Status Report on Four Key Sites
Fostering well-planned economic development has been among New Rochelle’s chief priorities. While we have enjoyed considerable success during the past decade, the sluggish national economy has impacted the pace of additional progress and requires us to be flexible in our approach to potential development sites. Following are updates on the status of four ongoing projects:
Echo Bay Waterfront
The City aims to create an exciting mixed-use shoreline with full public access to Long Island Sound, open space, and appropriately-scaled housing and shops. The site is currently occupied by a variety of industrial and municipal uses and affords no access whatsoever to the water. New Rochelle has selected Forest City Residential as Echo Bay’s master developer and has worked with Forest City to define specific project parameters. Forest City’s original conception, however, has proven difficult to execute in this economic climate. Therefore, we have asked their team to reevaluate the content and phasing of their plan. I am open-minded about changes, but I am not prepared to compromise our fundamental goals. We expect to review fresh alternatives in the early fall.
At the same time, the City is making efforts to address some of the barriers that could impede waterfront renewal. For example, the Armory property on East Main Street was transmitted to the City from the State more than a decade ago with several deed restrictions that compromise our local planning authority. To advance the principle of Home Rule, I recently asked the State Legislature to rescind these restrictions. Unfortunately, the challenges surrounding the State budget made it impossible for the Legislature to act on this request in the current session, but the subject will be revisited in the future. Home Rule with respect to the Armory would not prejudge the future use of the site or the preservation of the building on it — these decisions would be made independently and in the context of full public review. The interim goal is simply to empower the people of New Rochelle to make their own choices, without interference from unelected State administrators.
This proposed downtown project would include approximately one million square feet of new commercial construction, divided among retail, office, hotel and residential uses. Cappelli Enterprises, the developer, has purchased or secured options for all properties on the site, except for the United States Post Office at the corner or North Avenue and Huguenot Street. In recognition of the weak economy, the City Council has demonstrated patience by extending project deadlines. In general, I endorse this approach, but we should also critically examine all projects to ensure that they have a realistic chance of moving forward. Seeking to balance these considerations, the Council approved a six-month extension for Lecount Square in June, but added new performance benchmarks and protections. Specifically, we require by July 31st the physical rehabilitation of a corner property that has fallen into disrepair, and we require by December 31st written evidence of progress toward the sale of the Post Office. Unless both of these conditions are met, our present agreement with Cappelli Enterprises will terminate. We also included protections for the City against potential legal action. These provisions will enhance the possibility of progress on the site, while ensuring that we part on amicable terms if the project does not proceed.
New Roc City
In the context of settling a private legal dispute, Entertainment Properties Trust (EPT) has assumed full ownership and management responsibility for New Roc City. (Cappelli Enterprises had previously managed and had a minority ownership stake in the Center. Cappelli continues to own and manage the Marriott Residence Inn and the Lofts at New Roc.) EPT is a large national entity with extensive experience in both entertainment and retail. We have been assured that EPT is actively exploring retail possibilities at New Roc City, including department stores, and the City will continue to push vigorously for an expanded retail presence. I expect the Center’s future to become clearer later this year, after EPT has had an opportunity to thoroughly evaluate options.
Main Street Core
The City has received expressions of interest from several development teams for the Church-Division and Prospect lots, just south of Main Street and dubbed “Main Street Core” in our recent issuance of a Request for Qualifications. In the weeks ahead, the Council and our staff will select a partner that can best realize the positive potential of these sites.