News from the Peekskill Business Improvement District on its proposal to the city on residential zoning reforms:
The Peekskill Business Improvement District (BID) published a proposal to the City of Peekskill today calling for residential zoning reforms to promote renewed investment and economic development in downtown Peekskill while building on the success of the Artist Spaces program.
The Artist Spaces program, created by the City in 1991 to attract artists to live and work in Peekskill, currently restricts the majority of residential use downtown to certified artists only. The ‘proportional housing’ model for reform the BID introduced would allow building owners to divide their residential units proportionally between those restricted to artist live/work units and those open to residents from all professions.
While the current policy succeeded in establishing Peekskill as a ‘City of Arts’ and helped stabilize downtown through a period when the viability of downtowns were being tested nationwide , questions have emerged as to whether the zoning policy should be modified to spur further development and investment downtown.
“This is not about ending the Artists District or the artist live/work program. We know the value of artists to downtown. We have been working hard at the BID to promote the arts, most recently in our Art Crawl partnership with HVCCA during December,” said John Sharp, BID Board President and owner of downtown-based Gleason’s and Birdsall House. “We realize the artist live/work program has been a success. Our goal is to build upon its success and find ways to promote more investment and development downtown.”
The BID began examining current residential zoning policy downtown and exploring potential reforms six months ago. This effort resulted in the report,”Reforming Zoning Laws to Promote Further Downtown Residential Growth & Revitalization: Exploring a Strategy to Create a 24/7 Downtown Peekskill”, which presented five options for potential downtown residential zoning reform.
“The BID Board wants to help move us further in the direction of a ’24/7′ downtown, with regular foot traffic during the weekdays to support local businesses and further community revitalization. We think this means increasing both the economic diversity and number of
people living downtown,” said Ken Laudon, a BID Board member and property owner who has had success developing downtown art lofts. “The Peekskill Downtown will remain an Artists District. With changes proposed by the BID, artists will continue to live here, there will be art galleries, and artist lofts will continue to be rented.”
Over the past months, the BID has worked to gather feedback from the broad diversity of downtown stakeholders it represents, holding two public BID meetings devoted to the issue, surveying key stakeholders on proposed reform options, conducting numerous individual discussions, and communicating with the Peekskill Artists Alliance and Chamber of Commerce. This feedback led the BID to conclude that the ‘proportional housing’ strategy is the best way to meet the diversity of downtown interests.
“Currently, zoning hinders new residential development by restricting potential tenants to artists only. We think there are ways to both maintain the artist live/work program and modify zoning to spur more residential development,” said Jason Angell, Executive Director of the Peekskill BID. “And we think if we can increase the number of people living downtown, it will benefit us all by strengthening our local buying power, making the streets active and safe, and help fill up vacant storefronts.”
“While we have not endorsed any particular plan at this time, our Board of Directors is very much interested in reviewing the proposals further, and have indicated that they are in favor of expanding live and live/work opportunities in the downtown,” said Deb Milone, Executive Director of the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce. “We have followed the recent press coverage on the US Census trends that more and more people are looking to live,work and play in a downtown/city center, with easy access to mass transit, dining, entertainment and other services.”
The Peekskill Business Improvement District (BID) is responsible for the development and oversight of activities that promote and improve the downtown BID area for BID property and business owners. As representatives of local businesses, from time to time the BID Board makes policy recommendations that support improved conditions for shared economic growth downtown. To learn more about the Peekskill BID, visit www.downtownpeekskill.com.