VERPLANCK – The former St. Patrick's School property is under town officials' review to offer art workshops, house studio space/residences for two artists and contain a gallery of works by an acclaimed New York City painter.
The one-acre property, which includes the faded-brick former school, is between 7th and 8th streets in this northern Westchester County hamlet and was bought for $255,000 in 2014 by Mikiko Ino, who has brought forth the arts proposal.
Her late husband Kikuo Saito's works have been part of permanent collections at New York City's Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and Whitney Museum of American Art.
"It’s a nice, beautiful space,” said Ino, who would live in a next-door house that was the rectory.
Depending on the town review process, the project could open next spring or summer. The plans for the 115 7th St. property, on a largely residential road, need Cortlandt Planning Board approval and will require a public hearing. The board meets again on Sept. 5.
Ino’s husband created art for some 50 years, but also taught in the city. Ino said offering art workshops in the former school building is important and honors his legacy. He died in 2016 at age 76.
The plan is to use the property's three existing buildings. The main one is the two-story former school, which, on the first floor, would include a permanent gallery for Saito's art, a small office, classroom space for people of varying ages to learn to do art, and a gallery with changing exhibits, said project engineer Jim Annicchiarico, of Cronin Engineering.
The second floor would have the two artists' spaces/residences, plus a large gallery space for events. An elevator would be installed, a code requirement given the artists-in-residence.
A smaller building would be largely for storage and a studio space.
The other building is the rectory that would be the house and is essentially set to be lived in.
St. Patrick's School was 100 years old when the pre-kindergarten-8th grade school closed in 1991 — a cost reduction at the time for the Archdiocese of New York. Student enrollment, at nearly 120 students in the early 1970s, was about 86 in its final year.
For the property's new proposed use, parking is still being determined. Annicchiarico told the Planning Board this month the property's typical use would be 10 spaces or perhaps 15, not the more than 30 that town code would normally call for.
"The reality of the daily use of the site is much less than that," he said.
Twice a year, there could be larger gallery events, he said, on Fridays or Saturdays, and added that he and others are working to get a solid number of what could be expected for those.
A number of those who come may be taking the train from New York City, so the owner is interested in seeing if they could be bused to the site to reduce need for parking, Annicchiarico said.
Parking possibilities include seeking town approval for some spaces along a guard-railed portion of 8th street and/or getting permission for some parking on Broadway, he said.
The property will also be spruced up, with plans to rid it of invasive plants that have grown wild on chain-link fencing. That fencing would be replaced with what Annicchiarico said would be nicer wrought-iron fence. New native plantings would go in to screen the property.
And the plan is to create a sculpture garden on the property.
Putting to different use a property that had a religious use or ties has been something of a trend in Westchester, albeit the new purposes have differed widely from what's proposed in Verplanck.
In Bedford Hills, the former Antioch Baptist Church is being converted into affordable housing. In White Plains, there's a mixed-use housing proposal for the former property sold by the Sisters of Divine Compassion, which closed Our Lady of Good Counsel High School there while an elementary school moved to Valhalla.