Tony Hammel presented plans for more than a new apartment building when he met with New Rochelle development officials last month. He also shared a vision for a distinct downtown enclave that he says can compete with large-scale developments.
Hammel is in the process of creating a neighborhood.
His immediate project is the $30 million Millennia, a 6-story, 110-unit apartment building at 22 Burling Lane.
The greater idea is to develop the Burling triangle, a swath of land bounded by Burling Lane, a two-block-long street, and by Interstate 95 and Memorial Highway.
The triangle is positioned between New Rochelle Transit Center and Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital. Yet it is somewhat isolated, in that the interstate runs through a road cut that blocks access to the transit center.
“It’s a cool little neighborhood,” Hammel said. “It’s tired but ripe for development.”
Hammel, his brother William and investor Dr. Robert Leaf are principals in 22 Burling Development LLC, the company that is building the Millennia, and co-founders of ELD Properties and Equity Land Developers LLC.
They are familiar with Burling Lane because their grandfather owned a house there. In 2002, they bought the house and nearby properties. Originally, they wanted to build condominiums but the project was stalled by litigation. By the time the lawsuit was resolved, the Great Recession had changed the housing market.
They built rental apartments instead. The 30-unit, four-story Hammel, dedicated to the memory of William J. Hammel Sr., opened in December 2012 and quickly rented out. They decided to replicate their success with a similar building next door.
The five-story Hammel II is just about finished, increasing their inventory to 66 units. An open house will be held Aug. 20.
The Hammels have big plans to continue exploiting a hot rental market. They want to build five more buildings along or in the Burling triangle, for a total of 460 units.
Their basic concept is to create low-rise buildings — nothing over six stories — to contrast with 28- to 48-story towers nearby.
Apartments will be priced about 10 percent less per square foot than the big buildings. Actual apartment prices might be the same, Hammel told development officials, but they will be larger and therefore cheaper on a square-foot basis.
They will build a small park at a corner of Burling that overlooks the interstate, and they are negotiating for a house that would be demolished to double the size of the park. The park will allow access to a pedestrian bridge that is blocked off now but will be opened, enabling people to cross over the interstate and catch Metro-North trains at the transit center.
They will refurbish a cupola that used to be at City Hall and install it on a stone and brick podium in the park.
The Hammels are negotiating with the New York State Thruway Authority the build a landscaped path along its retaining wall, from the park to the tip of the triangle, where a second park will be built.
Trees will be planted along the perimeter.
“When you come here,” Hammel said, “you will know you are in this neighborhood.”
Each building will be targeted to a specific demographic.
The Millennia, as its name suggests, will be designed for renters around 30 years old. The design will be contemporary, with sleek lines, lots of light, little trim and a façade of limestone-like material.
The apartments will open onto an interior catwalk overlooking an atrium and a park-like setting, with a pond, trees, artificial turf and a putting green, like the Hyatt Regency Greenwich.
One floor will be dedicated to a fitness center, yoga room, business center, conference room, social room and storage spaces. The building will have 146 parking spaces, bike-sharing and car-sharing services and a pet park.
The apartments will be mostly studios or one-bedrooms, with a few two-bedroom units.
All Burling triangle projects will include affordable, or workplace, housing. Eleven units will be set aside at the Millennia and will cost about $1,000 a month less than the market rate units, which will be priced at about $3 per square foot.
The Millennia is “perhaps the most important part of the portfolio,” Hammel told the New Rochelle Industrial Development Agency on July 27.
“We need to make a statement, to give Burling Lane an identity. So when you come down Burling Lane, it will all be brand new and this will be stately looking. There will be no skimping on materials.”
After the Millennia, the developers will put up a building designed for doctors doing residencies at the hospital. It will have mostly studio apartments with a lot of built-in features, like Murphy beds.
A luxury building for empty nesters is also planned.
The developers want to begin demolition this month and hope to finish the Millennia by August 2017.
They are asking the IDA for exemptions from sales taxes and the mortgage recording tax, worth about $1.4 million, and for a payment in lieu of taxes plan in place of property taxes for 20 years.
The IDA will hold a public hearing Sept. 21.