YORKTOWN, N.Y. – In a “first look” at the proposed redevelopment of four Yorktown Heights parcels, which includes Murphy’s Restaurant and the Grace Building, the planning board requested additional studies and aesthetic changes before a formal application is filed.
A “pre-preliminary” application filed by Unicorn Contracting Corp., a Cold Spring-based development company, details a plan to demolish Murphy’s Restaurant and replace it with a three-story, 40,000-square-foot retail/office building. The plan involves four neighboring parcels totaling 3.13 acres: Murphy’s Restaurant (355 Kear St.), Coldwell Banker (366 Underhill Ave.), the Grace Building (360 Underhill Ave.) and vacant Kear Street land.
Though the Grace Building, owned by Supervisor Michael Grace, would remain intact, the mixed-use building would be constructed “predominantly” on his property, said Dan Ciarcia, engineer for the project. Grace told Yorktown News last week that it is “yet to be decided” whether he will sell any of his property. To accommodate the new building, the barn on the rear of Grace’s property would be demolished, said Ciarcia, whose office is also in the Grace Building.
“When the dust is settled, there will probably be some reconfiguring of the lot lines,” Ciarcia told the planning board on Monday, March 13.
The early plan also calls for the construction of a bank on vacant land at the corner of Route 118 and Kear Street. This land, along with the Murphy’s Restaurant parcel, is owned by the Murphy family, which includes state Sen. Terrence Murphy.
Patrick Murphy, co-owner and operator of Murphy’s Restaurant, stressed that the project is in its “infancy.” He declined comment on who would take ownership of the lots. He also declined comment on Unicorn Contracting’s role in the development, but said the idea has been in the works for “a couple of years.” He said all of this information will be made public eventually.
“As the dust settles, everything will be self-explanatory,” Murphy said.
Murphy said the decision to demolish Murphy’s Restaurant, which opened in 2006, was not an easy one to make.
“As a family, we all got together and we came to a decision that it was time to move forward,” Murphy said. “It was a great run. Our family will be forever grateful for all the friendships and relationships we built out of the business.”
Deputy Supervisor Gregory Bernard, who was present at the planning board meeting, said the bank’s proposed entrance could create safety issues. Bernard said customers of the bank and customers of the retail/office building would have to cross paths too often.
“The entrance to the proposed bank, if you will, I don’t know if that works,” he said.
Ciarcia said the bank may not even be included in the final plans. Unicorn Contracting representatives said the vacant land may end up as additional parking.
“We’re not sure if this is going to be a bank or not,” Ciarcia said.
The vacant land had previously received approval for a sewer permit, said planning board member John Kincart.
While the Grace Building, the Coldwell Banker building and a salon on the Coldwell Banker property would remain standing, according to the plan, new parking would be created around the buildings. The development features one continuous parking lot and is accessible from Underhill Avenue and Kear Street.
Ciarcia said the three-story building would conform to the town’s maximum height and will not require a variance. He said it would also “conform to the character” of the area.
Planning board Chair Richard Fon said it is important for Unicorn Contracting to complete a traffic study of the area. Because the parking lot extends to the edge of the property, he said it might look better if there was some sort of buffer, such as landscaping or vegetation.
“I think it tones down the asphalt,” Fon said.
Though he lamented the loss of another Yorktown watering hole, Kincart said he is “not opposed to the idea.” Fon added, “I think there are tweaks they have to work out.”
Ciarcia said parking lot buffering could be added to the plan. He also said traffic and stormwater issues will be addressed in a long-form Environmental Assessment Form, which is required under the State Environmental Quality Review Act. That will be submitted with a formal application.
“We’ll make some refinements to this and we’ll see you soon,” Ciarcia said.