New Rochelle seeks proposals for coveted downtown fire station parcel

By Bill Heltzel

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New Rochelle Fire Department Station 1, as its name implies, is located centrally in the downtown, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage.

The advantage is that firefighters can respond quickly and efficiently to emergencies.

But the station takes up nearly three-fourths of an acre of land in a part of town the city is promoting as a desirable residential alternative to New York City. From a developer’s point-of-view, a two-story, 50-year-old fire station is a waste of valuable real estate.

Now New Rochelle officials are looking for a way to put the site to better use.  It has issued a request for proposals for a 28-story mixed-use building on the city-owned parcel.

This is the tricky part. The station at 45 Harrison St. must be demolished. But whoever wins development rights must retain and improve the firefighting services, either on site or elsewhere. At no time, can the fire service be interrupted.

The city will give preference to proposals that provide for a new fire station that includes about 40,000 square feet of indoor space and 20,000 square feet outdoors for training and parking.

Developers who want to relocate the fire station must find a place nearby, between North Avenue, Stephenson Boulevard, Main Street and Interstate 95.

Proposals that do not include a new fire station must demonstrate the benefits of the city relocating the station and must be worth at least $6.7 million, the appraised value of the Harrison Street property.

The fire station occupies 30,492 square feet on a parcel near Huguenot and Main streets and I-95. It was built in 1966 and includes a five-bay garage, kitchen, sleeping area, maintenance facility, administrative offices, emergency medical services offices and classrooms.

Nearby are New Roc City retail and entertainment complex, Monroe College facilities, Social Security Administration offices, a Radisson Hotel, Trump Plaza condominiums and New Rochelle Transportation Center.

Developers have the option of taking over Cedar Street, next to the site, adding about 36,000 square feet, for a total of 66,000 square feet.

The parcels are zoned for 24 stories, but developers can get approval for another four floors by providing benefits to the community, such as public space or paying into a community benefits fund.

Residential projects must include 10 percent of the space for affordable housing or pay into an affordable housing fund.

The winning proposal may include any combination of mixed uses that align with the city’s master plan, developed in 2015 by RDRXR, a joint venture of RXR Realty and Renaissance Downtowns.

New Rochelle hopes to attract $4 billion in investment downtown by transforming 279 acres around the transportation center.

The city is positioning itself as an ideal place for millennials, empty-nesters, artists and entrepreneurs to live and work, just a half-hour away from Grand Central Terminal on the Metro-North New Haven line.

The idea is to create more than 12 million square feet on new space, for retail, restaurants, offices, 6,300 residents and 1,200 hotel rooms.

The city has paved the way for quick development. It has rezoned the project area to accommodate higher-density development and a variety of uses. It has finished the costly, time-consuming State Environmental Quality Review Act evaluation for the entire area. It has fast-tracked the development approval process.

Several developments, ranging from six stories to 28 and encompassing 1,000 residential units are already underway.

City officials will host a tour of the fire station site on Jan. 25. Proposals must be submitted by March 10.

An evaluation committee will rank proposals: financial aspect, 30 percent; solution to the fire station, 30 percent; financial capacity, 20 percent; design concept, 10 percent; and completion schedule, 10 percent.

Depending on the quality of the proposals, a winner could be chosen in a day, Development Commissioner Luiz Aragon said, or in a couple of months.

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About the author

Bill Heltzel
Bill Heltzel has covered criminal justice, courts, government and sports – as a beat reporter and investigative reporter – for daily newspapers in Florida, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. He worked for Bloomberg LP in training and sales. He joined The Business Journal in 2016.

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