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Downtown Nyack may get a new lease on life

  
  
  
  

NYACK — The much-anticipated Chef's Market on South Broadway didn't last long but a new specialty grocer may soon take its place.

Several business owners are interested in renting the 5,000-square-foot commercial space, said Jim Damiani, the real estate agent for the property.

Ordinarily, most people wouldn't pay much attention to a potential real estate deal, but 20 S. Broadway is a different story because of its long and complicated history.

"We all spent years anticipating a wonderful market in our downtown and everybody was disappointed when ... it didn't work," Nyack Trustee Jen Laird-White said on Wednesday.

The $4.2 million project, in the heart of downtown Nyack, was not only a welcome addition to the tax rolls, but the building also boasted 10 apartments on its top floors, seven of which were designated affordable.

Both Nyack and Rockland County taxpayers also have a stake in the outcome of the property, which was formerly the home of the historic Tappan Zee Playhouse. After the building was purchased by the village in 1998, several ideas were considered for the site, but it was eventually sold to Jeff and Lauren Sapounas for $415,000 in 2004.

Jeff Sapounas, a Nyack resident and a former sous chef at Lutèce in Manhattan, opened Chef's Market, a neighborhood grocery store with freshly prepared food, in April 2010. It was out of business within five months.

Damiani, who works for Rand Commercial Services in New City and is representing Sapounas, said there's been serious interest in reopening the store. It could focus on organic products, fresh produce or gourmet foods, with some dining on the premises, he said.

"We've had significant interest from a number of different parties who have food businesses" in Rockland, Westchester and Bergen County, N.J., Damiani said, adding people are still "a little tentative" about starting a business in this economy.

The market is available for rent for $10,000 a month.

Laird-White said she has been actively working to remove one of the biggest perceived obstacles about doing business in the downtown.

"I think everybody wants to get a tenant in there but one of the things that kept coming up from the real estate agents was that there's not enough dedicated parking," Laird-White said.

Laird-White said she spoke with the owner of Tallman Towers, which is next to the site, about using 20 or so of his parking spaces during the day. He is receptive to the idea, she said.

Sapounas still has to repay two government loans, totaling $1.75 million, that were arranged by the Rockland County Office of Community Development. He put up the building as collateral and made personal guarantees.

Joe Abate, the county's community development director, said he's received regular updates from Damiani and Nyack officials about the building. For a brief period in 2010, the county paid the building's gas and electric bills for clients it had placed there.

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