NEW ROCHELLE, NY-In part due to the intense opposition that has made its presence felt at recent public hearings, New Rochelle Mayor Timothy Idoni has sent IKEA a laundry list of 14 items to study in relation to the retailer’s proposal to build a 309,000-sf store.

Mayor Idoni has revealed that he sent a letter to IKEA the previous day requesting the Plymouth Meeting, PA,-based retailer undertake studies that address the scope of the project, traffic concerns and a host of other issues related to the SEQRA review of the New Rochelle Fifth Avenue Urban Renewal Project. The IKEA store, which is currently estimated to be more than 300,000 sf, is a major part of the plan currently under review and would be built on approximately 15 acres adjacent to I-95.

In November, the city held a series of public hearings that attracted hundreds of residents from New Rochelle and neighboring municipalities such as Mamaroneck, Larchmont and Pelham who expressed their concern about the project’s impact on traffic in the area.

The first item Mayor Idoni asked IKEA to study was, “What would be the impacts on the traffic and fiscal analyses if the store were reduced to 260,000 sf, 200,000 sf or smaller?”

IKEA released a statement in response to the Mayor’s statements and letter that stated, “Mayor Idoni and the City Council should be commended for maintaining the integrity of an open process that ensures legitimate concerns will be addressed in a fair and timely fashion.”

The furniture retailer continued, “We have already begun to research these issues and we will respond to the Mayor’s request in a timely manner. All legitimate concerns deserve and will receive thoughtful and thorough analysis.”

IKEA ended its statement by stressing its continued intent to build the store at the site. “IKEA is committed to our proposal in New Rochelle. We believe the analysis over the next few months will help us strengthen our proposal by addressing the concerns of people who live in New Rochelle and the surrounding communities.”

The mayor told that although he gave IKEA a total of 14 matters to address, the number one issue surrounding the project is the traffic impact it might have on the area.

Referring to the heightened interest of the surrounding communities regarding the proposed project, Mayor Idoni notes that many have urged the city to immediately abandon its efforts and reject IKEA as the potential redeveloper without even completing the environmental review process.

“For all the controversy, the big issues are nothing new to the leadership of New Rochelle. It is our belief that similar comprehensive redevelopment efforts undertaken by city leadership have contributed to an economic resurgence in the city,” Iondi says. “The urban redevelopment of the Fifth Avenue area is an important priority for New Rochelle and its mayor and council to consider.”

IKEA has until March 2001 to address the city’s concerns. The mayor noted that the city hopes to make a decision on the Fifth Avenue Urban Redevelopment Project and the IKEA plan soon thereafter. Then the city would still have to consider a rezoning of the IKEA land from industrial to retail use, as well as make a final decision on whether to select IKEA as the designated developer. He said if the project moves forward in March, those and other matters still unresolved would likely take one year to be reviewed and voted on by the city.

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