Yonkers has found a new buyer willing to build on a 6-acre undeveloped parcel in its downtown known as Chicken Island.
Mayor Mike Spano held a press conference Monday to announce what he said could be a “watershed moment” for the city: AMS Acquistions LLC has agreed to purchase Chicken Island from the municipality for $16 million, pending City Council approval.
AMS principals said at the announcement they aim to turn the property into a downtown epicenter, with a concentration of shopping, dining, apartment buildings, offices and a luxury hotel.
The announcement marks the latest of multiple plans hatched for the property, which gets its name from a small chicken farm that operated there in the 19th century—a time when the Saw Mill River surrounded the lot and made it a small island.
“The city has tried for more than 40 years to develop Chicken Island without success,” Spano said. “This is a game changer for Yonkers, because it proves economic development and a growing tax base is possible beyond the waterfront.”
The most recent big plans for the site came from the city’s former master developer, Struever Fidelco Cappelli L.L.C. The name represented the three big-name developers in the partnership: New Jersey-based Fidelco Realty Group, Valhalla’s Cappelli Enterprises Inc. and Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, a Baltimore developer known for its transformation of that city’s Inner Harbor.
The group envisioned its own downtown epicenter, branded as River Park Center, with high-rise residential towers, a cinema complex, major retail stores, commercial office space and a stadium to attract a minor league baseball team to Yonkers.
That plan initially faced community opposition, then never got off the ground as the financial crisis in 2008 and subsequent economic downturn stalled development projects throughout the country.
A series of requests for proposal have followed in the years since, but Spano said the city received only vague, under-financed plans. Yonkers changed tack recently, Spano said, and started reaching out directly to established developers in the city to gauge interest.
That included AMS. The company already had expanded its Yonkers presence at the beginning of 2018, when it paid $9.5 million to purchase 86 Main St., a six-story, 70,000-square-foot office building on the southeast corner of Main Street and Buena Vista Avenue across from the Yonkers Metro-North train station. The company also owns 92 Main St., a 78,000-square-foot mixed-use building that was formerly a city trolley barn. That building includes 40 live-work lofts and is home to Chase Bank and Yonkers Brewery.
“Downtown Yonkers is in the midst of a renaissance,” said Michael Mitnick, principal of AMS Acquisitions. “AMS is invested heavily in the growth and expansion of this incredible and unique market.”
Formed in 2012, AMS’ portfolio includes approximately 1.5 million square feet of retail, residential and office space in the tri-state region.
Chicken Island is zoned to allow development of up to 25 stories. Potential buildings there are zoned to allow a wide range of uses as well, the city said, including retail, restaurant, office, colleges and residential.
“Seven years ago the Chicken Island redevelopment plan was dead,” said Spano. “Now we have a workable plan, backed up with hard dollars that the city can use in the short run to fund our schools and essential services, and in the long run we will collect many millions of real estate and income taxes plus take another giant leap forward in revitalizing the downtown.”
The city envisions the development of Chicken Island complementing two nearby public works projects: the building of a new fire station on New School Street and a soon-to-be completed phase of the Saw Mill River daylighting along New Main Street.
AMS paid the city $800,000 as a deposit on the letter of the intent to purchase the property. The balance of the purchase will be paid following the sale’s approval by the city council, Spano said.