A plan from a Dobbs Ferry developer would add an “iconic” 24-story hotel along Interstate 95 at the northern entrance to downtown New Rochelle.
D’Wayne Prieto, managing partner and CEO of Ward Capital Management, is leading the effort to bring a 225-room “urban resort” to the city’s downtown edge at 115 Cedar St. The developer plans to team up with Wyndham Hotels Group, which will operate the property and brand it under the company’s TRYP hotel title aimed at avid travelers.
The developer received approval for a zoning amendment in October to allow hotel use for the small block of property where it will be sited, which is off the Cedar Street traffic circle surrounded by I-95 and its on ramps.
Speaking at the location with the Business Journal, Prieto said there’s a nostalgia factor in his plan to reuse the historic 1905 building. His wife, Jewelle Prieto, was founder and co-owner of Don Coqui, the popular restaurant and nightlife spot that operated from the second floor of the 3-story building from 2009 to 2015. Before Don Coqui, it was home to MacMenamin’s Grill and, before that, the manufacturing company Plastic Works.
Prieto described the idea for the hotel as one floating in his mind for years. During the Don Coqui years, he “spent many nights here seeing the flows in and out, and realized this location would be ideal for a destination. It was a destination as a restaurant. But there was no place to stay.”
The opportunity to act on his vision opened up when the property hit the market and Ward Capital bought it through an affiliate company in August for $3.65 million. A month later, Prieto and Wyndham officials brought plans before the city council to start the hotel review process.
The plan includes 150 standard hotel rooms and 75 extended-stay suites. The historic building at 115 Cedar St. would be renovated to include a hotel lobby, bar and elevator bank on the first floor, a restaurant and lounge on the second floor and office, meeting and conference space, as well as ballrooms, on the third. The roof would be converted to a landscaped terrace with an open-air lounge and bar.
The hotel rooms would rise in a 24-story tower behind the original building. As designed by Gregory Sharp Architect PC, the tower is meant to create an “iconic architecture identifiable and readable from I-95,” Sharp told the city council at a meeting in September.
The side of the tower facing I-95 will feature a grid of concrete-looking piers that will float over a glass curtain wall to create a “unique experience from both the inside and outside,” Sharp told the council. A glass curtain wall on the other side of the building will face toward the Long Island Sound.
A rooftop pool on the 24th floor will host another lounge for hotel guests only, featuring a bar, kitchen and pool with a hydro-floor that can be converted to flat ground for events. The floor will have views of the Long Island Sound, Westchester County and parts of the city, Prieto said.
“When you’re driving you’ll see the building and all its different shapes and forms and it will be a good welcoming to the town,” Prieto said. “You’ll always remember you passed New Rochelle because of this building.”
To address parking issues that could occasionally cause traffic to back up to the Cedar Street traffic circle, the hotel plan includes a 323-space parking garage that would include an automatic valet system as well as roads that will circulate visitors through the property with the aim of preventing any backups.
The developer also is exploring ways to add a pedestrian bridge across Cedar Street to better connect the site to the downtown.
The hotel’s restaurant will be run by Jewelle Prieto as the second location of Palo Vivo, described as a Latin-rustic restaurant and entertainment destination expected to open its first location in Hastings-on-Hudson soon. That grand opening will come at the historic former Farragut Inn at 555 Warburton Ave. D’Wayne Prieto’s company owns the three-level building and is converting it to include the restaurant and high-end apartments.
Ward Capital, launched in 2005, is also developing condos in New Rochelle and hotels in the Bronx and Long Island.
New Rochelle is a city with only two hotels, but a population heading toward 80,000, Prieto pointed out to the city council in September. There’s a 129-room Radisson Hotel and a 127-room Residence Inn. Another 80-room boutique hotel is under construction on Church Street.
The New Rochelle TRYP could not only add to that room total, but Prieto said it could create a “social networking hub” and resort for people looking for a relaxing weekend getaway to enjoy the spa, restaurant and rooftop lounge.
“We’re trying to help promote tourism in New Rochelle by being either a destination ourselves or by providing capacity for people who are coming to visit families, go boating, to the beach or the new arts programs we have here,” Prieto said.
He said the TRYP brand is popular with international travelers as well. TRYP’s only other regional locations are near Times Square and Newark, as well as in Atlantic City.
In the city council presentation, the developer estimated the project would generate more than $300,000 each year from the city’s 3 percent hotel occupancy room tax, as well as create 150 permanent jobs.
The proposal still needs site plan approval from the city, for which Prieto said he hopes to file soon. The hotel team also plans to petition the IDA for tax abatements to help with the project’s financing, which Prieto said is necessary given the large-scale parking construction the site will require to be viable.
In the zoning review, the project received positive comments from the board, other than a push for more parking spaces, which Prieto said he is exploring. Councilman Barry Fertel called it “one of the most exciting opportunities I’ve come across” in 13 years on the council. Mayor Noam Bramson praised the project’s design as a way to create a gateway for the city.
Prieto said that if approvals go as planned, he hopes his company can start construction in the spring of 2019 and open between 2020 and 2021.