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Future of Galleria Site a Focus of White Plains Comp Plan Workshop

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By Ryan Raicht

A portion of the crowd that attended the latest workshop Monday Night on the White Plains Comprehensive Plan update  that is expected to yield an updated blueprint for the future for the city.

The City of White Plains held its third public workshop in its quest to update its Comprehensive Plan Monday evening that partially focused on the future of the property that was home to the now-shuttered Galleria mall.

In a presentation to kick off the workshop at the White Plains Public Library’s second-floor auditorium, city officials outlined the six main elements of the plan, which is titled One White Plains: sustainability and environment; transportation; government and education; recreation and culture; neighborhoods and housing; and employment and investment. Each of the elements has numerous proposed initiatives that had workshop attendees offer their input.

Residents who did not attend any of the workshops can provide feedback on the initiatives at www.onewhiteplains.com. It’s a tool that has given the White Plains Planning Commission plenty of direction.

“We wanted to make sure that this time we got participation from as many different people as we could, not just the people who are able to attend the meetings, but also people that can’t,” Mayor Thomas Roach said. “We’ve had all types of ways for people to contribute. I believe we’ve set a record for the amount of individual public comments on the Comprehensive Plan for the city.”

White Plains Planning Commissioner Chris Gomez led an opening presentation outlining details from the latest draft of the Comprehensive Plan, which is entering its final stages.

“It’s all about providing policy and direction for future growth of the city,” Gomez said. “And it’s not just about bricks and mortar. It’s not just about building buildings. It’s about infrastructure, it’s about social capital, it’s about creating and maintaining the wonderful city that we have.”

The hot topic of conversation Monday evening revolved around what to do with the Galleria, which permanently closed in late March after 42 years. Many who attended the workshop, including the mayor, favored getting rid of the hulking structure.

“From the moment I ran for mayor to right through now, I’ve talked about how the Galleria, for all of its positives at one time, had become just a mega-block in our city, and prevented a lot of movement across the central part of our city,” Roach said.

Each person was given six gold star stickers at the workshop to put next to the initiatives that they support the most. Many gold stars were placed next to Initiative 11, the Live WP element, which focused on neighborhoods and housing.

This initiative proposes that the rezoning of the Galleria site facilitates “a mixed-use development with affordable housing, and publicly accessible open space that enhances the existing urban core and meets the long-term vision for White Plains,” according to the proposed plan.

Roach pointed to the area around the train station as one that could use improvement. The mayor also emphasized the need for additional businesses and storefronts on the opposite side of Court Street.

“The walk from the train station, which should be alive and vibrant, is sterile and cold,” Roach said. “Court Street has always been the problematic one. Why? Only half the team is on the field. Retail needs other retail. And to have that wall across those small business unfortunately has not been great.”

This is the first Comprehensive Plan update since Roach became mayor in 2011. The plan was last updated in 2006, although there were amendments approved in 2012.

Roach is excited for what the future holds for White Plains.

“This city is close to my heart,” he said. “It means the world to me. But as successful as we’ve been, the city is not about buildings. Its not about shiny this and shiny that. It’s about the nature of this community, which is unique,” Roach said.

Citizens can expect to see changes as a result of an adopted One White Plains within the year.

City officials continue to accept feedback and suggestions from residents and are encouraging as many as possible to weigh in on what they would like to see. All elements and proposed initiatives can be viewed at www.onewhiteplains.com.

Visit the White Plains Public Library for more information.




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