It’s been nearly two years since the Lyon Place garage in White Plains shut down, taking 153 parking spaces out of commission in the heart of the city’s downtown. Local business owners described the effect as “devastating,” saying perspective customers frequently went elsewhere because they couldn’t find parking.
Finally, relief is on the way for both merchants and shoppers, as Mayor Tom Roach announced last week that he has reached an agreement with the garage’s owner, The Esplanade, for the city to take ownership of the garage. The city will tear down the current structure and build a seven-story garage with around 650 spaces, nearly 500 of them allotted to city parkers with the rest reserved for The Esplanade’s use, Roach said.
“This city still has a vibrant and strong downtown, and we’re moving in the right direction. I think it’s our obligation to take steps when we see the opportunity to continue that forward momentum,” Roach said Wednesday at a meeting with reporters at City Hall. “I hope that this results in business owners feeling like, okay, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
The demolition of the current structure, which has been closed since June 2010, and the construction of a new garage are expected to cost in the range of $17 million, which will likely be bonded over 20 years. The city had considered alternatives, including rehabbing the garage rather than tearing it down.
“Even if you were to restore that garage, it’s a lousy garage,” Roach said. “If anybody here used this garage when it was available, it was poorly designed, not very efficient use of space.”
Business owners on East Post Road were relieved to learn that help was on the way and said the lot’s closure has hurt their businesses.
“It’s been a disaster, because this lot behind us [the Maple-Waller Lot] gets full during the day and then at night with all the restaurant traffic,” explained Andy Kimerling, the owner of Westchester Road Runners on East Post Road. “I’ve had customers that have called me from outside and apologized that they can’t find parking and they’re leaving.”
The garage is owned by The Esplanade, an assisted living facility on South Broadway. The city has leased the bottom two floors of the garage since 1983 but the garage closed two years ago because of the its condition. The city has been in talks with the management of The Esplanade to try to find a way to get the garage back online, and Roach said he grew frustrated by a lack of progress as the talks went on.
Some people recommended the city try to seize the lot through eminent domain proceedings, Roach said, but such action would be questionable legally and would take several years even if successful. The city considered building a garage on what is now the Maple Waller Lot, but that would mean shutting down the lot altogether during construction.
Roach promised the garage would be state-of-the-art, unlike the one it will be replacing.
“It will be bright. It will be secure. It will be accessible,” he said. “All of the things that you anticipate in a modern building we will be able to do.”
Stu Levine, the owner of Vino 100 on East Post Road, said the mayor’s announcement came as welcome news.
“We’ve lost a lot of business, a lot of people who have come in and told us that they were going to stop by a few days earlier but they couldn’t find a parking spot so they went somewhere else,” he said. “We are really happy that it’s happening now.”
Levine, though, questioned whether building a modern garage would add time to the construction.
The Esplanade will be allotted approximately 160 spaces in the new garage, less than the 313 it had before the closure but enough to be in compliance with zoning requirements, Roach said.
The deal to acquire the garage was approved Wednesday by the city’s Capital Projects Board. It went before the Common Council at Monday night’s monthly meeting, where it was widely expected to pass; the meeting took place too late for this edition.