Developer proposes residential housing, assisted living at Good Counsel campus

By Ryan Deffenbaugh

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A Manhattan commercial real estate company and owner of Westchester office buildings plans a  development that would bring apartment dwellers, resident law school students and seniors in assisted living to the former Good Counsel campus on North Broadway in White Plains.

The 16-acre property adjoining the Pace University law school was purchased by an entity of George Comfort & Sons Inc.  in late November for $16.3 million. For 125 years, the campus was used by a teaching order of Roman Catholic nuns, Sisters of the Divine Compassion, whose announced plans in 2014 to market the North Broadway property and close two parochial schools on the historic site met with protest from parents and alumni.

After efforts to find another location for the school failed, the all-girls Academy of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School closed in June 2015. Good Counsel Academy Elementary relocated a year ago from the North Broadway campus to a former Roman Catholic school building in Valhalla.

Now WP Development NB, LLC — a group of investors led by Manhattan-based George Comfort & Sons — has proposed to turn the campus into a residential development with a mix of family, senior and dorm-style housing.

“We saw it was a beautiful, wide-open property in the center of White Plains,” said Peter S. Duncan, president and CEO of George Comfort & Sons Inc. “We felt we could do a potential development that would be complementary to what is there now and maintain the open space, which is important for the city.”

Primarily investing in and managing Manhattan office buildings, Duncan’s company also owns and operates The Centre at Purchase, a 676,000-square-foot office park on Manhattanville Road, in a joint venture with O’Connor Capital Partners, and 900 King St., a 215,000-square-foot office property in Rye Brook. Across the Connecticut border in Stamford, the company owns the 573,000-square-foot High Point Park and Shippan Landing, a 780,000-square-foot office complex formerly called Harbor Plaza.

Perkins Eastman, an international firm with offices in Manhattan and Stamford, is the architect for the White Plains project.

The developer in July applied to the White Plains Common Council for a zoning change required for the redevelopment. The plan calls for 400 rental housing units in two 10-story buildings, 66 units of graduate student housing for the neighboring Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University and a 125-bed assisted living facility with a care unit for residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

The rental units would be on the rear side of the campus, near where the property backs up to a strip of parking owned by Pace law school. The developer would set aside 10 percent of the units for affordable housing.

To be built at the center of the campus, the assisted living and memory care facility would contain 80 beds for assisted living and 45 for memory care. The facility would be operated by Sunrise Senior Living, a Virginia-based company that operates more than 300 assisted living facilities in North America and the United Kingdom. The company manages Sunrise at Crestwood in Yonkers and Sunrise at Fleetwood in Mount Vernon.

Graduate and professional students would be housed in a four-story, 89,250- square foot- building on the northern end of the property adjacent to the recently renamed Pace law school. The suite-style housing would hold up to 150 beds.

In a letter to the White Plains Common Council, Dean David Yassky at the Pace law school expressed support for the project, saying the housing would make the school “more attractive by providing essentially on-site housing location for our students and their families, eliminating the need for students to find alternative housing locations on their own.”

Pace has no operational involvement in the development. If the project is approved, the student housing would be run by a third party.

Duncan said he understands the public’s interest in maintaining open green space on the site. The property includes about 2.7 acres of green space off North Broadway, which would be preserved under the developer’s plan. About 56 percent of the property would be green space.

Two historic buildings on the property — the Sisters of Divine Compassion chapel and the Mapleton House, now used as an administrative office — would be maintained. The Mapleton house would be moved to the opposite or north side of the chapel to make way for the assisted living facility.

Duncan said with the mix of multifamily housing, assisted living and student housing, the development could appeal to a wide range of groups.

“The city of White Plains is a very vibrant place, you can get to New York City rapidly on an express train, so that will appeal to a lot of different groups, including millennials” Duncan said. “And we like what we see with some of the other development, and White Plains in general right now seems to be really pushing a move forward.”

The project is still in the early stages of review by city officials. Common Council members have not discussed or voted on the zoning amendment that is needed before the developer can submit a site plan.

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About the author

Ryan Deffenbaugh covers energy, education, food and beverage and the Sound Shore for the Westchester County Business Journal. He previously worked for Westchester Magazine and The Citizen daily newspaper (Auburn, N.Y.). He started with the Westchester County Business Journal in March 2016.

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