On the Ossining waterfront, residential developers Peter and Nicholas Stolatis have weathered a recession and vocal opposition to their plans for Hidden Cove on the Hudson since first floating their redevelopment proposal seven years ago. Now the brothers find their revived and revised project caught between a rising floodplain and a deteriorated historic place.
Hurricane Sandy and the village’s Historic Preservation Commission have posed new threats and costs to their North Water Street project. Their attorney called it “a classic Catch-22 situation.”
Last year, the brothers’ Pleasantville company, Plateau Associates L.L.C., presented the village planning board with plans for a six-story, 137-unit apartment building at 36 N. Water St., a five-acre property east of the Metro-North Railroad tracks at the northern extension of Ossining’s commercial riverfront. In a move typical of developers adapting to the post-recession market, the brothers changed their initial plans to build a mix of condominium units for sale and instead proposed luxury rentals.
The project, whose current cost was estimated by Peter Stolatis in the mid-$50-million range, had stalled since 2008 when Plateau Associates submitted a draft environmental impact statement to village planners. The developer plans to submit a final environmental impact statement after the planning board accepts a supplemental environmental report for Hidden Cove, which Stolatis said was expected at the board’s December meeting.
But the Hidden Cove development as now proposed would rise on the site of the Brandreth Pill Factory, a 19th-century brick complex distinguished both for its architecture and as one of the first industrial manufacturing sites in Westchester County. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it has been vacant since 1979, according to the developer’s planning consultant. The Stolatis brothers initially planned to restore and renovate the mansard-roofed building as condo loft space. Now they plan to demolish it.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 2007 issued new floodplain maps for Ossining that show the historic property potentially would be under two feet of Hudson River water in a 100-year storm, “of which we’ve had three in the last year and a half,” Stolatis said. Any new development would have to be raised two feet to avoid that flood hazard. The historic mill’s first-floor space would be useless for residential conversion, Nicholas Stolatis said.
The river surge from Hurricane Sandy left the factory in four feet of water, Peter Stolatis said. FEMA is expected to issue updated floodplain maps on Dec. 17 that incorporate data from the disastrous October storm. Stolatis said Hidden Cove on the Hudson as designed in Sandy’s aftermath would be raised five to six feet on a parking pedestal.
“All these floodplain issues have added tremendous cost to it,” he said.
“The floodplain kills whatever you’re thinking about. We were thinking about adaptive reuse of the mill. The new floodplain plan puts an end to that.”
Even without the added impact of climate change and more severe flooding, the Brandreth Pill Factory building “is way past its useful redevelopment value,” Stolatis claimed. “We bought the building in a deteriorated state 10 years ago.”
Nicholas Stolatis said that with village officials wanting only one building on the site rather than a spread of residences over eight acres as previously proposed by the developer, “There’s no place for the mill.”
Historic preservationists in Ossining would disagree. The village Historic Preservation Commission in November notified Hidden Cove’s development team that the factory complex was nominated for designation as a local landmark. For the owners, it was a bitter pill to swallow at a time when the project was moving “slow but steady” through the village approval process, Peter Stolatis said.
If designated a village landmark by the commission and village board of trustees, the Brandreth factory cannot be demolished. Stolatis said he was granted a demolition permit in 2008.
The developer could seek a hardship exemption by proving that restoring and reusing the historic property is not economically feasible. Gina Martini, senior project manager at VHB Engineering, Surveying and Landscape Architecture P.C. in White Plains, the developer’s planning consultant, said restoring the factory façade and roof by historic preservation standards would cost $2.8 million. Adding flood barriers to the building’s first floor would cost an additional $400,000, she said. Those additions would alter the factory’s historic exterior, she said.
“There’s no way it would work,” Martini said. “It would cost more to restore than the property’s value.”
Even after restoration, the property’s value “is substantially less than the cost there would be to restore it,” Martini said at a recent public hearing on the proposed landmark designation.
The developer’s attorney, P. Daniel Hollis III, told commission members the Stolatis brothers were in “a classic Catch-22 situation.” Though they already have some needed village approvals and a demolition permit, the late-hour effort to preserve the Brandreth factory barred them from moving ahead with the project being reviewed by the planning board.
Hollis unsuccessfully sought to have three commission members recused from voting on Hidden Cove’s landmarking for having spoken against the Hidden Cove project at planning board meetings. But Mark Malone, village deputy attorney, said none of the members was found to have a conflict of interest in the matter,
Commission member Miguel Hernandez, though, voluntarily removed himself from the Hidden Cove proceedings. His home adjoins the Plateau Associates property and Hernandez several years ago negotiated with the Stolatis brothers for the sale of his property before rejecting their offer.
At Hollis’ request, the commission adjourned the Hidden Cove hearing and delayed a landmarking vote until its Jan. 14 meeting. A battery of consultants is preparing reports for the developer to counter the landmarking bid and show that restoration is not physically and financially feasible.
“This committee asking this, that the mill not be demolished, has really thrown a lot more work and expense that way,” Peter Stolatis said.