Developers, Investors Advance New Projects In CBDs in Hudson Valley’s Major Cities
While the pandemic brought portions of the region’s economy to a halt in March 2020, the development activity in the Hudson Valley’s major cities went on a short pause, but picked up steam shortly thereafter.
So far in 2021, construction continues on major projects in White Plains, New Rochelle, Yonkers and elsewhere on many mixed-use developments, many of which feature high-rise rental housing.
As vaccinations continue and consumer confidence rises in the hope that the nation is getting a handle on the spread of the coronavirus, the news out of Westchester’s major cities continues to indicate both development activity and investment interest in urban central business districts is strong.
The following are some examples of the activity that is helping shape the residential and commercial real estate markets in the county’s major cities:
• In 2020, despite the pandemic, the Yonkers Industrial Development Agency reported it provided financial incentives to residential and commercial projects representing a total private investment of approximately $210 million. The developments are projected to create 450 new residential units, 129,000 square feet of commercial and industrial space and nearly 1,500 construction, permanent and part-time jobs.
Over the past two years, the Yonkers IDA has provided financial incentives to development projects representing a total private investment of approximately $1.1 billion. The developments are projected to create approximately 2,700 new residential units, 234,400 square feet of commercial and industrial space and approximately 3,450 in construction, permanent and part-time jobs.
“Despite the effects of a global pandemic, Yonkers pledged to move forward, and the results speak for themselves. We are not only ‘back to business’ but growing stronger and better than before,” said Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano who serves as Chairman of the IDA Board.
• Mayor Spano, in his “State of the City” address on March 25, noted that construction has commenced on the $150-million Lionsgate movie studio project at the iPark Hudson complex that when completed will feature a state-of-the art movie and television studio and multi-use retail component. He also hinted at another film project in the offing in the city, saying, “And folks, Yonkers will officially claim the title ‘Hollywood on the Hudson’ when news breaks of the arrival of another big-name film company to be announced soon. That’s all I can share for now…stay tuned!”
• Meanwhile, despite the restrictions from the pandemic, the Municipal Housing Authority for the City of Yonkers reported a very active 2020 with a total of 1,336 units of affordable housing renovated and 425 under construction and slated for completion in 2021.
“The past year has been unlike anything we have ever experienced in our lifetime. However, thanks to our dedicated and hard-working staff, we have continued to move forward in redeveloping and renovating more units of affordable housing while continuing to serve the needs of our many residents,” said Wilson Kimball, who was appointed president and CEO of MHACY in April 2020.
Among the many highlights of the year was the closing on financing for 178 Warburton at The Ridgeway, a new $56-million mixed-income residential complex of 81 apartment homes that are being developed by MHACY and The Community Builders, part of the $236-million transformation of the Cottage Gardens development. In addition, the $500-million Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) Program, which involves the conversion of its entire public housing portfolio, is nearing completion. The plan, launched in 2017, will include the renovation of more than 1,700 units across the city.
• The Westchester County Industrial Development Agency and the Local Development Corporation provided financial incentives and tax-exempt bond financing to a host of developments that represented approximately $370 million in private investment in the county in 2020, despite the COVID pandemic. Among the incentivized projects to be developed in cities in Westchester included the 144-unit Ebony Gardens in Mount Vernon and the re-development of the former YMCA building in downtown White Plains into 177 rental apartments.
• New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson is bullish on the fortunes of the Queen City going forward. In a recent blog post on his personal reflections after one year of the COVID pandemic, the mayor noted, “Downtown development, a primary focus of municipal policy-making for a generation, kept going strong throughout the pandemic and shows no sign of slowing down. The new federal Administration is likely to deliver a package of state and local relief, which will stabilize our finances. And through it all, New Rochelle continued addressing longer-term priorities like environmental sustainability, infrastructure investment, and public safety reform, areas where we are poised to make meaningful progress. Indeed, to borrow a term from Washington, we have an opportunity to ‘build back better,’ incorporating lessons from our COVID experience into everything from people-oriented design of streets and open spaces, to stronger collaboration between the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors, to enhanced standards for inclusive, equitable urban growth. As a whole, New Rochelle will be alright.”
• The mayor announced recently that with more than 1,200 affordable apartments constructed or approved as part of its overall downtown redevelopment, the City Council is now considering additional steps to further expand access to quality housing. The new measures under review would (1) establish a sliding-scale credit system for housing developers with the effect of boosting the quantity and/or accessibility of newly-built affordable units, (2) increase the developer fee for opting-out of affordable housing requirements, (3) eliminate the current policy that permits affordable units to be constructed off-site, and (4) expand the allowable use of the city’s Affordable Housing Fund to encompass down payment assistance for homeownership.
• RXR Realty, master developer of Downtown New Rochelle, made news earlier this year when it topped out One Clinton Park, a 28-story mixed-use tower currently under construction. One Clinton Park features 352 state-of-the-art, highly designed and amenitized apartments, with more than 13,000 square feet of retail space. The 433,000 square-foot development broke ground in 2020 and has moved along swiftly despite the ongoing pandemic.
• Editor’s Note: In White Plains, there has been a host of major project announcements, including a major development to be proposed at the Gateway II site in Downtown White Plans and a possible reimagination of the Galleria Mall. White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach discussed COVID’s impact on the city and new projects in the pipeline in this month’s “Five Questions With” feature on page 2 of the Cities supplement.