The Douglaston Local Development Corp. has commissioned a $30,000 study it hopes will produce the first phase of a master plan to reinvigorate the commercial area near the Long Island Rail Road station.
Board of trustees member Kevin Wolfe said the study stands on the shoulders of previous visioning sessions held by the Douglaston/Little Neck Historical Society, which asked landlords, shop owners and residents along 235th Avenue what they would like to see done in the town center.
“The idea is really to generate development and redevelopment that’s in character with the area,” Wolfe said, adding that most of the adjoining blocks are historic districts.
The study, which is being led by Dadras Architects, a firm that specializes in main street revitalization, will draw on the expertise of architects, city planners, transportation specialists and landscape architects to engage stakeholders in developing a consensus for a long-term plan.
“The whole idea is to engage anyone who may have an interest in what happens down there. It’s meant to be inclusionary rather than exclusionary,” Wolfe said.
Douglaston’s Main Street, as Wolfe called it, used to be a thriving business area, but now he describes it as simply “desperate.”
The area took its first significant hit in 1929, when the LIRR built an overpass over the tracks that diverted traffic away from 235th Street. Since the 1950s it has experienced the slow downward spiral all main streets have with pressures from malls and supermarkets.
Wolfe lamented the recent shuttering of the Douglaston Market — which had existed under several owners since 1936 — as a loss of one of the community’s social centers where people would buy food items and converse as they waited for a commuter train.
“It was much more than a coffee shop,” he said.
Wolfe said in later stages of the study he would like to bring in a retail expert to find out what types of businesses the community wants — and which ones would prosper — so that they could work with developers.
“Douglaston has a long history of fighting developers and winning. We want to engage them and say, ‘This is what we like. Tell us what you like and your project will be a great success,’” he said.
Wolfe believes the area has a number of untapped assets, including a small-scale setting with large, shade-producing trees and great transportation infrastructure with the LIRR and nearby highways.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2011 Community News Group
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