Why the Rush to Demolish?
Village officials have repeatedly raised the "we need revenue" argument as the reason Main Street needs to be flattened and rebuilt to 8+ stories. Let's take a look at the logic:
There are derelict buildings and vacancies on Main Street. That's TRUE.
There is a shortfall in tax revenue. That's also TRUE.
Port Chester has a lack of available housing. Also TRUE.
Village officials have used these three true statements to make their case for tearing down Main Street on the theory that large buildings will solve all three problems. But will it? Here's why the answer is NO:
There is no guarantee that more rentable space on Main Street will be filled.
The additional tax revenue is not guaranteed. The first obligation of Developers is to themselves - their investors, their profit margin, and the banks that underwrote the project. Port Chester is a distant third, and the PILOT and IDA agreements make Port Chester wait for years to gain the full tax revenue anticipated. A lot can happen in that time. Think it won't? The G+S development in Liberty Square, a disaster for many reasons, has defaulted on it's tax obligations to Port Chester.
Port Chester has about a 3% vacancy rate for housing. That's considered a "tight" market. Municipalities like to be in the 7% to 10% range, consistently, over time. What Port Chester is contemplating - adding a thousand units in a couple of years - will drive the short-term vacancy rate into the 15% to 20% range. That's bad for the market because it drives the cost down for each unit. And who exactly is moving into these units?
Post Chester says that the additional units are meant for Port Chester residents who use the Railroad to get to work. Is there a study to support that? No, there is not. Instead, the Village has allowed some developers to meet their parking obligation by using the RR parking lot. That's part of the "Transit-oriented" argument that has no data to back it up.
The reality of the real estate market is this: Market forces will dictate who moves into these new units. People currently renting rooms in houses will not give up their yards and street parking at $1500 a month to move into a 12 story building with no parking, for $2200 a month, or at any cost, for that matter. It won't happen. Instead, Port Chester will gain transients, singles, or city dwellers looking to save a few bucks. That won't solve the housing issue in Port Chester, it will simply add more people who have no roots here.
What does this have to do with preserving Main Street's appearance? The fact is, Port Chester conducted a fairly comprehensive study of it's assets in 2020. And what they found is that the "small town" character of Port Chester was one of the main attractions to people thinking of moving here, or working here, or investing here. That "small town" is Main Street. Demolish that, and we lose the single most important feature that brings potential business owners and future home-owners to Port Chester. And the "economic" argument for new, large buildings actually makes more sense for Midland Avenue and the Post Road.
This is why preserving the character of Main Street matters.
To answer the question, "Why the Rush...". Since there is no provable benefit to the village by demolishing the village, there has to be another reason. And there is. The entire chain of events, from re-writing the Zoning ordinance, re-writing the PILOT and IDA regulations, and silencing the Historical Review Board, is to benefit a handful of people. The winners here are the people who bought properties on Main Street in order to flip them to developers, knowing that the Zoning changes would net them profits. There weren't a lot of derelict or vacant buildings on Midland Avenue or the Post Road. That's why there were few opportunities to flip properties there. There is a cozy relationship between property owners and the developers, when it should be based on cooperative efforts to improve the village. Developers have a right to look out for their best interests. Port Chester should be looking out for Port Chester's best interests, but the attorney representing most of the developers made it appear that it's the developers, not Port Chester, who are looking out for the village's interests.
Those deals have to happen quickly before residents have a chance to react. That's the reason for the rush to demolish. Because once Main Street has been turned into a series of vacant lots, the whole argument changes to "we need to put SOMETHING back because vacant lots don't help the village at all". Which is also TRUE.
So don't let it happen. Sign the petition, show up at Planning and Zoning meetings, write to the Trustees and the newspapers. Urge the village to put a moratorium on new approvals until Port Chester corrects the Zoning ordinance, installs a Historic Preservation Commission, and restores the authority of the Architectural Review Board.