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Vacancies: What Should Become of Garden Street School?

Put aside all the rules and regulations — we're asking you what type of establishment would make the most sense in that spot?

Let's call this a modern spin on community planning; a digital drawing board where all ideas are on the table.

We present a vacant space or property and ask you to tell us what you think would be the best use. Forget what zone it's in, ignore setback regulations, dump lot coverage rules and all the other zoning jargon that puts most people to sleep. What would you like to see there? What would be the best use for the community?

Our  of this column received a couple of great suggestions, as did our subsequent posts. This week we're taking a look at Garden Street School, which saw its final batch of students walk out the door in June. The school has been a staple in the community since the 1920s.

The Village of Brewster recently entered into an agreement with Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, a Newburgh-based "nonprofit research, policy and planning group that promotes regional and balanced solutions to enhance the growth and vitality" of the region, according to its Facebook page.

Over the next year, Pattern will be examining several local topics—"adaptive reuse" of Garden Street, neighborhood blight, transit-oriented development, as well as community development and grant-writing—and reporting back to Village officials.

The total package costs $25,000, and the has agreed to pitch in $2,500 for the research on Garden Street. Administrators there will receive any relevant reports associated with the school.

So, we want to know, in an ideal world, what would happen to the building? Should it stay as is, and take on some sort of official historical designation? Should it remain a community center, perhaps housing a non-profit? Should the building be earmarked for something completely different, like an apartment complex? 

Give us your take in the comments section below, please.

About this column: In highlighting vacant buildings in Southeast and Brewster, we aim to help residents take a proactive role in planning and building their community. We'll take your feedback to public officials and property owners, to inform their decisions about future uses. Know of a vacant building we should highlight? Email Ashley.Tarr@patch.com.

Beth F. August 31, 2012 at 11:09 AM
In my hometown an old school like this was renovated into low-income apartments for the elderly. I think this would be perfect for Garden Street, too.
Trish August 31, 2012 at 12:06 PM
Senior housing or a senior center that offers lunch and daily activities Brewster/Southeast does not offer anything for our seniors. They should look into what towns like Pleasantville offer. Pleasantville's program offers hot lunches M-F with activities from approximately 10-3 such as exercise classes, crafts and Movies. I believe its funded partially or totally by NYS. It would also be a great place to volunteer in our community.
Art Hanley August 31, 2012 at 12:17 PM
Trish, Putnam County Office for the Aging has a lunch program in Carmel http://www.putnamcountyny.com/ofa/files/carmel.pdf There is free transportation for seniors who need it. Yesterday I drove by shortly after lunch and saw more than a dozen people enjoying the fresh air playing Bocce Ball, Shuffle Board or just sitting in the Gazebo. I think a duplication of programs would be a waste. However, I believe more affordable housing for seniors is need. I hear it is next to impossible to get an apartment at the Marvin Avenue apartment complex.
Elizabeth R. Apgar Triano August 31, 2012 at 01:32 PM
I was thinking rental art studio space, the way I have seen done around New England with old factories and mill properties. But then I read the senior apartment idea and that sounded good too.
Stacy August 31, 2012 at 02:52 PM
It should be continue education that offers classes.
Rachel August 31, 2012 at 03:33 PM
It must be something education based in order for the property to retain its tax free status.
babypotato August 31, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Outside of Boston theres an old church that was transformed into condo's. The exterior of the building remained intact but the interior was completely redone and is actually pretty high-end. Maybe providing some higher-cost apartments will help guide the village toward reaching its potential
Michael Counihan August 31, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Crafts Center.
Will Stephens August 31, 2012 at 04:59 PM
How about "market rate" rental apartments or "upscale" condominium residences? The Village does not need any more low income housing. It would probably be a costly conversion but it would be a great shot in the arm to the Village to put this structure back on the tax rolls.
babypotato August 31, 2012 at 05:26 PM
you and I are on the same page here
Susan Riley August 31, 2012 at 06:30 PM
I think luxury senior housing would be a great idea. Seniors use fewer services (such as schools, garbage pickup, police intervention) but will enhance the community. It's a win-win situation for the Village of Southeast.
Terri Stockburger August 31, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Village of Brewster in the Town of Southeast, please, there is no village of Southeast unless that was tongue in cheek. I want the land and building to return to the tax base in the Village. I like the idea of high end condos and I am anxious to see what Patterns for Progress suggests after that study.
John D September 01, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Large industrial style loft units with the first fiber connection in Putnam for the horde of young (though not as young as we used to be) technology professionals already living in Brewster/Southeast who mainly telecommute and occasionally use Metro-North into Manhattan . They need faster internet and a large studio workspace. Industrial style would minimize the cost to fix up too. There are also the large fields behind the school that could be turned into the 'Brewster Mountain Biking Park Extension' of the awesome Putnam bike path.
Rose Zucker Aglieco September 01, 2012 at 02:01 AM
I would like to see it become apartments or condos. White Plains Battle Hill School became condos years ago...how about a multi use buliding so that some space could be art studios. the proximity to the village and the train make this a wonderful place for upscale residential/office condos or apartments.
lillian philbin September 01, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Definitely housing of some type. Careful thought will be needed. Low income or luxury shouldn't be the only options. There is a middle class market in all age groups that is always ignored. The accessibility to the train is great. Also everyone will have parking.
Jen McArdle September 01, 2012 at 01:07 PM
While I agree that condos or high end apartments would be great additions to Brewster, I am not sure what kind of "draw" they would create since the village itself needs so much work. If the building could retain its educational role as a place to house continuing education classes (perhaps art-based), art studios, or audio-visual media studios, it would add to burgeoning art culture in the village (I am thinking of a place like northern westchester center for the arts). As for the grounds, perhaps they can finally be used for the pool the village (and the town of southeast) so desperately needs.
JimmyG September 01, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Why not a startup incubator ? Small / Large affordable space for entrepreneurs to gather and interact. Fast connections, accessibility to transportation, etc.. You can't ask for a better spot. You might also find money -coming back- into the community .. JimmyG
Art Hanley September 01, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Let it go on the tax rolls. God knows the Village and town could both use additional income.
Art Hanley September 01, 2012 at 03:46 PM
I agree! Back on the tax rolls.
Southeaster September 02, 2012 at 09:55 PM
I'd like to see whatever it is aimed at young professionals. Brewster already has senior and low-income housing and plenty of beautiful single-family homes for the wealthy. It's the up and coming twenty- and thirtysomethings who need a place to live and/or work that's affordable and convenient to transportation. I wouldn't mind apartments, condos, studio space, or some combination thereof. Brewster is trying to re-brand itself as an arts town, and young artsy types are often the first to move into places that are, shall we say, a little worse for wear and clean them up. I think the former school could also make an ideal place for offices. We could use more businesses in Brewster, not more restaurants and retail outlets but real businesses that create high-paying jobs. As for the grounds, a pool or a community garden would be nice.
Joe Lambert October 03, 2012 at 10:25 PM
YMCA, pool, gym, track, maybe even rooms for rent not sure though. High end rent here in the VOB?? Not sure whose knocking on our doors here, but I'm not sure if high end renters want to b here, I'd love em to move into the area too, but haven't heard th phrase, hey I'm looking to move into those new high end condos in Brewster hmmm, ever. I live here and we love it, but we are unique, like are neighbors. Frankly if nothing happens to it, that's fine with me, love to play ball there and use the playground without getting harassed by the school now.
Robert Morganti November 06, 2012 at 04:16 AM
Definitely should be mid-market priced condos (competing with all of the big Toll Brothers style condo complexes going up in surrounding neighborhoods) and shouldn't be low income or senior only housing. Brewster can have a lot to offer if there are things good enough to attract people to move their lives there. There are condo complexes going up in all surrounding towns and guess what... People from Brewster are leaving for those areas. Things are developing all over at an extremely fast pace and Brewster simply is not... Whatever is done with Garden Street, please do not half-ass it. The building is beautiful from an architectural perspective; there is value behind that which can be leveraged.
laughingmywayoutofwestchester November 15, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Condos - back on the tax roles. Try to attract more middle class - upper middle class professionals. Look to White Plains' Battle Ave School or Tarrytown's Pierson School. Both successful transitions
Maria November 21, 2012 at 05:35 PM
I think a cooking institute...a school that brings in young professionals to come into the area and fill the housing stock we already have. Then the Village can encourage the opening up lots of great restaurants so the many people who travel through the Village will want to stay a while and spend some time in the Village, boost our economy, and make the Village a happening place. The convenience to NYC cannot be beat...so cooking professionals can travel to jobs elsewhere too.

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