More apartments may be coming to the rapidly changing Platinum Mile, this time from one its best known office landlords.
A plan from a joint venture led by the Rye Brook-based RPW Group would add 303 apartments to 1133 Westchester Ave., a signature 620,000-square-foot office complex along the Interstate 287 corridor in White Plains.
Robert P. Weisz, RPW Group’s founder and CEO, presented plans Jan. 28 to the White Plains Common Council for the development, which would add three apartment buildings, each five stories, to the northeast side of the property, facing county-owned Maple Moor Golf Course. RPW has teamed up in a joint venture with a national apartment developer, the NRP Group, for the proposal.
The 1133 Westchester Ave. address is home to a list of companies that include ITT Corp., Wilson Elser law firm and The Journal News. In 2017, the Manhattan-based Hospital for Special Surgery opened its first Westchester County outpatient center in a 50,000-square-foot building on the campus.
Weisz told the council that the presence of an active office complex on the same property will make the apartments more efficient and productive.
“The work-live concept is going to be brought to life in White Plains, and this will be one of the first in the region,” Weisz said. “I think it will be a great experience because we can already see the benefits of having residential on the site: sharing some of the uses, sharing the parking, sharing the amenities.”
The proposal comes to White Plains as Weisz is also pursuing a plan to build 150 apartments near his other marquee address in Westchester County: the 523,000-square-foot postmodern 800 Westchester Ave. building.
Both plans could be interpreted as a longtime office landlord adapting once more to a changing market. Before 1133 Westchester was bought by RPW Group in 2006 for $76 million, it was utilized solely by IBM. And before the company’s $40 million purchase of 800 Westchester, the building was solely occupied by General Foods and, later, Altria Group. RPW Group added amenities and modernized each building, converting both to multitenant centers. Since then, the company has spent more than a decade among the most prominent office landlords on Westchester County’s most prominent office corridor: I-287 in Harrison and White Plains, often referred to as the Platinum Mile.
But that same office corridor is changing. Across I-287 in Harrison, a Wegmans grocery store will soon rise in place of three demolished office buildings. A 421-unit apartment building from Toll Brothers is already under construction where two other office buildings once stood. A separate developer has asked the town of Harrison for permission to tear down an additional office building to build 450 more apartments.
Those projects targeted outdated buildings no longer viable for tenants. For its apartment proposals, RPW Group is instead targeting open space around its strong-performing office buildings. The Harrison apartments would rise on an empty lot off Webb Avenue that RPW bought along with 800 Westchester. The 1133 Westchester apartments would be built on a 20-acre part of the approximately 70-acre campus that includes underutilized parking spaces and undeveloped space.
The shift to apartments are a “natural progression” for RPW Group and the 1133 Westchester Ave. site, Weisz said after the presentation.
“There are not too many 70-acre sites that can accommodate something like this,” he told the Business Journal. “We think the demand is there and all the zoning in Westchester has changed to allow this, so we think this is perfect timing for it.”
By building on a portion of the property facing the golf course, Weisz told the council the project will have no visual impact on neighborhoods to the south of the office campus.
Jonathan Gertman, a vice president of development at NRP Group, gave the council a breakdown of the apartment proposal. Branded as The Flats at Westchester, the buildings would include a mix of 178 one-bedroom apartments, 115 two-bedroom and 10 three-bedroom apartments.
Amenities for the apartments include a fitness and business center, pool, dog spa and 12,000 square feet of outdoor recreational space that would connect to a walking path around the site. Of the 303 units, 10 percent would be marketed at designated affordable rates, as required by the city’s zoning code.
The apartment building’s power supply would be offset by solar panels on the roof of each building, Gertman said.
The project would take some of the existing parking on the site, which Weisz said is rarely used, and use it for the apartments instead. There would be 523 parking spaces total, about half of which are already on the site as extra office parking. The new spaces would bring the total parking spots – for both office and residential uses – to 2,512. Weisz said his company and NRP plan to add trees and other features to make the parking area “friendly and green.”
The Cleveland-based NRP Group is among the top 20 largest owners of multifamily properties in the country, according to a list kept by Multi-Housing News. The company opened a Manhattan office last year focused on tristate development, led by Gertman. In 2017, NRP pursued an 120-unit apartment building proposal in Mount Vernon before pulling out after Gertman said the city preferred a hotel for the site and derailed the project.
This isn’t the first time Weisz has targeted this part of the property for redevelopment. The city approved a hotel development at 1133 Westchester Ave. about a decade ago, which was never built. Weisz told the common council that his company is more comfortable finding a partner for the apartments, rather than building the hotel.
“We think this is, in plain terms, a no-brainer,” Weisz said. The Westchester landlord described a vision of how the apartments and office could work in harmony, from the perspective of a future renter.
“They can walk 100 yards to the office, you can drop off your baby at our daycare center and then you can eat lunch in the cafeteria and exercise in the fitness center,” Weisz said.
Both the White Plains and Harrison projects will require approvals from the municipalities before moving forward.