YORKTOWN, N.Y. – An approval earlier this month by the Planning Board paved the way for the Jefferson Valley Mall to construct a new 8,000-square-foot retail building in a rarely used area of the mall’s parking lot.
The board unanimously voted to subdivide a 38.7-acre parcel owned by the mall. This will enable Washington Prime, the mall’s owner, to construct an entrance ramp from Route 6 into the mall property. Due to an agreement approved by the previous administration, the entrance ramp will technically connect to a town-owned road.
Because the mall stands to financially benefit from the entrance ramp, New York State, which owns Route 6, initially requested millions of dollars for the access, according to former Supervisor Michael Grace. The state, however, typically does not charge for access to or from municipally owned roads. To avoid such an expense to the town’s top taxpayer, the Town Board agreed in December to take ownership of about 1,500 feet of road stretching from Lee Boulevard to the new retail building.
Despite the board’s approval, Highway Superintendent Dave Paganelli needed to sign off on the agreement. Reluctant at first, Paganelli was ultimately satisfied with an agreement that gives him authority over the quality of the road. A certificate of occupancy will not be issued to the new retail building until road improvements are completed by the mall to Paganelli’s satisfaction.
Per the agreement, the mall will continue to be responsible for much of the road’s maintenance. Tony Gioffre, an attorney with Cuddy and Feder, who represents the mall, said it will perform a “substantial investigation” into traffic, road quality, maintenance, stormwater, lighting and other concerns.
A plan for the 8,000-square-foot building was approved by the Town Board in October. The board also voted to legalize a health/fitness center use at the mall. Seritage Growth Properties has proposed converting the lower floor of its Sears store into a 38,000-square-foot fitness center and a 37,000-square-foot retail use. The top floor would remain a 67,000-square-foot Sears store.
The plan includes a 5,800-square-foot extension to accommodate the fitness center, called 24 Hour Fitness. The 9,500-square-foot Sears Auto Center will also be converted into one or more restaurants.
The fitness center would be located across the street from an existing gym, Club Fit, whose owner has objected to the renovation plans and the town taking ownership of the road.
At the June 11 meeting, Club Fit owner Bill Beck presented several photos of the current condition of the mall’s roads. He said the mall does a “less than optimal” job of maintaining its site.
“My worry is that we’re going to approve this road, it’s going to get built, the town’s going to own it, we think they’re going to maintain it, but their history isn’t to necessarily maintain it the way we would like it to be maintained,” Beck said.
Gioffre said Washington Prime has invested “significant sums” of money into the expansion and renovation of the mall, including the road.
“Given the significant investments made in the mall, I don’t believe that my client is going to allow this site to deteriorate,” Gioffre said. “We have obligations to the town. There are repercussions if we don’t meet those obligations pursuant to the agreement with the town, and I assume the client is not going to take these concerns lightly.”
James Stropoli, executive director of member relations for Club Fit, said the town needs to make sure it is protected in this agreement.
“It’s great to put a nice shiny star on it, but we want to make sure it’s going to last for the long haul,” Stropoli said.
As part of the plans approved in October, a 26-foot sign will also be erected on the mall side of the berm along Route 6, opposite Dick’s Sporting Goods.
The new retail building still requires lot size and setback variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals.