The Village Board of Trustees approved a revitalization plan for Upper Port on Monday night, one step of a continuing process as local leaders attempt to turn around the area.
The plan devised by local firm Campani & Schwarting Architects – who are also working on a waterfront revitalization plan for the village – looks at making Upper Port a more walkable area with a higher residential population, calling for changes in zoning to promote growth while adding green spaces and utilizing the train station as a transportation hub.
The board's decision to approve the plan – which was not on Monday night's agenda – comes nearly a year after a public meeting on a preliminary version.
"I think our goal was to make walkable neighborhoods with commercial uses serving the local needs, and to utilize public transportation to maybe replace some of the automobile needs," architect Michael Schwarting said in an interview on Wednesday.
The 2010 U.S. Census counted just 184 people living in the study area – which ran north of the train tracks to Sheep Pasture/North Country Road, and from Texaco Park to Oakland Avenue/Highland Boulevard. Though that number in actuality is likely higher, increasing the population able to serve commerce running down Main Street while beautifying the area with greenscapes and sidewalk improvements will be central to Upper Port's revitalization, the duo said.
Francis Campini agreed with her partner, though added beyond adding more commercial space, "I would say a component of that is to actually increase the residential population. Which isn't different from that, but a piece of that.
"In terms of revitalizing area, there is such a potential for residential, and it’s different from the general residences in area. The single-family house, typical suburban model. This is a real village model with a core. People would live there, shop there, maybe take the train to Stony Brook University, or take the bus and go somewhere else."
With the board's approval, the Upper Port plan will be used as a key part of Port Jefferson Village's comprehensive plan.
The Upper Port revitalization plan suggests that the Village Board adopt mixed-use zoning along the Main Street "spine," with commercial use on the bottom floor and residential up top. Currently, property owners can apply for residential use on top of the commercial corridor on Main Street, "but this is something we want to promote," Campini said, adding that the plan calls for allowing four-story buildings along Main Street as well. Currently, three floors are permitted at most.
East of Main Street, the plan also calls for overlay zoning on top of several parcels that only permits office buildings currently. The overlay zoning would permit residential use on upper floors, over offices on the ground floor.
Trustee Bruce D'Abramo said starting with enacting the zoning changes likely makes the most sense moving forward in Upper Port.
"It's obvious to me baced on the lack of any new applications for new construction there in the last 20 years, that the zoning is not good enough to attract development," he said on Thursday. "I'm impressed with the way Patchogue sort of revitalized their downtown area. The way they did it was reducing zoning requirements. That could be an effective way to attract investment into the Upper Port area."
Hoping to draw places for families to play, the revitalization document looks at adding a half-acre park in the roughly six acres the village owns near Highlands Boulevard, while also upgrading the existing Texaco Park on the west end of Upper Port. Though no in-depth ideas were promoted for the rest of the land, uses such as an arboretum, active recreation such as ballfields, or even housing were suggested.
And hoping to play up the train station – a structure that dates back to the 1870s – Campisi and Schwarting call for a redesign of the parking lot, from the station itself to Main Street. While several "poorly undersized" spaces fill the area between the station and the road, Schwarting said he's like to "bring the train station in better visual proximity to the street." By re-organizing the spaces, and actually gaining three more, the plan would fill in much of the area with benches, brick walkways and landscaping.
In addition, Schwarting noted that the coordination of schedules between the Port Jefferson/Bridgeport Ferry, buses, and trains should be considered to utilize more use of all three.
Mayor Margot Garant did not immediately return requests for comment.