The Northern Westchester Examiner

Peekskill BID Calls for Downtown Zoning Reform

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peekskillThe Peekskill Business Improvement District (BID) called on city officials last week to reform residential zoning to promote renewed investment and economic development in the downtown area.

A “proportional housing” model for reform introduced by the BID would expand on the Artist Spaces Program, which was created in 1991, by allowing building owners to divide their residential units between those restricted to artist live/work units and those open to residents from all professions.

“This is not about ending the Artists District or the artist live/work program. We know the value of artists to downtown,” said John Sharp, BID Board president and owner of downtown-based Gleason’s and Birdsall House. “We have been working hard at the BID to promote the arts, most recently in our Art Crawl partnership with HVCCA during December. 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.”

After surveying key stakeholders and communicating with the Peekskill Artists Alliance and Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce, BID officials concluded the proportional housing strategy was the best way to meet the diversity of downtown interests.

“Currently, zoning hinders new residential development by restricting potential tenants to artists only,” said Jason Angell, executive director of the BID. “We think there are ways to both maintain the artist live/work program and modify zoning to spur more residential development.”

Deb Milone, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said U.S. Census trends have shown more people are looking to live, work and play in downtown areas with access to mass transit, dining, entertainment and other services.

“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,” Milone said.

Councilman Darren Rigger said the City Council shares the vision of the BID and is striving to make the necessary changes.

“A thriving downtown benefits all of Peekskill and the region,” Rigger said. “The mayor and council are continually aligning Peekskill’s regulatory climate with the city’s economic development strategy. We are supportive of a residential zoning reform concept to bring more residents and business to the city, while still growing the number of artists and cultural attractions here.”

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