Phoenicia Plaza, the little shopping center located on Route 28 a mile east of Phoenicia, has been vacant since a fire left the storefronts damaged near the end of last winter. Now that repairs have been completed, businesses are lining up to open in the plaza, including a microbrewery, an Asian Fusion restaurant, a pre-school, and one of the previous tenants, Resort Ridge Pizza.
The property was purchased in 2003 by former Shandaken police chief James McGrath and three partners. They renovated and upgraded the structure, which has housed many businesses since then, from Russ’s Country Kitchen to the first office of Ashokan Watershed Stream Management Program.
McGrath said the fire started in the barbecue restaurant at the east end of the plaza and was largely contained within that space. Smoke damage required replacement of walls and ceilings in other storefronts.
Grace Ann Louis has been operating Woodland Playhouse on Herdman Road, a few miles from Phoenicia, for the past ten years. She takes care of 12 children per day, each of them for two to five days per week, for a total of 18 children. While she does not expect to expand her play-based pre-school program significantly, a move to the 1600-square-foot space in the plaza will allow her to admit children now on a waiting list. She’ll also have room for weekend programs and an expanded summer program, both ventures running separately from the pre-school.
A 40-by-30-foot play area will be fenced in behind the building, with access to a nature trail on the ten-acre property. “We take our kids on a lot of nature walks,” said Louis, “and we’ll be able to keep doing that.” She has a Masters in early childhood education and is taking on a business partner, Christina Davis, whose certification extends to sixth graders.
Because the plaza is zoned commercial/light industrial, which does not allow schools, Louis had to apply to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a use variance. The variance was granted, and the project has received site plan approval from the Shandaken Planning Board. She is now working with the Ulster County Department of Children and Family Services to obtain a license for the expansion, a process that takes 90 days. She plans to move her pre-school to the plaza in the spring of 2017.
Louis expects to take over the double storefront formerly occupied by Miss Kitty’s Hair Salon, which moved after the fire. The salon is now located in Boiceville, next door to the post office. John Blydenburgh considered moving his restaurant, Resort Ridge Pizza, but decided to stick with the convenient location offered by the plaza. He expects to reopen in mid-November.
Planning board chairman Don Brewer said a restaurant/bar is applying to take over the space formerly occupied by the barbecue place. “We haven’t seen site plans yet,” he said, “but most of the issues — lighting, signs, parking — have already been addressed by the plaza.” McGrath said the new restaurant will feature Asian Fusion cuisine and is expected to open in a couple of months. A microbrewery is planning to take over the large space at the west end of the plaza.
“It’s been a tough haul,” said McGrath. “Hopefully everyone gets open soon so we can start enjoying it.”