Developer of 51 Main in New Paltz presents revised site plan

51 Main in New Paltz (photo by Lauren Thomas)

51 Main Street, a building which briefly had a Facebook group renamed in its joking honor as the “New Paltz Rectangle Appreciation Society,” may become a usable building yet. Developer Dimitri Viglis appeared before the New Paltz Village Planning Board on July 2 to try to square the problems with the highly visible building on lower Main Street.

“What’s better about this?” asked board alternate Tom Rocco. The question was loaded with the history of this project, which is rather long for a building under construction. Earlier members of the board had approved this three-story building more than five years ago when they were told the first two floors would be a single Greek restaurant, topped by a penthouse apartment with commanding views of the ridge. Once construction finally began, residents quickly noticed that the new building was large enough to demand commanding views of itself. Because it was designed to max out the height requirement and it was also on a slope, the “rectangle” drew the eye, and a lot of online conversation followed. That the construction took place over months and years only added to the interest.

A number of changes to the plans seem to have taken place, including changes to the number of apartments and a proposal to put more rentable space in the basement. Eventually, it all resulted in Viglis having no place to put the air conditioning units, propane tanks and other machinery needed for a restaurant. Such mechanicals can take up as much as 10% of the roof, or could have if the building were not right at the maximum height. There may have been a verbal agreement with a neighbor, but it was never put in writing. Viglis asked for permission to bury propane tanks under the village-owned parking lot behind the building, and when he was turned down, he made an offer to buy that land. Trustees are now negotiating with a party who they say made a better offer.

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Viglis answered Rocco’s question by explaining some of the major differences. Gone is the restaurant entirely, with plans now calling for a jewelry store on the first floor, with two offices directly above. The penthouse is being returned as the sole apartment on the top floor, and the basement will be used for storage only. This plan avoids the need for propane or large machinery.

John Oleske eyed the drainage plan with suspicion, not about whether it would work but about whether it would ever get built. Permeable paving stones will be laid atop a layer of gravel, allowing water to percolate through and be stored during a heavy rain event and only then drain out over time. It would be a marked improvement for a lot which was 100% covered by building and pavement. The basins go beyond what’s required, according to architect Richard Miller. “Four wells are required,” he said. “How much will this cost?” He added that this part of the project might have been less “complicated and expensive” had it been done before putting up the building. Now there will be a lot of excavation needed.

Board attorney Rick Golden suggested simply making proper operation of the system a condition for final approval, which mollified Oleske. He did have other suggestions which won’t end up in the approval. “Could you take down the construction fence and clean up the back?” he asked, as the lot right now looks “kind of like a blight downtown.” That would be a good-faith gesture of a desire to work in partnership, Oleske told Viglis.

Viglis denied that there was trash behind the building, to which Oleske replied, “I took a photo, and I have it here in my pocket.” After viewing it, Viglis had nothing more to say on the subject.

Planning Board members did not set a public hearing on this revised site plan, because first Viglis must secure a variance because the building is 10,000 square feet in area. He was granted such a variance years ago, but that approval lapsed and now he needs to ask for it again. In the likely event ZBA members do not say “no,” he will return to the Planning Board to get that hearing scheduled.

There are 6 comments

  1. SteveInNP

    This whole disaster begs the question of why the asleep-at-the-wheel planning board ever approved the building in the first place. The building is an absolute eyesore, and it’s construction has been, and will forever be, a stain on Main Street. Between this and the concrete box of a theater above Water Street Market, New Paltz looks more and more like some god forsaken industrial inner city with every new construction.

  2. Tracy G

    I agree that the aesthetics of our village were completely overlooked, and in my opinion seriously compromised, and I begin to suspect that the there is too much subjectivity in how things unfold re: development in New Paltz. Even the long-term planning and rezoning process seems suspect. I find it depressing that everything can be boiled down to self interest not only on the national level but even on this tiny playing field of New Paltz.

    1. Frank Lloyd Wright

      The web site says there is a vacancy on the board. Anybody can apply as long as they live in the village. Then you can find out how it feels and meet the village planning board lawyer, who has probably been there since the last century or so. Just follow the money.

  3. Samuel

    At the end of the day, let’s get this building completed and occupied. The Town of New Paltz is 100% at blame for this because anyone paying attention to the planning process — ie. The Sarchastic Planning Board — would have ensured that the design and height included all of the mechanicals. You review design plans and specs when you approve a project.

    I don’t see it as an eyesore or a giant rectangle – I see it as a missed opportunity to have this on the roles,
    generating jobs, and in business, inhabited, a part of our downtown’s diverse fabric.

    Maybe if the Planning Board stopped chasing controverseys, focused on approving good projects that are well designed, and ensured the Town was also requiring existing property owners to keep their buildings and sites in good repair — many are not — then we’d have a little confidence in them.

  4. Derek

    Might be a good idea to turn the entire building into an entrepreneurship center, to include low-cost workspaces for young professionals, a network of resources for building businesses, an incubator/accellerator program and some recreational/common spaces for small events. The outside can be painted new paltz blue and the logo of the organization to bring some design aestetic.

    It will be a great resource to the community and a positive use of the space.

  5. Alex

    “an absolute eyesore” “aesthetics completely overlooked”…. get over it people its a relatively small building at an intersection… seriously? you don’t agree with the aesthetic choice of the designer.. OK.. carry on, the whole world isn’t always going to conform to your opinions and tastes. Quit being a bunch of special snowflakes and RELAX!

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