by Barrett Seaman
When the Brightview Corporation, managers of a regional chain of senior and assisted living facilities, presented its revised plan for a combination of independent living, assisted living and memory care units on eight acres off North Broadway in Irvington on February 1, its executives had hopes that changes made to what had been a 150,000-square-foot structure would win the support of village trustees.
That plan sought to reduce the perception of mass through design changes, but in fact it reduced the overall square footage by only 3.5 percent.
Trustee comments following that presentation made it clear that 3.5 percent wasn’t enough. Mayor Brian C. Smith captured the general feeling of the board in saying, “It still, to me, just feels too big.”
In response, Brightview executive Andrew Teeters admitted, “This certainly does threaten the viability of this project,” suggesting that if the building shrunk much further, they would have to jettison one component or another of the multi-service plan—or bow out altogether.
Brightview returned on February 22 and presented a plan that reduced the overall size of the structure, but it did indeed trim back the services offered—dropping the independent living component altogether.
Instead of the original 150 overall units, the proposed facility will be comprised of 116 apartments, 90 of which will be for assisted living; 26 for memory care. The new design means a reduction in square footage from the original 150,000 to about 100,000 sq. ft.
The length of the north/south frontage facing Broadway is unchanged in the new plan, but the height is now the same as that of the existing colonial-style office building on the property.
“Clearly, Brightview understands the concerns expressed by the board and the community about the visual and aesthetic impact from Broadway,” said the applicant’s attorney, David Steinmetz, who characterized the changes as “dramatic.”
One outcome of the redesign is a reduction in the number of affordable housing units from 10 to six—all of which will be in the existing stone buildings that the village expressly wanted to be preserved.
The Irvington trustees’ reaction was guardedly positive. Mark Gilliland, who had detailed criticisms of earlier plans, still questioned various aspects of the new one but said it had “a lot of possibility.”
“This is a much more palatable project,” said Trustee Janice Silverberg.
Expressing regret for the loss of affordable units, Trustee Christina Giliberti still allowed that the reduction in size “is appreciated.”
Noting that the board had to weigh this proposal against alternative uses for the property, each of which would almost certainly introduce issues of their own, Smith pronounced himself “perhaps optimistic, cautiously or not.”
Unlike earlier meetings, where crowds of opponents of the proposal organized to pose a range of objections, only a handful were there to hear Brightview’s new position. A few rose to voice old objections about traffic and the economic viability of the project.
“It is a new design,” conceded opposition organizer and former trustee Kris Woll, ”but in my opinion it’s still 50% too big.”
Perhaps echoing frustrations experienced by previous applicants, Teeters warned, “We’ve been at this for over a year at Brightview. I’ve never been in a position where this far in, we still don’t know where we stand.”
Teeter’s lawyer was more sanguine. “I am optimistic that as the board members focus on the details and truly understand the issue before them,” said Steinmetz, “we will achieve an acceptable compromise and be able to secure a positive vote.”
The board will address the issue again at its March 7 meeting.