Have you been to “Brooklyn North,” “Bro-No,” or “Beaclyn” lately? New development is thriving down on Beacon’s East Main Street and along the Fishkill Creek amidst a sea of moratoria.
Much like the signal fires that once burned along the Hudson Highland mountaintops during the Revolutionary War, the City of Beacon has sparked a revolution of its own. Powered by dedicated developers and comprehensive planning efforts and effective leadership by the City, smart growth techniques have led to retail, commercial and hospitality business bustling on Main Street, while years of cleanup and revitalization efforts are now bringing new life to the Fishkill Creek – the same Creek that once drove the City’s rich industrial and manufacturing history.
The City of Beacon was formed from the Villages of Fishkill Landing and Matteawan just over a century ago, before New York City even adopted the first comprehensive zoning ordinance in the United States. Once the hat-making capital of New York, much of Beacon’s historic development preceded the enactment of the City’s incorporation in 1913 and later the development of its own zoning ordinance.
With the industrial history apparent in the existing building and development footprint along the Fishkill Creek, the City began by rezoning properties along the Fishkill Creek that were once zoned industrial, creating the “Fishkill Creek Development” zoning district. This district was designed to “[e]ncourage the development and/or redevelopment of undeveloped or underutilized industrial properties along the Fishkill Creek in a manner that provides a mix of residential and nonresidential uses.” 1
In keeping with the goal to revitalize the City, developers have worked to bring new life to former industrially and commercially zoned properties in the City including:
• Matteawan Manufacturing Company, later the H.N. Swift Machine Shop and Braendly Dye Works (now the Roundhouse, 2 East Main Street);
• Schrader Hat Company (now the Lofts at 1 East Main, 1 East Main Street);
• A brick textile mill (now The Lofts at Beacon, 18 Front Street/11-89 Mason Circle);
• Old factories and machines shops (now the Hudson Valley Brewery, 7 East Main Street);
• The Lofts @ Beacon Falls (50, 52, 54 Leonard Street);
• The Beacon Hotel, the oldest continuously operating hotel in beacon (now The Beacon Hotel and The Beacon Hotel Restaurant, 424 Main Street);
• The Beacon Theatre (now the Beacon, 445 Main Street); and
• A former brick factory (now Creek Drive Lofts and Apartments, 9-11 Creek Drive).
These developments toward the east end of Main Street and along the Fishkill Creek involve a variety of commercial, retail and residential mixed uses, including artist live/work spaces, workforce housing units, condominiums and rental apartments. At the same time, new projects proposed along Beacon’s waterfront – located north of the Fishkill Creek’s confluence with the Hudson River – involve conveniently located housing within walking distance to the Metro-North train station, which development both preserves open space and is supportive of the Smart Growth strategy of transit-oriented development. Together, these projects are leading the redevelopment renaissance and breathing new life and linkages into a City that was formed by the waterfront Village of Fishkill Landing and the landward Village of Matteawan.
Obtaining final approvals can sometimes be an intricate process. For example, the Creek Drive Lofts and Apartments required modification of applicable standards from the City Council as well as approvals from the planning board, zoning board and architectural review board. Additionally, such growth is not without its challenges, however, and the City of Beacon recently passed a six (6)-month moratorium on residential and commercial development not already in process to evaluate potential impacts of new development on the city’s water supply.
The City of Beacon is also currently in the process of reviewing the findings and recommendations in the City’s recent Comprehensive Plan Update (adopted in April of 2017) in order to consider how to implement its recommendations for properties along the Fishkill Creek, as well as the east end of Main Street and the downtown area and throughout the City. Such changes must be done in conformance with the City’s Comprehensive Plan. While the City’s Comprehensive Plan encourages new development along the Fishkill Creek and Main Street to incorporate office, retail and residential mixed uses, when combined with zoning requirements for workforce housing, Greenway Trails and other requirements, developers are encouraged to analyze the past before creating the future.
With great opportunity, comes great development responsibility and an understanding of the zoning and comprehensive planning strategies that are employed to lead to a successful development on the Fishkill Creek and along Beacon’s waterfront.