Four Stories — Again

Beacon to review latest development proposal

Four years ago, the construction of a four-story retail and apartment building at 344 Main St. in Beacon ignited a movement among residents who called its development out of sync with Main Street’s traditional character. 

Next week, as Yankees legend Yogi Berra once said, it could be déjà vu all over again. 

The Beacon Planning Board on Tuesday (June 8) will begin its review of a proposal to redevelop the former Citizens Bank building at 364 Main St. into a four-story building with 27 one- and two-bedroom apartments. 

The four stories of 344 Main (File photo by J. Simms)

The proposal is being submitted by O’Donnell Construction Corp., whose owner, Fishkill resident Sean O’Donnell, in 2016 was granted approval to develop the neighboring 344 Main St. He sold that building in 2017, before construction had been completed, for $6.1 million to developer Bernard Kohn, who also heads a group that bought the 64-acre estate that includes the former Craig House psychiatric facility and is building a commercial and residential development at 248 Tioronda Ave.

O’Donnell purchased 364 Main St. in 2017 for $1.3 million, according to Dutchess County records. His proposal follows what has become the standard model in Beacon, with 7,826 square feet of retail space (along with 1,155 square feet of residential common space) on the first floor and apartments on the second, third and fourth floors. 

The fourth floor would be recessed to minimize the appearance of what would become one of Beacon’s tallest buildings. The City Council has restricted developers’ ability to build four stories on Main Street by requiring special-use permits and public benefits such as additional affordable housing or public green space, after a spate of four-floor projects were approved there. 

The 364 Main St. blueprints include a strip of public green space on the west side of the planned building but that may not enough to satisfy the public benefit requirement. If the project is approved as proposed, it and 344 Main would form four-floor bookends with the single-story Beacon Natural Market and the Masjid Ar Rashid Islamic Teaching Center sandwiched between. 

Because 364 Main St. is not located within the city’s historic overlay, the Planning Board, rather than the City Council, will review the request for the permit to build a fourth floor. According to documents submitted to the board, the project does not require variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals or City Council approval. 

Its design, the project’s attorney wrote, “will improve the [existing] building’s Main Street presence” in an effort to be compatible “with the historic character of buildings along Main Street” and the properties in the historic overlay. 

The city requires 43 parking spaces for the residential and commercial components of the project. The submitted plans exceed that requirement by utilizing 16 spaces in a parking lot behind the building and 32 in an adjacent Eliza Street lot.

5 thoughts on “Four Stories — Again

  1. One person’s opinion – don’t do it! Why? More crowding, less parking, more crime, more strain on the infrastructure. more crowded schools, less character and beauty, fewer friendly neighbors, etcetera etcetera

  2. We keep letting them make the same, purposeful mistakes in Beacon. Building moratorium, please! [via Instagram]

  3. Once there was only one 4-story building on Main Street. Then there were two more such buildings, right across the street from each other. A fourth four-story building is under construction only one block away from the second and third. Now a developer wants to put up a fifth four-story building in the same block as the first oversize structure. At this rate how long will it be before a developer wants to put up a five-story building now that a four-story structure is becoming the new norm? It is time to put the brakes on this trend before Main Street becomes a canyon between oversize buildings.

  4. Besides the fact that they are too large and massive, most of the “developer-style” buildings erected in Beacon in recent years share a common design fault; they all attempt to contextualize with 19th and early 20th century buildings but fail in doing so for several reasons.

    A good building reflects the sum of its parts. These buildings are all smoke and mirrors. Most of the new developer buildings on Main Street and Route 9D were built using modern construction techniques and modern building materials and then skinned with one course of bricks, dressed with a grab bag of architectural ornaments, randomly selected from unrelated 19th century styles and capped with mansard or gabled roofs in a vain, simple and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to look old and blend in.

    Good architecture reflects the best building technologies available at the time of construction. Mansard roofs and corbels were cutting edge and truly functional in 1865 but have no place on a modern steel-framed or cast-cement building. Why not celebrate the modern materials and techniques utilized in today’s construction? Beacon’s building stock represents the linear evolution of architectural styles and construction techniques from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries. Greek Revival, Gothic, Queen Ann, Art Deco along with simple industrial structures harmonize with each other because they are true and honest to their materials and intended function. European cities have many successful examples of ultra modern infill between 400-year-old buildings. If the developers are creative, they could build better quality buildings for less money by eliminating the expensive cladding and bling.