County studies how to boost commercial corridors
By Michael Turton
A study designed to revitalize 10 commercial corridors in Putnam County includes recommendations for Main Street in Cold Spring and Nelsonville as well as for Route 9 from Route 301 to Fishkill Road.
The study, which also considered corridors in Carmel, Putnam Valley, Mahopac, Kent, Patterson and Southeast, was commissioned by the county from AKRF, a planning firm based in Manhattan, and Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress.
As part of the Main Street study, the chambers of commerce for Cold Spring and Putnam County hosted a forum in August to gather feedback from business owners.
The participants were generally divided on how Main Street could be improved. Some suggested the village focus on tourism by increasing marketing aimed at New York City residents while adding more overnight accommodations and other amenities. Others expressed concern that increased tourism might threaten the “small-town charm” that is one of the villages’ biggest assets.
“The study’s recommendations seem to largely reflect the suggestions and spirit of the forum,” said Kate Lieberman, president of the Cold Spring Area Chamber of Commerce. She said she expected the report would be discussed at an upcoming Chamber breakfast.
In addition to the forum, AKRF and Pattern for Progress met with local elected officials and conducted surveys of pedestrians on weekdays and weekends.
When those surveyed were asked what was needed on Main Street, the most common answer was more clothing stores, according to the report. Other frequent responses indicated that people wanted “more of the same” such as additional cafes and coffee shops, fine dining, antique stores and bars or breweries.
The study contains a number of traffic-related suggestions for Main Street, including:
- Signage at key intersections to direct visitors to the shopping district
- Signage pointing to cultural and recreational destinations such as West Point Foundry Preserve, Boscobel, dining and the riverfront
- Main Street parking meters to ensure better vehicle turnover
Recommendations aimed at community and economic development included:
- Increased availability of public restrooms and an information booth near the pedestrian tunnel
- Marketing materials that feature hours of operation for businesses, including on social media
- Encouraging clothing retailers to open on Main Street
While the report provides few new ideas for Cold Spring, the recommendations for Route 9 would put a new face on an area that the report concludes lacks a “sense of place.”
The report suggests signage that gives drivers the sense they are leaving a “nondescript highway” and entering a pedestrian-friendly “place.” The development of small retail stores, including boutiques, gift shops or cafes, is also recommended, to create a more “downtown” hamlet feel. The study also concluded that there is unmet demand for more restaurants in the area.
The median household income within a five-minute drive of Main Street is $79,159. For Route 9, it’s $103,452.
The majority of those surveyed said they never go to eastern Putnam County.
Seventy percent of respondents came to Cold Spring by car, and 14 percent by train.
The most common reason given for shopping in Beacon or Fishkill rather than Cold Spring was a wider selection of businesses.
Ninety percent of those surveyed liked the look and feel of Cold Spring.
Forty-seven percent said there is not enough parking in Cold Spring, 37 percent were neutral and 16 percent thought there was plenty.
15,370 vehicles travel the Route 9 corridor each day.
The average accident rate for two-lane, undivided highways in New York State, according to the most recent figures available, was 3.5 accidents per million vehicle-miles. Route 9 is considerably safer, averaging 1.8 accidents per million vehicle-miles.
Many of the recommendations concentrate on making Route 9 from the baseball field on Fishkill Road to Philipstown Plaza more pedestrian friendly, including a network of sidewalks, pedestrian ramps that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, high-visibility crosswalks and pedestrian lights with countdown timers.
Longer-term initiatives include re-aligning the intersection of Route 9 and Fishkill Road and the creation of parking off Fox Road/Old Postal Road to serve any new development.
The 260-page report, which was funded by Empire State Development and the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, can be downloaded at bit.ly/putnam-report.