Since unveiling its plans to redevelop 274 acres of downtown as mixed-use space to the New Rochelle City Council, RDRXR at New Rochelle LLC, — comprised of two Long Island-based companies, RXR Realty LLC and Renaissance Downtowns — has heard residents, business owners and city officials support the downtown revitalization, while others have voiced concern over such an ambitious undertaking, citing concerns over possible displacement of residents and businesses, increased cost of living and overall viability and cost of the project.
The transit-oriented plan would add new commercial, retail, residential, educational, cultural, health care and entertainment space into the downtown sector, which officials and developers hope will bring in tax revenues and create jobs in the Queen City of the Sound.
Iona College President Joseph E. Nyre voiced support for the plan during the council’s Oct. 13 public hearing, and said the college has been trying to spur economic development along North Avenue in New Rochelle.
“We are very impressed with the plans and with the vision,” Nyre said. “We know that these things will take time and we know there will be opposition and we know the city council, in their wisdom, will help overcome the opposition and help ensure a stronger, better New Rochelle.”
City resident Denise Ward called the idea of TOD in New Rochelle “laughable,” and told the council it was “disconcerting that it is your vision that this municipality should be like Chelsea in New York City or downtown Brooklyn.”
“Ask yourself if you can live here without a car, because those millennials won’t. They can’t,” she said. “My millennial can’t. Her friends can’t. They complain constantly how miserable it is to get around this city and the other municipalities around this town without a car.”
The city council, the lead agency for the project, accepted RDRXR’s final generic environmental impact statement on Nov. 10, and published the report for public review on Nov. 18. The council is scheduled to vote in its Dec. 8 meeting to adopt an ordinance creating the Downtown Overlay Zone, a collection of six districts branching out from the city’s transit center: Downtown Core District, Downtown District, Gateway Transition District, River Street Commercial District, Wellness District and North of Lincoln District.
In total, the six districts would see 990,000 square feet of new retail; 115,000 square feet of new restaurant space; 1.8 million square feet of non-medical office space; 420,000 square feet of medical space; 5,500 residential units; 500 new hotel rooms; 1,500 student housing beds; 640,000 square feet of adult care space; 375 independent units and 775,000 square feet of new institutional space.
Construction, which is expected to last 10 years, is planned to begin anywhere from mid-2016 to late 2017, depending on market conditions. Officials estimated that more than 10,000 jobs would be created during the construction period.
“By placing density around the existing centers of commerce and transit infrastructure, it will be promoting a sustainable downtown and community,” officials wrote in the generic environmental impact statement.
In its findings statement, the city estimated the redevelopment project would bring in more than $65.7 million in annual property tax revenues and more than $43 million in projected sales tax revenue. Of the $6.7 million in tax revenue, more than $11.8 would be allocated to New Rochelle; $10.4 million would be distributed to the county; another $1 million would be distributed to both the city library and the Business Improvement District, a nonprofit representing more than 800 city businesses and property owners.
Ephraim Rabin, a New Rochelle resident and the CEO of Parchem Fine & Specialty Chemicals at 415 Huguenot St., said his employees have an “enormous” parking problem, and hoped that shared parking expansions proposed in the plan would remedy that issue. He also hoped for more national retailers to come into the city, which he felt would boost the local economy.
“I feel being in downtown New Rochelle as the gateway there are a lot of opportunities and improvements that need to be done,” Rabin said before the city council in October.
“The stores downtown are too fragmented. We need big box. We need commercial stores.”
The Downtown Core and Downtown District sections, the closest in proximity to the city’s train station, would see 560,000 square feet of retail space, though the allotment of large and small businesses has not yet been provided.
Officials from RDRXR, who could not be reached for comment at press time, have previously said that residential development in the plan would be geared toward “recent college graduates, young professionals and empty nesters.” RDRXR has development rights to city-owned property, but officials do not expect to displace any current residents or private businesses.
In its plans, RDRXR said the Downtown Core, bounded by Main Street, North Avenue, Division Street and Huguenot Street would be permitted to have buildings up to 48 stories; the Downtown District, along the Huguenot and Main Street corridors, would allow for 12- to 28-story buildings geared toward national retailers; The Gateway Transition Area, to the west of the Downtown District, could have up to 12-story buildings geared toward artisan workshops.
The River Street Commercial District and the Wellness District would have buildings between two and five stories, but permitted for up to 12 stories that would feature medical office space due to its proximity to Montefiore Hospital; and the North of Lincoln District would allow for buildings between two and four stories, and would encourage restaurants and co-working space for freelancers in the areas around the city courthouse, police station and City Hall.
RDRXR entered into a master development agreement in December and presented its recommended action plan to the city council in August. A draft environmental impact statement was accepted by the council on Sept. 24 before a public hearing was held Oct. 13; the final generic environmental impact statement was accepted by the council on Nov. 10 before a public hearing was held Nov. 24.
Mark Jerome, executive vice president of Monroe College, said he believes the plan is a winner.
“I listened to the proposal on the zoning. I listened to it with a skeptical ear,” he said. “And after waiting a long time, I truly believe this is the best proposal the city has seen in a long time.”