Gotham has been working in Dobbs Ferry, New York since 1979 in an effort to transform the community. A place with great bones, but too many empty storefronts on Main Street and too many buildings that seemed to be slipping into disrepair, Gotham targeted Dobbs Ferry as a place where the combination of vision, persistence, and commitment could make it a first rate desirable place to live. Gotham began putting projects together that could take buildings that were often perceived as “tear-downs” and instead either restore them or evolve them through adaptive reuse into once again viable properties.
Gotham’s efforts restoring the quality of lower Main Street has helped Dobbs Ferry become a destination for Millennials who are starting out on their own. Outpriced in Brooklyn, people are taking a good look at Dobbs Ferry and the other river towns, where there is an edge and just enough grit to be authentic. Attracted by the restaurants, pubs and coffee shops that are now common in the downtowns, the river towns were recently dubbed “The Sixth Borough” by the New York Times. Much of the credit for making this happen can be given to Gotham.
Gotham in Dobbs Ferry
In 1997, Paddy Steinschneider, as a member of the Downtown Improvement Committee, encouraged Dobbs Ferry to take a hard look at its main/main intersection, where Ashford Avenue intersects with Broadway. He assisted in the preparation of an RFP seeking a planner, as well as in the interviewing of the various respondents. Project for Public Spaces was retained by the Village to do a planning study for what is now known as the “Gateway.” The recognition of the Gateway was the first step in Dobbs Ferry transitioning from a place that seemed to feel like a victim to the shopping centers, big boxes, and strip malls to a place that understands its potential as a destination and complete within itself.
In 2001, again as a member of the Downtown Improvement Committee, Paddy Steinschneider had Gotham prepare an evaluation of the entire Dobbs Ferry downtown showing possibilities for streetscape improvements, development opportunities, and potential locations for additional parking. This was presented to the Village in a series of workshops that helped capture the imagination of the Mayor and Board of Trustees.
The next step was to commit to New York State’s program for the preparation of a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP). Paddy Steinschneider served on the Committee that managed that process and was one of the authors of the document. The LWRP identified the need to protect both the waterfront and the historic character of Dobbs Ferry as a waterfront community. The LWRP identified the adoption of a new set of Land Use Regulations as being imperative to accomplish the long ranged goals that were set forth in the LWRP.
This was a true collaborative process with the members of the Land Use Committee working along side PPS in the preparation of the following documents:
The Dobbs Ferry Vision Plan
A new Zoning Ordinance
Downtown District Building Design Guidelines
Dobbs Ferry Residential Design Guidelines
A new Zoning Map
These new land use regulations were adopted by the Board of Trustees by Resolution on September 28, 2010. Dobbs Ferry’s Zoning Ordinance is not quite Form-based zoning, but it has many of the same components and focuses on encouraging what is desirable, instead of preventing what is not. Given that so much of Dobbs Ferry is about preserving existing character instead of implementing change, Dobbs Ferry’s Code is referred to as Context-based zoning.
With the new Land Use Regulations in place, Gotham has been moving forward with a number of development projects. While it is critical to develop land use regulations that shape the community that is desired by the people who live and work there, in the end the key is providing the predictability in the entitlement process that will attract the best developers and businesses to the community.
While still a work in progress, there are now two new buildings in the Gateway, including a two story medical building with retail facing the street, not the parking lot, and a four story mixed use building anchoring the primary corner. The four story building at 2 Ashford Avenue was designed and developed by Gotham and replaces a closed gas station.
Gotham has been working in Dobbs Ferry to achieve a goal that it has reduced into a single phrase:
Creating compact, complete, and complex places with a high level of connectivity capable of supporting convivial communities.