The Irvington Business Improvement Committee, affectionately known as IBIC, is comprised of a diverse group of Irvington residents. Disappointed to see empty storefronts dotting the beautiful views on Main Street, sixteen volunteers have been meeting every few weeks for the past year to explore the current economic situation and generate ideas that are then offered to the Mayor and Irvington Board of Trustees about how the Village might help to improve business in the Main Street area.
The most tangible accomplishment of 2009 was the introduction of the Irvington Village Farmers Market. Late Wednesday afternoons were alive at the Main Street School parking lot with fresh food, live music, yoga and storytelling. The Farmers Market fostered shopping at local stores as hundreds of people visited Main Street every week to congregate with neighbors, enjoy fresh air and stock up on healthy foods. Local restaurants and food service establishments participated and the Chamber of Commerce had a tent available to its members. At least two outside vendors explored opening new businesses in Irvington as a result. A trial winter market is set for Wednesday, January 20th from 2 to 7 p.m. in the warmth of the Senior Center at Scenic Hudson Park (29 Bridge Street) and, if successful, will be continued on a monthly basis.
Other accomplishments included a successful Quadricentennial Celebration Weekend, work with the Recreation Department to introduce kayak rentals at Scenic Hudson Park, meetings with local hotels to educate them about Irvington, and laying the groundwork for a possible dog park − all with the goal of attracting people to the downtown area.
IBIC has also made noteworthy proposals to the Board for making changes to the Village Code − first, to allow sidewalk vending and outdoor cafés throughout the business district (which was adopted in the fall) and, second, to streamline and expedite the process of obtaining building permits (which is currently under consideration). IBIC has also proposed the formation of a proactive Mayor’s Advisory Taskforce program to welcome prospective new businesses and provide roadmaps and informational resources to new and existing businesses. The Board is also exploring improvements to sign ordinances and historical preservation.
For 2010, IBIC is working on several initiatives. It is considering how Irvington can market itself to new businesses. Those who live in the Village are familiar with its appeal, most significantly its walkability to the Hudson River, numerous parks, the train station, aqueduct, the Town Hall Theater (which recently launched a film series), historic buildings, local restaurants and magnificent Hudson River views.
The Village Board has recently appointed a committee, led by volunteer sustainability coordinators, to plan a celebration for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day during the weekend of April 17-18th. IBIC has met with members of that Committee to brainstorm ideas and discuss how local businesses would participate.
IBIC is also exploring the establishment of a Rivertowns Visitors Center as a destination for guests at area hotels and day-trippers to gather information about sights and attractions throughout the Rivertowns. Visitors might take a stroll around town and visit Irvington stores and restaurants.
IBIC has been actively pursuing the idea of allowing local artists to display their works in vacant storefronts. IBIC is encouraging landlords to turn drab vacant storefronts into more attractive destinations, which would help to increase their marketability to potential new businesses.
Lastly, the Irvington Superintendent of Schools recently invited the public to discuss the possible merger of the Main Street School and Dows Lane Elementary School into Dows Lane. This could have a significant effect on the downtown area since the Main Street School is a major presence in the middle of the Village, currently housing the town’s fourth and fifth graders. The Superintendent is hosting a meeting on January 21st to discuss the different options under consideration. IBIC will be sending representatives to that meeting, and has encouraged members of the Chamber to do the same, so that the voices of the downtown businesses can be heard.
Kenneth M. Bernstein is the Chairperson of the Irvington Business Improvement Committee (IBIC) and practices law in the Village. He can be reached at email@example.com