Camarda says region badly needs retail, housing for seniors
The Journal News

When Paul Camarda is done, he says, senior citizens will have-a choice of places to live in Putnam County, shoppers will actually "Shop Putnam," and travelers will have a hotel in the county to relax in. Camarda, one of Putnam's most active developers, met with The Journal News editorial board last week to share his vision for a county in desperate need of sales-tax revenue and senior housing. In short, a county in need of his projects.

"I've been in Putnam County for 20 years, since the mid-80s," Camarda said. I looked at Putnam County and the Hudson Valley as a very desirable place, I started out with single-family neighborhoods. This is quite an area, but it's underserved." First, he touched on the demand for senior-citizen housing. By 2008, he said, Putnam will have 15,000 households with people 55 and older. In 1998, Carmel passed a law, to promote senior housing but, to date, only subsidized residences have been built, fulfilling 20 percent of the need, he said. Camarda wants to fill that void and is awaiting approval for 300 senior-housing units in two contiguous Carmel projects, Gateway Summit and Fairways on Route 6. He already has approval for another 381 senior-housing units in town, on Stoneleigh Avenue, called Carmel Centre.

The developer, who lives in Ridgefield, Conn, went on to speak of the "Putnam paradox," in which $2 out of every $3 spent by residents is spent outside the county, Shoppers tend to go to Connecticut or to Westchester and Dutchess counties to do their buying. Big-box centers like ones he has proposed in Southeast and Patterson would keep those dollars closer to home and double the county's sales-tax revenue, he said. He emphasized that there are no discount "warehouse" stores, chain bookstores or higher-end supermarkets anywhere in the county, nor a Gap, a Sports Authority or a Best Buy.

Brewster Highlands on Route 312 in Southeast includes The Home Depot, Linens N' Things and Kohls. It opened in 2001.

"Putnam County is on a shoestring budget," he said, adding later, "'Shop Putnam?' The joke was - and still is today — where?"

Camarda said he has seven projects in the pipeline, five of which are before various decision-making boards and only one of which has approvals. Two others, in Mahopac and Kent, are long-range plans that may or may not come to fruition, he said. Most of the retail projects straddle borders and interstate highways, convenient for shoppers in and out of the county, he said.

Patterson Crossing, a 439,600-square-foot retail center, would include a Costco warehouse store and a Lowe's home-improvement store, The project is planned for 50 acres on the south side of Route 311 near Interstate 84 and backs up to Lake Carmel. It's not near any homes in Patterson, but does come close to houses in Kent's Lake Carmel community.

Some residents and Kent Town Board members have spoken out against the project, concerned over traffic and water pollution.

Adjacent to Patterson Crossing, Camarda would like to build the Kent Center, a 100-acre property where he envisions a commercial area, outlet stores or a light industrial warehouse. That project, he said, is still in the planning stages and not a sure thing.
Similarly, Baldwin Hills in Mahopac, across from the Somers Commons shopping center along Route 6, would see a department store and a home-improvement center, Camarda owns the property, though it is for sale, he said. The project would depend on whether he sells the property, he said.

In addition to senior housing in Carmel, Camarda has proposed a 150-room Staybridge Suites hotel, along with a YMCA, on Route 6. The project has not been approved.

In Southeast, Camarda's Stateline Retail Centre, a 183,000-square-foot big-box venture on
Route 6, a mile from the Connecticut border, is in flux because, although Camarda claims it complies with the town's zoning laws, officials are considering a zoning amendment that would effectively kill the project.

All in all, he said, his projects won't affect the county's landscape, and he has no development plans beyond the seven projects.

"Don't think these little footprints are going to forever change Putnam County," he said.