March 2, 2013

Pleasantville Keeps Its Walking Shoes On

By Melanie Lefkowitz, The Wall Street Journal

Pleasantville Keeps Its Walking Shoes

Claudio Papapietro for The Wall Street Journal

The 12-year-old Jacob Burns Film Center.

The Westchester village of Pleasantville is a suburban community with a rural atmosphere where walking is a central fact of life.

With a compact area of 1.8 square miles, the pedestrian friendly area requires no school bus service, and students walk to and from school. The independently owned and eclectic shops in the quaint downtown are a steady draw for foot traffic.

"It's a town where people walk a lot," says Margaret Atkinson, a longtime resident and broker with Houlihan Lawrence. "There's an old-town feel…the old houses with big porches give it a real feel of Americana that has been lost in some of the newer communities."

Claudio Papapietro for The Wall Street Journal
A brook in Nannahagan Park in Pleasantville.

Pleasantville, with a population of roughly 7,000, is about 30 miles from Manhattan, with a Metro-North commute to Grand Central Terminal of about 50 minutes. Its downtown, consisting of a few blocks near Bedford Road, attracts residents not only of the village but of surrounding communities such as Chappaqua and Briarcliff Manor. It has a large, year-round farmers' market, as well as a popular summertime music festival that draws national acts to its three stages.

The downtown, which struggled with vacancies in years past, is thriving, thanks in part to the 12-year-old Jacob Burns Film Center on Manville Road, a nonprofit arts center whose offerings include independent films and educational programs. A variety of restaurants, as well as popular bakeries and one of Westchester's largest independent toy stores, are additional draws.

If You're Browsing for a Home in Pleasantville...

"It's almost like 'Cheers'—everybody knows everybody," says Bill Flooks, owner of the Beecher Flooks Funeral Home and president of the local chamber of commerce. "You can walk around town, stop in from merchant to merchant and say hello. You really get to know everybody because it is a small town."

Single-family houses in Pleasantville range from around $600,000 to $1.7 million, says Ms. Atkinson, with some condominiums available for roughly $350,000 for a one-bedroom to $500,000 for a three-bedroom unit.

There is also a selection of newer townhouses. Some modest development taking place in the area more recently tends to be on the far side from downtown.

The median sale price in Pleasantville in January was $506,250, a 16% rise from the previous January, according to a Houlihan Lawrence analysis of data from the Westcheter-Putnam multiple listing service.

Claudio Papapietro for The Wall Street Journal
Flour & Sun Bakery

In recent months, the village has received a proposal from Toll Brothers TOL -0.12% to build a 73-unit townhouse community on the site of an abandoned office park, as well as a request from Benchmark Senior Living to build an 87-unit assisted-living facility on land owned by the United Methodist Church. Both proposals would require zoning changes and are under review.

"It's certainly important to us to sustain a commercial base and a strong downtown," says Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer.

Yet he says he and others are committed to maintaining Pleasantville as a small, residential community. The village, he says, draws young families because of its small-town feel—as well as its proximity to New York City and cultural offerings.

"A big contingent have come from Brooklyn and they've brought lots of energy and a new vibe," Mr. Scherer says. "People have commented to me, and I think it's true, that Pleasantville is a kind of updated modernized version of the way the world used to be."

Parks: The 431-acre Graham Hills Park, run by the county, has hiking and mountain biking trails. Parks run by the village include Nannahagan Park, with a pond, walking trails, ball fields and playground equipment. The Pleasantville Pool has paid memberships available to residents.

Schools: The Pleasantville Union Free School District, with an enrollment of 1,800, has one elementary school, a middle and a high school.

According to state data, 98% of students in the district who entered high school in 2007 met or exceeded state standards for proficiency in English four years later, compared with 80% statewide. In math, 96% of the 2007 group met or exceeded proficiency standards in 2010-2011, compared with 81% statewide.

Dining: Pleasantville's lively restaurant scene is a draw for residents both from the village and surrounding areas, and dining options include the Iron Horse Grill, in the century-old train station building on Wheeler Avenue; the Mediterraneo Ristorante and Caffe, on Cooley Street; Bistro 146, a seafood restaurant on Bedford Road; and Michael's Tavern, also on Bedford, specializing in burgers.

Shopping: The Flour & Sun Bakery, on Washington Avenue, is a cupcake shop. The Try and Buy toy store is a popular, independently owned shop, also on Washington.

A year-round farmers' market, among the county's largest, is held on Saturdays during the winter. Mall shopping is available at the Westchester Mall in White Plains, around 20 minutes away.

A version of this article appeared March 2, 2013, on page A20 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Pleasantville Keeps Its Walking Shoes On.

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