In October, the village of Port Chester welcomed its first new housing development in decades when The Mariner, a first of its kind housing complex, opened in the downtown area.
The luxury apartment building at 21 Willet Ave. along the Byram River fits 100 units in its five-story frame 12 of which have been rented so far. The land where The Mariner was built used to be a brownfield. Developer Frank Boccanfuso, principal at Phoenix Capital Partners L.L.C. reportedly bought it for just more than $5 million. It cost more than $35 million to build, he said.
“We were going to build condos, but the market changed.” That was back in 2010. The luxury rental complex, which is three blocks from the Metro-North Railroad station, is now being touted as ideal for young professionals and empty nesters in the area.
“This represents a change in Port Chester,” said Jeff Heifetz, managing director for The Mariner’s management company, Rose Associates of New York City. “It’s a lynchpin architecturally.” The exterior represents the old version of the community sandwiched between Rye and Greenwich, Conn., while the interior design reflects the personality of the young professionals The Mariner hopes to attract to the area, he said.
Making Port Chester more attractive to both residents and visitors was part of a plan that Mayor Dennis Pilla initiated in 2007 when he was first elected.
“I introduced a downtown revitalization project,” he said. Development had slowed since the waterfront complex, home of Costco and AMC Loews opened in 1999, in part because of the economy, he said.
After the mayor took office he said the village gradually started “rebuilding infrastructure primarily through grants for sidewalks and street lights. Then we changed sidewalk café and entertainment ordinances to enhance restaurant identities.”
Port Chester’s reputation as the self-proclaimed “Restaurant Capital of Westchester” grew. In September, the Capitol Theatre, at 149 Westchester Ave., reopened as a concert venue. It has brought concert-goers to the village. It also promotes the fact that is just across the street from the Metro-North train.
The Mariner was not a part of the original plan for revitalizing Port Chester, but the mayor calls it a “litmus test.” Other residential development projects might follow if it fares well.
Boccanfuso said Phoenix Capital Partners has already started working on another luxury housing project, The Castle. The site for the proposed complex is on the corner of Willett Avenue and Abendroth Place. Boccanfuso said, like The Mariner, The Castle will be near a train station making it ideal for commuters. “Transportation is very important for these projects,” Boccanfuso said.
Starwood Capital Group, a private investment firm in Greenwich, Conn., is proposing a complete transformation of the former New York United Hospital Medical Center property, Pilla said. The mixed-use development would include residential, retail, and commercial office space.
The village board will be watching The Mariner as a pioneer project for downtown residential development in a village where 80 percent of housing was built before 1969. More than one-third of its housing was built before 1939, Pilla said.
“This could be a good antidote,” Pilla said.
Heifetz also said The Mariner has been a much-needed answer for some people who were displaced by Hurricane Sandy. Apartments can be leased on a short-term basis for those who aren’t looking to permanently settle. It lures others with amenities such as Wi-Fi, boat slips and an accessible rooftop for lounging. Rents range from $2,095 for a one-bedroom to $3,850 for a three-bedroom apartment with den.
But one of the most attractive things about the building is it’s a fully taxable property, Pilla said. According to the town of Rye records The Mariner is valued at $5,937,500. “Having a multimillion-dollar addition to the tax roll is great,” he said.