Economic Development Update

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.

Lecount Square

Lecount Square

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.

Echo Bay Timetable Revised

Council Extends Memorandum of Understanding by One Year

The City Council has voted six-to-one to extend our agreement with Forest City Residential for the redevelopment of the Echo Bay waterfront. Performance deadlines in our Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) were pushed back one year, but no other material changes were made. The Council took this action in recognition that current economic circumstances are not conducive to major development, but with the hope and expectation that Forest City will be able to proceed as the economy improves. The next major procedural step will be preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will rigorously examine project costs and benefits, and which must precede any final approvals.

As a reminder, the Echo Bay project is proposed to be a roughly twenty-six acre mixed-use development, featuring six acres of parkland, a continuous public waterfront promenade, a new community center, and moderately-scaled housing and shops. It would be sited on East Main Street, in an area that is presently heavily contaminated and occupied principally by abandoned or industrial uses.

Development Update

Progress On Lecount Square And Echo Bay

Download the “Findings Statement” for Lecount Square.

Lecount Square: The City Council has completed the lengthy environmental review for the Lecount Square project and issued a “findings statement” which authorizes the development to proceed. Lecount Square includes roughly one million square feet of office, hotel, retail, residential, and restaurant space, and is projected to generate substantial financial and job creation benefits for our community. The next procedural step is review and approval of a site plan by the Planning Board. The full text of the “findings statement” is available for download.

Echo Bay: The City and Forest City Residential, the designated developer for the Echo Bay waterfront, have reaffirmed our development partnership and confidence in the future of Echo Bay, despite the difficult economic climate. Our agreement extends for one year the window for producing a Draft Environmental Impact Statement and recommits Forest City to cover the City’s expenses through this process. At a time when many projects throughout the nation and region are being cancelled, this agreement is a positive sign for Echo Bay.

Approval For Key Documents Related to Echo Bay Waterfront

Council Concludes Environmental Review for New City Yard and Adopts Scoping Measure for Echo Bay Project

Two important hurdles related to the Echo Bay waterfront were cleared by the City Council.

Download the City Yard Findings Statement.

Download the Echo Bay Scoping Document.

First, we completed the environmental review for the proposed City Yard on Beechwood Avenue by approving a “findings statement” that deems the new site appropriate and describes mitigation measures for its impacts. Relocation of the current City Yard on East Main Street is necessary in order to modernize and consolidate our aging public works infrastructure and to open the six-acre parcel to appropriate waterfront redevelopment. It is important to note that some issues raised by the public about the new City Yard will be addressed in the upcoming design phase for the facility.

Second, we adopted a “scoping document” that launches the environmental review for the Echo Bay waterfront itself. The purpose of a scoping document is to identify the various issues, concerns, benefits, and costs that must be thoroughly assessed prior to the approval of major projects. The environmental review for Echo Bay is expected to take approximately eighteen months. There will continue to be formal and informal opportunities for public comment during this period.

Council Approves Development Agreement For Echo Bay Waterfront

Launches Environmental Review of Project

On Tuesday, New Rochelle took a giant step toward the redevelopment of the Echo Bay waterfront by approving a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) with Forest City Residential. Among other things, this agreement lays out the project scope and features, establishes responsibilities and benchmarks for the City and the developer, and creates a framework for future financial transactions. The full text of the MOU is available for download.

Download the full text of the Echo Bay MOU.

Link to the Journal-News editorial on Echo Bay.

The City also voted to launch a detailed environmental review of the project, a process that will take approximately 18 months and will include ample opportunities for public review and comment.

It is especially encouraging that the MOU was adopted by a bipartisan six-to-one super-majority of the City Council, signaling that support for this essential project transcends political divisions.

Finally, the Journal-News wrote an outstanding editorial, lauding the great benefits of the Echo Bay initiative and supporting our efforts to reclaim the waterfront for the public’s use and enjoyment.