Suffern will improve 10 storefronts with fed grant, aims to lure professionals
Read below to see Jon Paul Molfetta of RCS quouted in the Journal News!
SUFFERN — Spring in this western Ramapo village will herald a sprucing-up project downtown as officials seek to revitalize the area to attract new businesses and young professionals.
That’s welcome news to small-business owners whose storefronts will get a makeover — and the federal government will pick up most of the tab.
“We’re psyched about it,” said Joe Capalbo, who owns 88 Lafayette Ave. and runs Artistic Floors there with his father, Charles.
The family could never afford to make a $57,000 investment into the building’s aesthetics, Capalbo said. But he’ll spend only a fraction of that while a Community Development Block Grant contributes $50,000 to the cost to reface the upper half of his building.
Suffern received the grant in late 2010, and a committee recently finalized plans to distribute it among a third of the 30 businesses that applied for funds. The grant pays up to 90 percent of the cost for facade improvements while business owners pitch in the rest.
About $167,432 total — $136,388 in grant money — will be spent to overhaul 10 storefronts downtown, touching the buildings between 86 Lafayette Ave. and 100 Lafayette Ave.
Designs were drawn up by Michael Shilale Architects of New City, and Hudson Valley Bridge Construction of Harriman has been awarded a bid for the construction, Mayor Dagan LaCorte said. Work is set to begin in May or June.
“It’s definitely a positive,” LaCorte said. “Suffern has a lot going for it but also has had its share of struggles due to external forces like the economy. So anything we can do to support the ongoing businesses, attract people to the Village of Suffern, it’s a good thing and we’ll move forward on it.”
Most building owners are spending only a few thousand dollars — except for Bill Tarantino, who’s investing$20,000 into Hines Playhouse — for what will result in a full facade makeover. The 98-year-old landmark and the longtime home of Handy Hardware Store, at 92 Lafayette Ave., will get the biggest facelift.
Workers will remove the coverings that for decades have hidden a row of third-story windows and replace the glass. Opening up the south-facing windows will flood light into the building, which once held racquetball courts and an ice skating rink, among other things. Currently, Tarantino rents nooks and crannies of the vast space to artists. One renter teaches Zumba classes.
“It adds value to the building,” Tarantino said of the facade project.
At other buildings, plans call for new signage, power washing, fresh paint, new paneling and new windows. The result will be good for Artistic Floors’ business and the village as a whole, Capalbo said.
“It will just brighten up the town,” he said.
Funds came from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2010 and were distributed through the Rockland County Office of Community Development. In 2012, Suffern was among more than two dozen municipalities and nonprofits in Rockland that received a portion of $1.9 million in Community Development Block Grant funds.
LaCorte said the village plans to assess other downtown buildings in need of aesthetic repair and use its $85,000 grant for a second phase of facade improvements that could begin in the fall.
It’s all part of Suffern officials’ overarching plan to bring in new businesses and create a place where young professionals who work in New York City want to live and spend their dollars, LaCorte said.
Jon Paul Molfetta, an associate broker at Rand Realty and vice president of the Chamber of Commerce who also worked on the facade project’s committee, said the village has a lot of potential in this effort.
In the past year, new businesses have opened downtown, including three clothing boutiques, two restaurants, a printing shop and a computer repair shop, Molfetta said. Vacancies remain, however, with one of every 10 storefronts empty, he estimated. Commercial rents range from $12 to $22 per square foot.
“The commercial sector hasn’t (historically) been strained the way it has been the last few years,” he said.
There’s been a concerted effort to diversify downtown business, Molfetta said.
“We’re trying to break the stereotype of just food in our downtown,” he said, referring to the village’s multitude of eateries in what’s known as Restaurant Row.
What’s also needed, he said, is a “luxury” residential rental market — specifically, a mid-rise building with new units to mix up the current market of apartments and artists’ lofts downtown.
LaCorte agreed, saying downtown housing options should appeal to families, current residents looking to downsize or young professionals commuting to work via NJ Transit.
“Bringing people to live in the village around mass transit ... that’s kind of the direction we go in building a downtown around that,” he said.
Plans to redevelop property on Orange Avenue into just that sort of apartment building as part of an urban renewal plan have languished for years as the village struggled to retain interest from developers.
The 2013 budget includes $300,000 in revenue the village is counting on from the sale of its property at 120 Orange Ave. LaCorte said the village has received renewed interest from a developer but the fate of 120 Orange Ave. hasn’t been decided.
Separately, a new proposal to build condos on Washington Avenue could go before the Planning Board this year, LaCorte said. The plan would require a zone change.