Revitalizing the Hamlet of Highland will take some doing, but Lloyd town officials have four key areas to focus on, according to a report by Camoin Associates and Barton & Loguidice.
The two consultants highlighted Lloyd’s luck in being so close to the Walkway over the Hudson state park and the Hudson Valley Rail Trail.
“The community has an obvious commitment to building upon the existing recreational trail resources for the benefit of both local residents and visitors. This is something that should continue to be celebrated and capitalized on,” the report reads.
Those four key areas recommended in the report are as follows: making downtown look better, getting more people downtown, getting more businesses downtown and improving transportation infrastructure.
Downtown Highland centers around Vineyard Avenue, which the report says is already an asset because of its walkable and pedestrian-friendly setup. But some of the storefronts look either outdated or slightly run-down.
“Many of the buildings do not need major redevelopment but more rehabilitation to make them more modern and aesthetically pleasing,” the report reads. “For example, general façade improvements could be made to almost all of the buildings in the downtown business district as a way to tie them together.”
For business owners struggling in the soft economy, pumping a ton of money into their storefront is a bit worrisome.
“That’s a very delicate balance. How do you entice people into redoing their businesses,” town Councilman Herb Litts III admitted.
“Well, the last thing that any of those businesses downtown need is a loan. They’re going to have to pay it back,” Supervisor Ray Costantino said.
One key feature of having done the plan, however, is that it puts the Town of Lloyd into a great position to apply to the state for grants. With the work done for them already in the plan, business owners can team up with the town to snag those state grants.
“But they have to apply — they actually have to apply for them,” Supervisor Costantino said.
The hamlet study suggests some different kinds of stores that might help fill the void in Highland, including full-service restaurants, a furniture store, drinking places, a book or magazine store, a shoe store, a florist and a specialty food store.
“The Vadala’s Pharmacy building could be redeveloped into a small health food store that caters to both local residents as well as visitors from out of the area,” the study reads.
For Councilwoman Nancy Hammond, the study is of the utmost importance. But one thing that should happen is that Highland needs to avoid becoming a copycat of any surrounding towns.
“I personally think that the hamlet should be brought back as what’s right for Highland,” she said.
Having that right mix of stores is pretty essential — but that’s something that people in Highland have to think about. Chances are, the type of shops the people in Highland travel miles away from home to patronize would work well downtown, the supervisor said. “I think there has to be more choice down there.”
Getting people to want to come to downtown Highland is another area the report said town officials could work on, especially by finding ways to use social media, the Internet and traditional advertising to promote the hamlet center and its businesses.
It also recommends a quick and easy trick for businesses and the town — increasing Internet connectivity overall.
“Many restaurants and cafés are realizing the benefit of offering Wi-Fi in their establishments as a way to encourage patrons to spend more time and money,” it reads. “The town could partner with local providers to make the town Wi-Fi accessible at all major attractions, such as the rail trail trailhead and throughout the downtown.”
The rail trail and the Walkway continue to be key assets to the town, and ones which the report stresses as essential items to develop. By completing the Hudson Valley Rail Trail and working to connect it more thoughtfully to the Walkway over the Hudson, the town could effectively route pedestrians through the hamlet center itself — right past all those businesses.
To do so, however, the town would have to post better signs.
“A major goal for the Highland Hamlet is the improvement of the signage throughout the region directing people to the hamlet from other regional attractions — as well as wayfinding information once in the hamlet,” it says.
For the town itself, revitalizing the hamlet has a lot to do with celebrating history and a lot to do with psychology. Telling someone you live near a strip mall on Route 9W is a lot less impressive than bringing someone to a beautiful downtown.
“It’s kind of patriotic to say, ‘This is my hamlet — this is my town,’” the supervisor said.
While Supervisor Costantino said he wasn’t sure how the new Town Board would approach the hamlet revitalization plan, the item does not seem to be politicized enough to fall between the cracks.
Supervisor-elect Paul Hansut said he’d like to push the project forward. “We’re going to take the study forward. It’s a good study.”
For a look at the full study and pages of appendices and extras, head to the Lloyd town website. ++