White Plains Plaza owner Ivy Realty plans to renovate this courtyard off Main Street as part of its $30 million investment in property improvements.
In the first 18 months that Greenwich-based Ivy Realty has controlled the 700,000-square-foot White Plains Plaza mixed-use complex, the real estate firm has committed to $30 million in upgrades to the two buildings that comprise an entire block of the city’s central business district.
That investment has helped boost leasing at the retail and office complex, which accounted for about a quarter of all leasing activity in the White Plains Central Business District’s Class A office market since Ivy purchased the building in a distressed sale in June 2015.
Newmark Grubb Knight Frank (NGKF), the leasing agent for White Plains Plaza, has completed 14 leases for the property under Ivy’s ownership, totaling 150,000 square feet. The building was about 65 percent occupied when Ivy purchased it and now stands at about 75 percent, according to Eric Levy, vice president of asset management for Ivy Realty.
White Plains Plaza is made up of two 15-story buildings at 1 N. Broadway and 445 Hamilton Ave. adjoined by a six-level parking garage. The buildings feature a mix of retail on its lower levels and professional office space above, including a Panera Bread, Webster Bank branch and a Crunch Fitness center.
“These buildings before we bought them had kind of been stuck in neutral,” Levy said. “From a leasing perspective, there was not a lot of activity going on. We were able to come in with a defined strategy and a pool of money to invest back into the building to bring them up to a Class A product.”
Levy oversees the renovations from his office in 1 N. Broadway. The first phase includes improvements to the 1,000-space parking garage between the buildings with new interior ramps, LED fixtures, an updated payment and operating system, new elevators and signage. Furniture arrived last week to complete renovations on a modernized café at the 445 Hamilton building, referred to as the North Tower, that will also include an updated conference center. Both buildings have received cosmetic upgrades to common areas and, at 445 Hamilton, an updated lobby. The pavilion at the entrance to 1 N. Broadway will be improved by a renovated courtyard with a living wall of plants and flowers.
“I think the advantage that we have, besides location, is with all the improvements going on, we are going to provide a modern, fresher product,” Levy said.
Both the lobbies and the new conference center will offer wireless internet.
“Everybody likes to have the amenities. You want to have a cafeteria, a fitness center, access to a train,” said Larry Ruggieri, senior managing director at NGFK and an exclusive leasing agent for White Plains Plaza. “We have on-site management and plenty of food choices all within a half a block.”
Ruggieri, along with NGKF Executive Managing Director Glenn Walsh and associate Ross Armstrong, has led the leasing effort for the building.
With its central location in White Plains, the building has been a draw for law firms. That trend has continued with new leasing since Ivy Realty took over the property.
Keane & Beane PC renewed a 26,356 square foot lease at 445 Hamilton Ave this year. Cuddy & Feder LLP also recommitted to its 26,356-square-footspace in the same building. At 1 N. Broadway, Kurzman Eisenberg Corbin & Lever LLP signed on for a lease renewal and expansion for 24,241 square feet.
The complex also has attracted tenants from other industries in the last year. Little Big Brands, an advertising and marketing firm, signed on for a 8,289-square-foot space at 1 N. Broadway. The pharmaceutical company RestorixHealth uprooted from Tarrytown to lease 13,000 square feet at 445 Hamilton.
Levy said he expects to continue to see an increase in leasing once the renovation of the two buildings is complete.
“What really helped these buildings is a stability in ownership,” he said. “That oftentimes is something you don’t hear much about, but it has a lot to do with the activity and velocity a property will lease and transact.”
The ongoing construction also has helped brokers to market the space as essentially new.
“You park in a brand new parking lot, you enter into a new lobby, a new common area and then into a new space,” Ruggieri said. “There’s not too many buildings doing the level of renovation you see here.”
Ivy Realty purchased the two White Plains Plaza buildings in a distressed sale last year for approximately $80 million, according to county property records. Before the sale, a Texas-based loan servicer took over the property after its previous owner, Westport-based Heyman Properties LLC, defaulted on a mortgage loan, the Business Journal reported in 2015. Heyman in 2005 bought the office complex for $60 million from Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.
Ivy Realty also owns the 275,000- square-foot Walmart building at 275 Main St.. That building shares the parking garage with White Plains Plaza and also includes a Dunkin’ Donuts and Burlington Coat Factory.
Aside from the 275 Main St. building, Ivy Realty had sold off most of its Westchester portfolio before purchasing the White Plains Plaza buildings. More than a decade ago, the real estate company sold a series of Westchester office properties: a 64,000-square-foot building at 33 W. Main St. in Elmsford; a 117,000-square-foot office building at 2975 Westchester Ave. in Purchase; a 110,000-square-foot building on Theodore Fremd Ave. in Rye; an 85,000-square-foot office building at 244 Westchester Ave. in White Plains and a 143,000-square-foot office building at 399 Knollwood Road in the town of Greenburgh.
Asked about Ivy Realty’s decision to buy White Plains Plaza, Levy referred questions to Ivy co-founder and co-CEO Anthony P. DiTommaso Jr. DiTommaso Jr. could not be reached by the Business Journal at press time.
Following the purchase last year, DiTommaso Jr. told the real estate publication GlobeSt.com that he was impressed with the new restaurants, hotels, apartments and walkability in White Plains. “It’s come a long way in 10 or 11 years,” he said.
The company’s portfolio includes office buildings on Long Island and in Queens, Florida, Maryland and Massachusetts. Ivy Realty has offices in Greenwich and Montvale, New Jersey.
Levy said following the pavilion project, construction likely will continue with each new lease.