Rte. 311 retail may be in store

MICHAEL RISINIT THE JOURNAL NEWS Original publication: Feb. 20, 2001

Neighbors, Planning Board members and others in February 2000 were staring at plans for two shopping centers on Route 311. Almost 1 million square feet of retail space was planned for land on both sides of the road, just west of Interstate 84 at Exit 18.

Today, the hillsides along Route 311 are still tree-covered, and the only purchases available at Exit 18 are from a hot dog truck. In addition, the possible demise of one project, the second in 18 months to disappear on that stretch, is considered by opponents as another victory against unwanted development.

One developer, National Realty Development Corp. of Purchase, has all but thrown away its plans for Patterson Pavilion and left town. The other, Paul Camarda of Carmel, is still waiting for Kent to rezone land so he can proceed with his proposed Lake Carmel Centre. In the meantime, Camarda is moving ahead with plans for a proposed luxury hotel and conference center on Route 6 in Carmel.

But retail along the road isn't dead, said one of Putnam County's business leaders. The I-84 corridor is "just hot," said Ross Weale, president of the Putnam County Economic Development Corp., pointing to the recent opening of a Hilton Garden Inn and other development off the highway in Danbury, Conn.

"I still think there is significant potential on both those sites (on Route 311)," Weale said. "Some of that (Danbury development) will be replicated along our portion with proper, prudent planning."

Possibilities do exist in Putnam, but the National Realty Development Corp. probably isn't one of them. The Westchester company's option to purchase 92 acres on the south side of Route 311 most of which sit in Patterson recently expired, a sign that the company isn't likely to pursue building a 417,900-square-foot retail center.

Jerrold Bermingham, the company's managing director, refused to either confirm or deny last month if his company was leaving town. He did not return telephone calls in the past week.

Officials in Putnam said National Realty Development Corp.'s project is dead.

"Bermingham has told me they're done," Patterson Supervisor Michael Griffin said.

If the development company is done, it isn't the first retailer to propose a local project, begin the review process and then scrap its plans. Konover Property Trust of Cary, N.C., citing years of legal delays and resistance by neighbors and environmentalists, killed its plans in summer 1999 for a 450,000-square-foot outlet center across the road from the development company's site.

The Konover site is now the potential home of Camarda's Lake Carmel Centre, a 418,000-square-foot shopping center with up to 13 stores. The project is "alive," Camarda said, but Kent needs to rezone the land from industrial to commercial.

The developer said his plans to bring a luxury hotel and conference center to Carmel a project that received a boost earlier this month from voters who approved selling town property to make way for the facility won't derail his desire to bring shoppers to Kent.

"There's no problem with the workload," Camarda said. "I'll just hire a lot of professionals."

Kent Supervisor Annmarie Baisley said the town's planning consultant was reviewing rezoning Camarda's parcel and several others that are marked as industrial. But with the town's master plan being revised and the subsequent zoning changes that come with it, Baisley said, "it will be a while before anything is done."

If the land's status remains unchanged, Camarda said, he will propose an industrial park, possibly featuring some light industrial uses or a distribution center.

"There's going to be a certain point when we have to go forward," Camarda said. "I believe right now a decision time for me is coming very soon."

Mentioning an industrial park is "blackmail," said Jeff Green, an environmental activist who runs a Web site focusing on development in Putnam County.

"He's threatening to do something on that property that our community has spoken out about," Green said. "The people of Kent are not adverse to development. We want to dictate what type of development takes place here."

Camarda isn't the only developer with designs on land at Exit 18. The one-time National Realty Development Corp. property, which straddles the Patterson-Kent border, is "actively on the market," said Ed Heelan, a Southeast real estate agent. Heelan represents the Cushman-Montgomery family, the land's owner. He wouldn't specify who was interested in the property, but said he "virtually (has) a deal" in place.

The road's present state, though, is what appeals to Patterson resident Peter Reibold.

"Things are looking brighter," said Reibold, referring to the Pavilion's seemingly defunct status. "I'd love to see that land preserved."


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Copyright © 2001 Tuesday, February 20, 2001