In what developer Martin Ginsburg described as a “legacy project,” his firm announced on Wednesday that it will lead a major redevelopment of two of downtown White Plains most prominent office buildings.
The Valhalla developer’s company, Ginsburg Development Cos., said that it has teamed with Robert Martin Co. on an $83 million deal to acquire Westchester Financial Center, two office buildings comprising about 570,000 square feet on Main Street and Martine Avenue.
Ginsburg said he will use the properties, along with an apartment building on the same block he bought last year, to create a new “City Square” with apartments, green space, restaurants, retail and renovated offices near the city’s train station.
“This offers a tremendous opportunity,” Ginsburg told the Business Journal in a phone interview following the company’s announcement. “This is the key gateway location to White Plains.”
The deal includes 50 Main St., a 15-story, 309,000-square-foot office tower and 1-11 Martine Ave., a 14-story, 262,000-square-foot office building. Both were previously owned and operated by Mack-Cali Realty Corp.
The two buildings share a block with a 124-unit apartment building at 34 S. Lexington Ave., which Ginsburg bought for $35 million last year.
The three buildings are bordered by Main Street, Martine Avenue, Bank Street and South Lexington Avenue. Ginsburg’s development team plans to take advantage of that full block to create the City Square concept.
“What we’re talking about is creating a much more diverse, today type development,” Ginsburg said. “So combining apartments, living and working in the same environment and creating pedestrian-friendly streets in the heart of the downtown.”
Under the plans disclosed by Ginsburg, 1-11 Martine Ave. would be converted into a mix of luxury residential apartments and office space, each with separate lobbies and elevator banks.
The offices at 50 Main St. will remain, but the building will be renovated with an amenity floor having a fitness center, yoga studio, game room, lounge and business center. The building would also add indoor and outdoor dining. Its lobby would be completely renovated and extended, adding art and sculpture displays, according to Ginsburg.
All three buildings would be linked by a 2-acre central court with a quarter-mile “walk-around” guiding pedestrians through landscaped areas, a water fountain, sculptures and an outdoor lounge and sun deck.
“We have an internal central park that really is a unique asset,” Ginsburg said. “We are going to be redoing that and making it really a major amenity.”
The three buildings share a block adjacent to the White Plains Metro-North train station, an area the city is targeting for mixed-use development as part of a vision for a transit district it unveiled in late 2016. The train station itself is undergoing a $94 million renovation expected to take three years.
The three-building Westchester Financial Center complex was built in the mid-1980s by Robert Martin Co. The company sold the buildings in 1997 to Cali Realty Corp. as part of a $440 million deal in which Cali took over 65 properties from Robert Martin totaling almost 5 million square feet. Cali Realty Corp. became Mack-Cali a year later though a billion-dollar merger with fellow New Jersey firm Mack Co.
The 1-11 Martine Ave. building originally included five condominium floors owned by Pace University it used for its Lubin Graduate School. Pace sold its part of the property to Mack-Cali in 2016 for $10.75 million.
Ginsburg said plans are still being finalized, so exact details on the number of apartments and square footage for retail and office space aren’t set just yet. Neither is an exact timeline for its review and construction, but Ginsburg said his hope is “as soon as possible.”
Some work, such as updates to the office portion of the property, the company can start on whenever plans are in place. The larger retail and residential conversion work will require city review.
The development team has already met with city officials for preliminary discussions of the project, but has not submitted any official plans, a city spokesperson said. The properties are in a district already zoned to allow residential and commercial uses, so city officials said the project would only require site plan approval from the Common Council.
Mayor Thomas Roach provided a quote in support of the project through a press release distributed by Ginsburg Development.
“Projects such as City Square align with the goals of the White Plains Transit District Strategic Plan,” the mayor said, “including activating the street with retail and restaurants, new residential units, improved pedestrian experience, placemaking and proximity to mass transit.”
Ginsburg said he believes he and the city are “playing the same tune” with a focus on bringing life to the site and downtown.
“We have what is potentially going to be a for real mix of live and work with the iconic offices and bringing everything 100 percent up to date with amenities, restaurants, streetscaping,” Ginsburg said. “All the goodies that are on everybody’s wish list.”
This type of pedestrian-friendly and transit-oriented development project is one Ginsburg said his firm specializes in. And for this one, he is dreaming big.
“I’m not looking at this project just to do it,” Ginsburg said. “I’m looking at this as a legacy project. It’s iconic architecture in the commercial center of Westchester. I don’t want to do anything less than A-plus work.”