New Rochelle’s economy is really starting to take off, with two new private developments coming before the City Council this month, and several others at various points in the proposal/review/approval pipeline.
The projects presented at our last Council meeting are located slightly north of the train station, in an area that has suffered from underinvestment, but is ripe with opportunity because of proximity to transit.
The first, called the “Lombardi” would feature 48 apartments in a five story building with ground floor retail. Sited at the corner of North Avenue and Park Place, it would significantly improve the streetscape of this stretch of North Avenue and potentially catalyze additional nearby development. (The rendering to the upper right is preliminary, with architectural peer review still to come.) The second, proposed for Burling Lane, would contain 36 apartments in a four story structure. Each building would reserve 10% of the apartments at an affordable, workforce rent level, with 90% of the units renting at market rate. And each building would pay full property taxes.
Housing is sometimes controversial, but I believe strongly that residential density is at the core of a healthy, vibrant, livable downtown. While we certainly must (and are) pursuing a balanced mix of uses that also includes retail, office, and commercial activities, transit-oriented housing is something to be embraced, especially when it generates tax revenue exceeding service costs.
These projects came before the City Council because they require minor zoning changes, but, otherwise, the government’s role is limited. And that’s good news, because the goal of our various public planning and development initiatives is to eventually create a self-sustaining, positive investment climate that is less dependent on government inducements.
Why is development in New Rochelle starting to heat up? I see three factors: (1) a stronger national economy that helps everyone; (2) our own local leadership and planning initiatives, especially the new master development agreement with RDRXR that has created a sense of momentum and excitement; and (3) New Rochelle’s intrinsic assets, including unparalleled location and human diversity. It really takes all three factors working in concert to make things happen.
To be clear, these two projects are pretty small. The larger-scale, transformative vision of the RDRXR proposal will require a lot more heavy lifting. But the economic stars are finally aligning, and we should work our hardest to take full advantage of this moment, before the window of opportunity closes.