens me that there seems to be general consensus that the beautification ideas are good, but the 4 storey/rezoning idea is not. I do not understand why RFAMBPW and ToNH have felt the need to link these things, as it is certainly possible to do the former without the latter. I am also concerned about the way that these proposals have been developed in relative secrecy over a 2 year period. This doesn't breed trust and is not the first time that RFAMBPW has claimed to represent the view of the community, only to have to back-track later (i.e. the parking garage debacle....they were initially for it until a 1,000 strong petition against it was handed to ToNH). As someone who is involved in major engineering projects, and the planning associated with them, i know that the mantra for community involvement is "early and often"....something the Residents and ToNH don't seem to have grasped. I agree with many of the other comments here that the rezoning/4 storey idea is ill-conceived and won't achieve the goals that Residents and ToNH are aiming for. As with everything, the devil is in the detail, and in this case the detail has not been thought through, in particular the exacerbated traffic issues that will be generated by greater density and the potential for this to result in Main Street looking like a 4-storey canyon.
Dina Scobbo January 27, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Being a resident of PW for over 45 years and living on Ohio Ave. I am against any 3 or 4 story buildings being built on Main St. I invite anyone who thinks it's a great idea to come and sit on my front porch from 6:am till 8:30am and watch the amount of cars that come down Ohio Ave. to North Maryland to Main St. You take your life in your hands just trying to pull out of your driveway. Their is already too much traffic in this Town. How much money was spent to make Port Wash. Blvd. "look nice". And how many of those stores are empty?????? How many stores on Main St. are empty????? And no they are not empty because of the look of the store. It is the rents that businesses have to pay. Sure Main St. can use a little cleaning up. The land lords of these properties need to be held responsible for that. If you walk down Main St. to Bellview Ave. count the amount of bicycles that are chained to TNH sign post, meters and garbage cans and telephone poles. The "Residents" want to make Main St. look nice, building 3 or 4 story buildings is NOT the way to do it. .... Dina Scobbo

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