Vol. 20,  No. 13 June 28 - July 11, 2007


Board to Weigh in on Armory Proposals


Picture a mega mall on Kingsbridge Road, complete with a multi-screen cinema, food court, gymnasium and several floors of retail stores. It’s being called “a destination” by developers who submitted proposals to turn the landmark Kingsbridge Armory into a local hub of shopping, entertainment and community space.

About 20 people, including members of Community Board 7, the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC, which created the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance, known as KARA), and a few interested local residents, attended a meeting hosted by CB7 at the New York Botanical Garden on June 12. It was an opportunity for the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to present plans for the Armory submitted by developers Atlantic Development Group, the Related Companies and Rosenshein Associates.

The three proposals, presented anonymously as A, B and C, would be anchored by large chains such as Home Depot, ShopRite or JC Penney and other well-known stores like Dress Barn, PC Richards, DSW and Marshalls. Where the plans differ is in suggestions for community use.

Project A suggested devoting 23,000 square feet to an outdoor farmers market and included a 6,000-square-foot daycare center. Project B included ideas for gardening education (perhaps in cooperation with the New York Botanical Garden) and, as part of a community center operated by YMCA, a full basketball court with viewing balcony. (A year ago, the Atlantic Development Group presented an initial proposal to Community Board 7 which included a YMCA.)

All three proposals include chain restaurants, among them Dallas BBQ, Red Lobster, Ruby Tuesdays and Pizzeria Uno. However, project A incorporated a banquet hall into its space and allowed for fewer chains than projects B and C.

Project C scored points over the other two in its ideas for local employment. Like A and B, it agreed to work with nearby agencies, but it also suggested a mentoring program and a monitoring system to ensure retailers comply with agreements.

The EDC pointed out concerns with project B incorporating a home improvement store, which demands an excessive number of parking spaces. Only B, however, offered long-term parking. They also rejected project B’s plans to alter the armory’s brand new roof for a garden and questioned changes to the exterior of the building to create an entrance directly from the number 4 train station.

EDC officials evaluated the projects according to how detailed each proposal was about land use, environmental design and employment opportunities. Only A and B received passing grades, implying that proposal C was essentially out of the running.

In response, members of the community praised the suggestion of a daycare center, but expressed concerns over a lack of organized activities in designated community space for youth from nearby high schools. One CB7 member suggested a “computer clubhouse” to offer technology training and supplement on-line access provided by local libraries.

Other suggestions included inviting hospitals to offer patient outreach, and attracting health-minded retailers like Whole Foods.

Some attendees expressed dismay at the list of retailers, one calling it “generic stuff to develop a mall which you can reproduce a few blocks away.” In fact, potential tenants Kids World and Modell’s Sporting Goods already reside on Fordham Road, only three blocks south.

At the meeting, members of NWBCCC, which has been heavily involved with discussions surrounding the armory since the late 1990s, distributed a list of suggestions supported by KARA.

They want retailers to work with a local organization to hire employees and more space for community gardening and youth organizations such as the Police Athletic League or YMCA. They want walking space designated for seniors and one cinema screen reserved for independent or foreign films.

They also suggested reduced parking fees for teachers and owners of hybrid cars, installation of bike racks and more reflection of the neighborhood’s ethnic diversity in the food court.

To end the meeting, EDC offered to take new suggestions to the developers and urged guests to submit any further ideas or concerns to District Manager Rita Kessler at the CB7 office.

CB7 Chair Greg Faulkner said he believes the city remains genuinely interested in giving the community a chance to respond to the proposals. And in fact, the EDC staff was scheduled to make the same presentation at the board office in Bedford Park on June 26 for the benefit of newly elected board members.

Based on discussions at the Tuesday meeting and before the month is over, Faulkner said CB7, per EDC’s request, will submit a list of its own recommendations. He said they are sympathetic to recommendations made earlier by the public and NWBCCC.

The EDC has said they will choose a developer sometime in July.

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