With the old YMCA building at 250 Mamaroneck Ave. in White Plains torn down, a groundbreaking ceremony was held June 23 to kick off construction on a new 177-unit eight-story apartment building to be called The Juliet. The developer is Southern Land Company, headquartered in Nashville. Tim Downey, Southern Land’s founder and CEO, told the Business Journal that he expects that the first tenants will be able to move into The Juliet in just under two years.
“We develop a lot of master planned communities and apartment buildings. We do a lot of commercial but everything we do has some sort of a residential base to it,” Downey said. “What makes us different is we’re very design focused and very entertainment focused. We want all of our residents to have fun where they live every day and so we have lots of programming and free snacks … and we like to think we really take good care of our residents. We have a long-term view on our investments and we’re happy to spend some of the money on our residents.”
The YMCA had put its Mamaroneck Avenue property on the market as a step to help deal with financial difficulties, which included high building maintenance costs. When Southern Land was before the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) seeking financial incentives for the project, Cynthia Delfino, president and CEO of the YMCA of Central and Northern Westchester, wrote to the IDA stating that the YMCA building included 150 single room occupancy (SRO) units and fixing the building to continue operating SRO housing would cost the nonprofit about $26 million, which was prohibitive. She said that the building, dating from 1927, had been rapidly deteriorating.
As part of getting ready for demolition of the Y building, Southern Land worked with the Y and the nonprofit Housing Action Council to find new housing for all of the Y’s tenants.
Southern Land went to the IDA for sales tax exemptions of about $2.5 million along with a mortgage tax exemption of about $644,000.
Southern Land projected the cost of the project at about $100 million. In addition to the market-rate apartments there would be 1,876-square-feet of retail space plus a parking garage. The site covers 1.16 acres.
The Juliet was not planned to include affordable housing units. Under the White Plains affordable housing requirements for new projects, developers have the right to pay a fee to the city instead of providing up to 25 affordable units. The city requires that 12% of the units in a new project fall into the affordable category. For this project, 12% of the 177 units would be 21 affordable units.
Southern Land chose the buy-out fee, which goes into a fund used to create affordable housing. The fee had been calculated at $3,157,875 based on a per-unit rate of 1.25 times the average median income of a family of four in Westchester, or $150,375 per unit.
The White Plains Common Council found that the project did not provide adequate land for park and recreation facilities based upon it bringing 346 new residents to the site. The council assessed a fee of $556,500 to be used by the city exclusively for parks, playgrounds and other recreational purposes including the acquisition of real estate.
The developer was given a special permit to increase the residential density of the project. As-of-right, 114 residential units were allowed on the site. The special permit allows the 63 additional units.
“The Y, as a service organization, which is what it is, not a building, was in danger of shutting everything down,” White Plains Mayor Tom Roach said. “(With) Southern Land coming in and the generosity that was shown they were able to keep everybody where they were while they worked on the transition, finding homes for those who lived here and finding a home for the childcare, which is so vital to our community.”