Written by Cory Twibell: firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 06 July 2012 00:00
Dawn Blinn of the Westbury BID said the goal of the meeting was to “get many people involved in the downtown revitalization efforts,” which Blinn said proved to be successful as more than 40 people attended, including Westbury Village Mayor Peter Cavallaro, village board trustees and members of the Westbury-Carle Place Chamber of Commerce.
“It was our biggest turnout ever. A lot of it had to do with our guest speaker, Eric Alexander, who is amazing,” Blinn explained, citing Alexander’s reputation as executive director of Vision Long Island, a not-for-profit Smart Growth planning organization operating out of Northport since 1997.
“It was a great meeting. The BID is a very impressive group. They have a cross-section of the community pretty well represented with business owners, residents, the village trustees and the mayor. What we found pretty impressive is that folks are managing main street, both the village and the private sector, working hand in hand, and clearly that’s positive,” said Alexander.
Alexander spoke on several aspects of the business climate and how small businesses are flocking to communities that boast a “downtown” area, like Westbury’s Post Avenue, which has undergone street repaving, new vintage signage, added parking, a scenic fountain piazza and the redevelopment of its theater as part of the revitalization effort.
“I’m impressed with the amount of housing development, office space, some after-hours retail, the things like the Chi Lounge and specialty restaurants coming in,” added Alexander.
Transit-oriented development (TOD), which is a movement focusing on developing sustainable, walkable communities through the use of mass transit (specifically trains) is another aspect of life in Westbury that Alexander said is attracting new residents and businesses to live and work in the area.
“The rental market is strong. Young people and aging baby boomers are very strong for downtown living as we’re seeing more aging baby boomers move into TOD housing that’s being approved,” Alexander said.
The Vision Long Island director also noted how many communities are also utilizing arts and culture movements as a revitalization tool and that Westbury is one of only six downtown areas throughout Nassau and Suffolk County that boasts a performing arts theater as its main downtown attraction.
In addition, Alexander cited an SBA-funded study (U.S. Small Business Association) referencing how more than 50 percent of small businesses want downtowns to be small business hubs and also want to be active parts of a downtown community.
“Even people outside of downtowns want to be in downtowns, which we felt was a pretty strong indicator,” Alexander noted.