Luiz Aragon, development commissioner for New Rochelle, told the Westchester County Association’s (WCA) Third Annual Real Estate Summit on May 14 that there’s a big reason that developers have been attracted to his city.
“What we have to offer is certainty. I can guarantee a developer that if they come to New Rochelle with a project that fits the parameters that we’ve set, they will get site-plan approval not in six months, not in 10 years, but in 90 days.”
For those doubters in the audience at the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown, Aragon was quick to add, “Actually, our average has been 60 days from submission to approval. Actually, the taller the building, the faster it goes.”
Aragon was on a panel that reviewed what were classified as transformational projects in Westchester and the Hudson Valley. Mike Oates, president and CEO of the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp. (HVEDC), was its moderator.
Aragon told the 300 guests at the breakfast gathering that there are 11 active construction sites in New Rochelle, with 27 projects approved. And, he said, the planning board was expected to approve more at its May 28 meeting. Aragon said there are three major areas on which the city has been concentrating: the overlay zone downtown covering roughly 300 acres; Memorial Highway, which is going to be repurposed into a linear park; and Pratt Landing on the waterfront.
Memorial Highway is a spur off Interstate 95 at Exit 16. It was supposed to be a shortcut to the Cross County Parkway and Hutchinson River Parkway but was never completed. “That is a highway to absolutely nowhere,” Aragon said. “It dead-ends in a residential neighborhood and creates all kinds of problems.”
He explained that motorists wind up using local streets as shortcuts to reach the parkways and that turning it into a linear park will not only solve the traffic issue, but add green space and “virtually connect the poorest neighborhood in our city to the services of the downtown.”
William Mooney Jr., president and CEO of the WCA, introduced Joan McDonald, Westchester County’s director of operations, who said that development incentives offered by the county’s Industrial Development Agency (IDA), which she chairs, have helped bring about the current positive climate for development.
“We don’t compete with the municipality IDAs like New Rochelle, Yonkers and Peekskill,” she said. “But right now, for the first four months of 2019, we have given preliminary approvals for five major projects representing a total private investment of $1.76 billion. They’ll create 3,200 construction jobs and 2,100 residential units in the county.”
McDonald said the county is undertaking a housing needs assessment where every municipality’s current inventory and housing needs will be cataloged.
“We’ll be rolling that out in the next couple of months and we will be sitting down with developers, our not-for-profit entities and the municipalities throughout the county to get feedback and move forward.”
Guy Leibler, president of Simone Healthcare Development and a member of the transformational projects panel, reviewed the project at 104 Corporate Park Drive in Harrison where Simone is working with Montefiore and the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore to create a center devoted to pediatric and teen health.
“We will bring world-class medicine for pediatrics through teens into this building with a number of subspecialties,” he said. “This is also an opportunity for CHAM to extend its relationship and expertise in the county and extend and leverage its partnership with White Plains Hospital and Burke Rehabilitation Hospital, which are both members of the Montefiore family.”
Phil Royle, director of development and operations for Legoland New York, described the theme park being built in Goshen.
“We are moving 22 million cubic yards of earth. We have 521 acres of land. We’re building our theme park on 150 acres of land. To give you some comparison, Disney’s Magic Kingdom is 110 acres … so it is a little bigger,” he said.
Royle said things will change overnight in Orange County when the park opens, attracting 1.5 million to 2.5 million visitors a year. “We will employ over 1,300 team members at our park. We will have a 250-bedroom hotel,” he said. Royle said the park, which is set to open next year, will generate about $283 million in sales tax revenue for the county over 30 years.
Colleen O’Connor, director of leasing for the New York and Massachusetts markets of Biomed Realty, talked about the company’s Ardsley Park biomed project, which is to include a buildout of 100,000 square feet as laboratory and office space.
“Our goal is to build the project on a phased basis, starting with about 20,000 square feet with very flexible lease terms.”
Glenn Loomis, president of Health Quest Medical Practice, and Geoffrey Brackett, executive vice president of Marist College, briefed the gathering on the plan for a new medical college in Poughkeepsie. Loomis said that one reason Health Quest joined with Marist is that starting a school “will create a pipeline for the mid-Hudson Valley so that we can have and keep the physicians that we need in our area.”