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Big changes coming to Webster Ave

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Proposed zoning changes along Webster Avenue could mean more development of housing and retail, restaurant and community space.

The city Planning Department is proposing changing the zoning for a roughly 2-mile stretch that will increase commercial opportunities along Webster Avenue and decrease development in the Bedford Park and Norwood neighborhoods.

On Tuesday, September 28, the city Planning Department submitted the proposal to Community Board 7, which initiates the 60-day public review period.

“It’s about striking a balance,” Community Board 7 district manager Fernando Tirado said. “We’re looking to up-zone Webster to create opportunities for housing and business, and at the same time down-zone Bedford and Norwood to get a handle on the over-development there. It’s about striking a balance of the need for affordable housing and protecting the middle and working class opportunit­ies.”

The changes will allow for more than 700 units of affordable housing and about 100,000 square feet of retail, office and restaurant space, according to the city.

Currently the area has many small-scale, heavy industrial and commercial uses, such as auto-related businesses.

The zoning has been in place since 1961. At the time the Third Avenue elevated train ran along Webster, but was taken down in 1973.

Community members agree that the zoning no longer fits the needs of the area.

“We have a lot of homes that have been demolished to make way for multi-story complexes that are not good for the area because they lead to traffic problems, a lack of school seats and overcrowdi­ng,” Tirado said about the Bedford Park and Norwood neighborhoods.

Along with height limits on any new development in the neighborhoods, the changes would require buildings along the Webster Avenue stretch to include ground-floor retail space for any future developments, which would spur jobs growth in the area, Tirado said.

“A lot of jobs for local folks,” he said. “We’re hoping it leads to the creation of a nice new business zone along Webster.”

Tirado said the board has been involved in developing the changes for more than two years.

After the 60-day review period, which will include a community board-led public meeting, the recommendations will be passed along to the borough president’s office before being sent to the city council and the Mayor.

Officials are hoping the changes could be in effect within a year.

“We’ve debated the plans or the proposal long enough to say that for the most part the board is going to be very satisfied,” Tirado said. “What this is about is building a future for the northwest Bronx that provides opportunities for everybody.”

Updated 5:16 pm, October 21, 2011
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