Mom & Pop Stores Could be Displaced by Redevelopment
by Avi - May 5, 2010 at 2:43 pm -
The owners of 95 West 95th Street want to redevelop the bottom two floors of the apartment building with new commercial and community space, but neighbors are upset that they could lose the small stores that are there now. Community Board 7 weighed in last night, voting against the owners’ application and crying foul that the changes were thrust on them at the last minute.
But the community board’s vote, and local residents’ opposition, may not matter. The city planning board told local officials that it expects to rule on the developers’ application despite changes made to the plan before the board says it was able to fully review them.
The building owners, the Witkoff Group, want to add 4,950 square feet of retail space to the building, which is known as Columbus House, and add 17,530 square feet of community space, including a rooftop garden. The redevelopment could displace 4 retailers, including a beloved health food store called Columbus Natural Food.
The owners say they are working with the retailers to give them space in the new development. But at least one of the store owners said at the meeting that the owner hadn’t met with him. Jamil Uddin, an owner of a Subway sandwich shop in the building said he hadn’t been consulted, and his partner interrupted building owner Scott Alper’s speech to the board. Uddin says his store has 7 years to go on its lease. (Alper came over afterward and agreed to meet with Uddin and his partner).
“We do not want big box stores,” Alpert told the board. “We are supportive of mom and pop.”
In short, some neighbors think the new development reminds them too much of the Columbus Square development a few blocks North, which now houses retail behemoths like TJ Maxx, Whole Foods, and Michaels craft store. (To be fair, 4,950 square feet of retail space could not hold a typical big box store.) Lifelong local resident Dawn Sprout called the Columbus House design “just hideous.”
However, some of the people who showed up at the meeting supported the changes. Leslie Burns, the president of the tenant association at Columbus House, said it would brighten up an otherwise dreary space. “We see this as a positive,” she said. “The majority of tenants are for the revisions they are making to our building.”
(photos of renderings by Avi)