Leaders look to spruce up downtown

(Original Publication: February 23, 2005)

What's next

The town of Kent Revitalization Committee is applying for a $20,000 grant
from the state Hudson River Valley Greenway Communities Council. The money
would be added to the $20,000 the committee has already received from the
town and the county. The $40,000 would be used for plans and drawings for
proposed improvements.

There's not much that makes downtown Kent stand out, said Owen Jordan, who
has been selling egg sandwiches, soup and other items along Route 52 for 14

" People drive through and don't know they're in town," said Jordan, owner
of Deli Land.

The almost eight-mile stretch of Route 52, from Route 311 to Kent's border
with Carmel, is basically the town's only business district. But the road
is more highway than shopping lane. Stores and other establishments are few
and widely spaced, traffic passes quickly and the lack of any sidewalks
limits its use by pedestrians.

" It's a very dark stretch. They need to knock down some of these abandoned
buildings," said Jordan, referring to a vacant service station and a lot
that features no-longer-used batting cages and miniature golf.

A revitalization committee made up of residents, business owners and
officials agrees. The group has garnered $10,000 from the town and a
similar amount from the county, and it's looking to double its finances
through a state grant. The money would pay for an initial design study on
how to spruce up that section of Route 52, along with adjacent parts of
Route 311 and Towners Road. The aim of the effort, said county Legislator
Arne Nordstrom, R-Kent, is to attract more businesses and residents to
Kent's downtown.

" We want to create a better business atmosphere, to enhance what we have so
the public will come to these areas," Nordstrom said. "We need to bring it
into the 21st century."

For inspiration, the group is looking south to Carmel and Mahopac, where
several million dollars have been spent to refurbish those downtowns. A
nonprofit group, Carmel Mahopac Revitalization Restoration Inc., used a
$2.37 million state grant to repave Route 52 between Route 6 in Carmel and
the ShopRite Plaza, and install sidewalks on that stretch. Plans there also
include Victorian-style lights and relocating utility wires underground.

In Mahopac, the Chamber of Commerce used about $600,000 in grants and
chamber funding to create a lakefront park in the hamlet's downtown. Deputy
County Executive Frank Del Campo, a former Carmel town supervisor, was
involved with both efforts and is helping to lead Kent's.

" The experience of how we did it in Carmel and Mahopac is going to be
beneficial in moving this a little quicker," Del Campo said. "We want to
make it a nice place to visit, to ride by and to identify a town center."

Once the preliminary study is completed, Del Campo and others said, the
Kent committee can begin discussing which items to tackle, such as
improving streetscapes, revamping building facades or adding sidewalks. The
entire effort could take up to five years.

" We're going to get this baby going and give (the road) that tied-together
look," said Ken Hogan, who took over Kenny's Carpet One on Route 52 from
his father in 1991. "When people see change, they tend to care about it a
little bit more."


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Wednesday, February 23, 2005