An area of the town once viewed as a thriving business locale may be transformed into a development of condo-style homes, retail stores and eateries–Harrison’s own, small version of Yonkers’ Ridge Hill.
In its heyday in the 1980s, Harrison’s “Platinum Mile” was a stretch of office parks along Westchester Avenue, where major businesses set up shop after a decades long exodus from the increasingly business-unfriendly New York City.
The town welcomed multinational corporations with open arms, seeing the office parks as a way to balance budgets through revenues generated from corporate rather than personal property taxes. At its height, taxes collected from companies there represented 60 percent of Harrison’s entire tax income.
This story originally appeared in the June 22, 2012 edition of The Harrison Review.
But in recent years, the once-thriving Platinum Mile has been plagued by vacant properties and empty buildings. Existing buildings have fallen into disrepair and new tenants have not stepped up to take over for coprorations that headed for the more affordable hills outside of the county. According to a recent study
by VHB Engineering, Surveying and Landscape Architecture, P.C., there is roughly 6 million square feet of office space throughout Westchester.
Simply, the likelihood of a resurgence of the Platinum Mile is a long shot at best. In a sparsely attended public workshop on June 12, members of the Harrison Town Council opened the floor to suggestions for development within the stretch of road as part of a work session on the town’s Master Plan, a guiding document that serves as a blueprint on local zoning and development.
The first step to constructing a Ridge Hill-style structure is to reflect the changes in the Master Plan, then rezone the area to allow for residential and retail construction. BFJ Planning, the firm hired by the town to draft a new Master Plan, held the open forum to get a feel for residents, own goals for the limping corporate district.
Frank Fish, a principal planner with BFJ, started the meeting by proposing “limited residential use,” a major departure from the corporate parks that exist there today.
“We want any development done in a careful manner in order to control it,” Fish said.
Development there could be smaller homes marketed to empty nesters and recent college graduates. Fish later explained retail development is a possibility provided that it does not exceed 15,000 sq. ft.
“We don’t want to create a destination here,” Fish said.
Residents at the meeting mulled residential development possibilities and asked town officials questions about some prevalent rumors circulating in Harrison, including the possibilities that different areas of the town will be
targeted for construction of affordable housing, studio apartments or assisted living quarters.
Councilwoman Marlene Amelio, a Republican, said it was necessary to clear the air of rumors like the construction of an Avalon complex similar to the one in Bronxville.
“There are no plans for an Avalon being discussed,” Amelio said. “Not near residential, that is compeltely wrong.”
The mayor and members of the Town Council have stressed that as they await BFJ’s Master Plan update, expected to be submitted by Thanksgiving, they are simply gathering information and listening to suggestions from the public. Most officials have been hesitant to discuss the Ridge Hill-style concept publicly.
“Anything’s possible,” Mayor Ron Belmont, a Republican, said at the meeting. “That’s why we’re here.”
Anne Gold, the executive director of the civic group Purchase Environmental Protection Agency, said she wasn’t in favor of mass rezoning of the Platinum Mile.
“We don’t think residential is a good fit for the area. Commercial development makes sense.”