Long Island Residential Developer Acquires French-American School Site for $16.5 Million

Long Island Residential Developer Acquires French-American School Site for $16.5 Million
A rendering of the French-American School that was to be developed at the former Ridgeway Country Club property in White Plains.

WHITE PLAINS—The more than decade-long saga of the French-American School project in White Plains has come to an end with the sale of the 130-acre parcel to Long Island-based residential development firm The Farrell Building Company.

Joseph Farrell, owner of The Farrell Building Co., which is based in Bridgehampton, NY, told Real Estate In-Depth that the firm purchased the property for $16.5 million. The deal closed on Nov. 29.

The French-American School released a statement on Nov. 30 announcing the sale of the former Ridgeway Country Club property in the Gedney Farms section of White Plains, thus ending an 11-year quest to consolidate its three existing campuses to the site.

The sale includes four parcels that comprised the former Ridgeway Country Club that FASNY purchased in December 2010: Parcel A, that in November 2017 was approved by the City of White Plains for the construction of its Secondary School (grades 6-12) consisting of 27.7 acres between Ridgeway, Hathaway Lane, and Gedney Esplanade; Parcel B, 14 acres between Gedney Esplanade and Heatherbloom Road; Parcel C, 15.6 acres between Heatherbloom and Bryant Avenue; and Parcel D, 72.3 acres between Hathaway, Ridgeway, Bryant and North Street.

The property is zoned R1-30 allowing single-family residential lots of 30,000 square feet.

FASNY purchased the former Ridgeway County Club property in December 2010 for $11 million and proposed the property as the location for a proposed new school campus. Following a protracted approval process and ensuing legal battle with neighborhood group the Gedney Association, FASNY entered a stipulation of settlement with the city in 2016 and in 2017 ultimately obtained a site plan and special use permit for a reduced project for its Secondary School (grades 6-12) on Parcel A.

FASNY made key revisions to its original plan to secure site plan approval from the White Plains Common Council that included keeping Hathaway Lane open, the elimination of the Lower School (nursery through fifth grade) from the project, which reduced the student population at the property by 33% from 950 to 640. The revised plan also reduces the total building square footage from 243,000 square feet to 158,000 square feet. The plan as originally proposed was estimated to be valued at $60 million.

In 2019 FASNY listed Parcels B, C and D for sale. FASNY said in its statement that over the course of the last couple of years, the space requirements and planning needs of the school evolved and shifted, leading to the conclusion that selling the entire property was in the school’s best future interests.

FASNY offered its sincere, heartfelt thanks for the extensive support it received for its plan throughout the approval process from individuals and organizations across White Plains and the greater community.

The group specifically thanked White Plains Mayor Tom Roach and the members of the White Plains Common Council who voted to approve the school’s plan, as well as the city corporation counsel and department commissioners and staff; the leaders and supporters of White Plains Neighbors ACT; the coalition of White Plains religious leaders; local and regional environmental organizations; the Business Council of Westchester, the Westchester County Association and local businesses; as well as those who signed petitions, wrote letters and spoke at public hearings in favor of the school plan.

Founded in 1980 as a one-classroom preschool, FASNY has evolved to become an international and bilingual N-12-day school educating more than 720 students on three campuses in Mamaroneck and Larchmont. It is the only school in the New York metropolitan area accredited to offer both the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma and the French baccalaureate. All students also graduate with a New York State high school diploma.

Farrell Building Co., widely known for developing luxury single-family homes on Long Island and in the Palm Beach, FL area, announced in October 2019 it had entered the Hudson Valley with several new projects. The White Plains project will be its first in Westchester County.

Farrell Building Company announced plans to develop new luxury rental properties in Newburgh, Middletown and New Windsor, in Orange County, as well as in Fishkill, Beacon, and Wappingers in Dutchess County. Its project in Middletown on East Main Street is currently under construction on former farm land leading into the City of Middletown.

Farrell in a phone interview with Real Estate In-Depth said that he plans to build luxury single-family homes at the property, with most priced in the $1.8-million to $3-million range. He did not divulge how many units his firm plans to develop there and expects to meet with city officials soon and then file plans for the project.

“I think there is a huge need for empty nesters who want to scale down from their big houses in Scarsdale and surrounding areas,” he said. The firm intends to build a “beautiful clubhouse” and create “a great, great, really high-end neighborhood.”

“Westchester is a beautiful place. I think we are at a moment in time that we have never seen before where all of the housing has been purchased in the surrounding area of New York City and I believe it is an unbelievable opportunity… He added that most of the existing product that is for sale in Westchester has to be renovated, which will make his new high-end product attractive.

Farrell said that the firm would not be looking for any zoning variances and that the plan’s scope would be as of right and conform with its current zoning limitations.

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