The Port Chester village board says the sale of the former United Hospital site may be “reasonably imminent,” or at least it better be.
The village’s Board of Trustees gave an update on the sale process for the blighted property at its Aug. 6 meeting. Starwood Capital Group received a zoning change last spring that cleared the way for a $450 million project that promised to bring new residents, workers and shoppers to the abandoned hospital site on Boston Post Road. But those plans have been on hold. The Greenwich, Connecticut-based company told the village board last September that it will instead sell the property.
Trustee Frank Ferrara, who is also chairman of the Port Chester Industrial Development Agency (IDA), said he spoke with a Starwood representative that morning who said an agreement for the sale of the property is “reasonably imminent within the next few weeks.”
“The good news is that the developer that they are talking to is an experienced developer,” Ferrara added. “But more than that … he said it’s someone that has an intimate familiarity with the project as proposed and passed by the board and the zoning text change. He feels that there will be a good outcome in a relatively short basis.”
Starwood declined to comment for this article. The company had proposed to turn the 15-acre site at 406 Boston Post Road into a neighborhood with a mix of residential, commercial and office uses. The proposal included a 135-room hotel, 217,000 square feet of medical office space, 90,000 square feet for retail or small restaurants, 500 residential units targeting young professionals, 230 age-restricted apartment units for people 55 and over and about an acre of open public space.
It’s been more than a year since the zoning on the former hospital site was changed to allow for such ambitions. Port Chester trustees expressed frustration with the delay at their last meeting.
“Can we get something done to kick them? Motivate them?” Trustee Gregory K. Adams said to start the board’s discussion. “I feel that the people of Port Chester deserve better.”
Adams described the site as an eyesore and referenced the death of a 14-year-old resident last June after he fell through the roof of the vacant hospital building.
“We’ve got to get something done,” Adams said. “There’s been a tragedy there, it’s been a year since there’s been a tragedy there, and we need to kick this and get it going.”
Ferrara said Starwood received three bidders for the property this spring. The company had reached an agreement with the highest bidder, but the deal was called off during a due diligence period, according to Ferrara.
He said the potential buyer approached the village during the due diligence process and asked about pursuing a different vision from what the board had approved last year. When the village told the company that process could take between 18 months and two years, Ferrara explained, the firm backed out of the deal.
Negotiations with the second highest bidder started this summer, according to Ferrara.
“Let’s see what comes by the end of the month, into Labor Day,” he said.
Mayor Richard A. Falanka said the “hourglass is almost empty, as far as this village is concerned.”
If there’s not movement on a deal soon, Falanka said, “we’ll then deal with it again with us as a board to see what action we will take.”
Adams suggested the board consider a law or some other measure that would revoke zoning approvals if construction does not start within a year. Village attorney Anthony M. Cerreto said he would look into it and report back to the board.
Efforts to bring new development to the property have already stretched more than a decade. United Hospital closed in 2005. Starwood purchased the property a year later for $28 million.
Starwood was expected to seek a $60 million PILOT agreement over 20 years from the village IDA. If developed as initially proposed, the project could create 2,800 jobs, by Starwood’s previous estimates.
The review process for the most recent proposal started in 2015, though other proposals had started and stopped in the years before that. The board called their vote approving the zoning last March a historic night for the village.
“If this was your backyard,” Adams said Monday night, “how would you feel about it?”