In response to the detailed scope of issues that need to be addressed, the developer of Zero Place, David Shepler, unveiled at the March 7 New Paltz Village Planning Board meeting a slimmed-down version of the project. The mixed-use development will now have a smaller footprint, and include a public bathroom and a parklike space dubbed “Mulberry Square.”
This iteration has a 10% smaller footprint, Shepler said, due in large part to the 23-foot reduction of the building’s length. Most of that extra space will be along Mulberry Street in the form of a public square that will include a sculpture park, benches, permeable paving stones, and shade trees. Additional trees around the entire property — with varying terminal heights — will help to break up the visual mass of the structure, which has been an area of considerable concern to board members and neighbors alike. The trees will be shortest to the east, to allow for maximum solar exposure.
Zero Place will now “completely embrace” the ethic of complete streets, Shepler said. Bicycle lanes along both street frontages will be six feet wide, 20% more than state requirements, and build-outs will be used to increase the safety to pedestrians trying to cross; sidewalks will also follow the property line on those two sides. There will be racks sufficient for 50 bicycles on the property, as well as three public bathrooms available during business hours. The third of those will be gender-neutral, “in solidarity” with the bathrooms in the high school which have occasionally been targeted for vandalism.
More than ever, Shepler hopes planning board members will approve the two proposed handicapped parking spots along Mulberry Street. Engineer Barry Medenbach pointed out that the concept of on-street parking has been received favorably at village board and bicycle-pedestrian committee meetings because it tends to calm traffic. The corner build-out should prevent a parked car from getting clipped through careless cornering. With the new layout, retail will be more on that end, making parking in the closest location important for disabled persons.
While an elevator will make all floors equally accessible, the plan now has four apartments on the ground floor. They were added based on a recommendation by Liz Harschow, who was a regular member of the planning board when this application review began early last year. The entrance for those units would be in the rear of the building.
To the north, a hedge row will be planted around the parking lot to separate it from the sidewalk, with a landscape buffer ranging from seven to eight feet in width along the northern property line. Additional street trees have been added to that portion of the property as well, and the bus stop will still be preserved.
Reducing the building size reduces the parking requirements, and now there should be far more than is needed. The code calls for 53, but Shepler’s consultants calculate the actual need to be 68; the plans show 76 spots.
“There is no public space like this anywhere in New Paltz,” Shepler told board members. As his presentation was accompanied by several hundred pages detailing responses to the requested scope, “they will take the next two weeks to review the documents in detail.”