“The respondents are well-known developers in Westchester,” Ingrid Richards, assistant village manager in Scarsdale, told the Business Journal regarding the responses received to the village’s request for proposals looking for a preferred developer or development team for the village-owned Freightway site. The deadline for responses was Sept. 16.
The Freightway site is about as prime a parcel of downtown real estate as can be found in Scarsdale, just south of the Metro-North Railroad station and generally bordered on the west by Garth Road, the north by Popham Road and the east by the train tracks along Scarsdale Avenue. It consists of nine parcels within the Scarsdale border covering approximately 2.43 acres and an additional one-tenth of an acre in the town of Eastchester.
In addition, Scarsdale has expressed its willingness to include or redevelop a 0.51-acre parcel currently configured for parking on Scarsdale Avenue as well as 0.84 acres of air rights over the Metro-North tracks. The heart of the site has a five-story parking garage on it, along with surface parking lots at the north and south ends.
The process of picking developers for in-person presentations on their proposals in November was underway shortly after the response deadline.
“The board of trustees or a subcommittee of the board of trustees will select the semifinalists,” Richards said. “Technical consultants and village staff will provide assistance to the board of the subcommittee as it undertakes its review and selects the semifinalists.”
A developer for the Freightway site is scheduled to be selected in December.
Among the developers that previously expressed an interest in the project were: Toll Brothers; Avalon; LMC, a Lennar Company; LCOR; BRP Companies; East End Capital; and Fareri Associates.
Scarsdale’s RFP said it was “interested in a redevelopment project that creates a mixed-use Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), including at a minimum: residential uses, commercial uses, commuter parking, community uses/open space and connectivity to Scarsdale Avenue and the Village Center.”
An additional motivator for Scarsdale to do something at the site is the short-term need to invest approximately $2 million to make critical repairs and renovations to the Freightway parking structure. The garage was built in 1971. The village figures it will have to be replaced within 15 to 20 years at a cost estimated to be more than $25 million.
A timetable in the RFP said the environmental review to satisfy the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) along with any rezoning was scheduled to take place from March 2020 to September 2021. Site plan and other reviews were scheduled to occur from October 2021 to January 2022. The schedule anticipated a groundbreaking in the spring of 2022.
“The village board of trustees will continue to collaborate with the public in a methodical way to select a prospective developer for the site,” Richards said. “Technical consultants are in the process of reviewing the responses. Once the review is completed, and semifinalists elected, the village will release segments of the semifinalists’ proposals to the public.”
The village would have the right not to accept any of the proposals.
The village is looking for five major elements to be incorporated in any development. They include: residences; commercial uses such as retail and/or office; parking for commuters and what it calls “convenience spaces” for the village center and Garth Road commercial areas; indoor and outdoor community uses along with open space; and the location and design of various project elements to provide enhanced connectivity between the Freightway site and the rest of the area including Garth Road, Scarsdale Avenue, the train station, village center and other community destinations.
The Freightway site has 601 striped parking spaces in the garage and two surface parking lots, one to the north and the other south of the garage. Valet parking at the ground level helps increase the number of cars accommodated on the site to approximately 720. The parking garage covers approximately 0.68 acres of the site and has 474 striped spaces. The remaining 127 striped spaces are located in the lots.
The village said it was of particular importance for RFP submissions to provide specific details as to how the developer would maintain access to the Metro-North train station during construction while maintaining the maximum amount of parking and access for Scarsdale resident commuters who currently park at the site. It said the access may be provided through continued parking on the Freightway site or another location close to the train station. It also left the door open to other possible solutions.
The village also wanted developers to go into great detail about any need to restrict vehicle and pedestrian movement through the downtown area during construction.
“Methods to minimize impacts to local merchants during construction (e.g., access, visibility, parking) should be described. The response should describe the Project Team’s approach to, and experience coordinating with, MTA/Metro-North Railroad, or other transit agencies,” the RFP said.
Recognition that the Freightway site is significant for downtown Scarsdale is nothing new. A study was released in 1929 that discussed putting parking on the site. Between 1966 and 1971 the village produced 11 reports on the village center, which included discussions of the Freightway site. A Master “Policies” Plan for the downtown area which was released in 1968 recommended the construction of 16- and 24-story buildings on the site.
Redevelopment proposals in 1975 and 1981 were rejected by a citizens committee which felt they were too large. A 1984 report by a consulting firm recommended redeveloping a portion of the site with a mixed-use building and 400 parking spaces. In 1995, a committee of citizens recommended that the Freightway site be developed with 55,000 to 70,500 square feet of mixed-use residential and retail and at least 340 parking spaces. The committee suggested buildings could be above a three-level parking garage. There were other discussions in subsequent years, including a 2010 Village Center Plan which identified Freightway as a key site likely to be redeveloped in the village center.
Richards told the Business Journal that “the village will conduct its work on the RFP responses at a series of meetings this fall, at least one of which will include a public presentation from the semifinalists.”