Photos by Lauren Thomas
What’s going on with real estate in Gardiner — specifically, regarding large buildings with potential use as stores and restaurants? In recent months and years, local observers have been noticing a pileup of vacant commercial properties, especially in the Gardiner hamlet. Once-thriving retail spaces and eateries have gone out of business, sometimes staying shuttered for long periods of time with no sound of ringing hammers or obvious traffic by prospective buyers. Is the town still experiencing a lag effect from the 2008 recession, or is this trend something new? Should Gardinerites be alarmed that their home is turning into a ghost town, in spite of major recent efforts to spruce up the hamlet with new sidewalks and other amenities?
Investigation into the status of some of the more noticeable “white elephants” on the local real estate market seems to indicate that the current perceived glut is at least partially a matter of coincidence. A building that had served as an antiques shop for decades, HiHo Home Market at 123 Main Street, was closed down in April of this year by Heidi and Richard Haddard after nine years of ownership. But though nothing new has seemed to be happening at the site in the months since, swift progress is actually being made behind the scenes. The building’s new owner, Pasquale Iovieno, says that all systems are go for a renovation that will “probably start in September. It’s going to take a couple of months.”
The vintage wood-frame structure will be adapted for mixed residential and commercial use. “I’m going to make two apartments on the top floor and stores or offices on the bottom,” says Iovieno, who owns and operates the two Pasquale’s Pizza stores in Gardiner and New Paltz. “It already got approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals.” He adds that no special permits were necessary for the project, because the building is already zoned for mixed use: “I just have to draw up some plans and show them to the building inspector.”
Iovieno plans to rent out all the new subdivided spaces, rather than operating an additional business out of the site himself. One of the upstairs apartments will have two bedrooms and the other will have one bedroom.
Just a few doors down at 128 Main Street, no such happy news has yet surfaced. Suzy Eckhardt of Brykill Farms put considerable effort into gutting and renovating the former residence during the winter of 2012/13, with the intent of turning the structure into a restaurant. Eckhardt could not be reached for comment in time for this issue’s deadline, but her quest for a tenant appears to have been in vain: A For Sale sign currently hangs on the property.
Another structure in the hamlet that has given rise to much speculation in recent years is the former Gardiner Library across from Station Square. The historic building, owned at present by the Town of Gardiner, occupies a special place in the hearts of many Gardinerites because it served as the town’s original firehouse, and some have argued that it should be turned into a museum. But it’s in somewhat dilapidated condition, with small, cramped rooms that will prove a challenge to the prospective renovator, and no community-based organization has come forward to take on the task of raising funds for its preservation in a historic context. So the Town Board voted in 2012 to put the structure on the list of surplus town-owned properties and seek a buyer — to let it become someone else’s headache, in effect.
After two years of no visible progress, plans are afoot at the municipal level to put the old library on the market at last. “Nothing’s changed since a couple of months ago, when the Town Board met in executive session regarding an asking price” for the building, reports town supervisor Carl Zatz. “What we’ve decided to do is take the auction route: put it up for auction with an emphasis on online bidding. Sometime in September, it will be publicized as ready to bid, with signage and Web stuff.” So keep an eye on the Town of Gardiner website for announcements in the near future regarding the procedure for bidding on the building, if you’re interested in acquiring it.