The aging White Plains Mall property on Hamilton Avenue in White Plains could soon become a mixed-use development with a nearly 900,000-square-foot multifamily housing development, with retail space and a craft food hall. The project could act as a major piece in a push for redevelopment from the city near its train and bus stations.
A development team led by the Port Chester-based Street-Works Development and the building’s ownership, WP Mall Realty LLC, presented plans to the White Plains Common Council at a meeting Nov. 28. The team would tear down the existing mall, which was built in the 1970s on a three acre block surrounded by Hamilton Avenue, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Cottage Street and Barker Avenue.
“It is need of replacement, I think, and updating to be consistent with the downtown TOD district study,” said William S. Null, an attorney with Cuddy+Feder LLP representing the developers.
Null was referring to the city’s ongoing study of uses for its transit district neighborhood near the White Plains TransCenter and Metro-North train station. The city is expected to unveil a plan to help drive transit-oriented development in the corridor at a meeting on Dec. 12.
“We’re very close to the Metro-North train station,” Null said. “We consider this to be a key site for activation of the transit-oriented development district.”
The plan for the 895,200 square foot project calls for 600 units in more than 500,000 square feet of residential space, with 95,000 square feet dedicated to retail and a 720-spot garage. Jess Greene, senior design manager at Street-Works Development, said the development could possibly have six different addresses for multiple residential buildings, each with its own architectural style.
“That would break up the overall massing and you could create a look and feel for each one of these residential areas,” Greene said.
The residential would also include 10 percent of its units designated as affordable.
Greene said the retail space would be food-oriented. The craft market food hall, similar in design to the Eataly Italian food market in Manhattan, would offer a variety of craft food options, likely from smaller purveyors.
“These are not recent phenomenon, they’ve been around for more than a thousand years in Europe, but they are emerging very quickly in the tri-state area,” Greene said. “In almost all transit-oriented districts you’re finding this concept. It’s not a food court… the greatest difference being scale. Each kiosk tends not be a full-service restaurant, but something more bespoke or specific.”
The project would have two open green spaces, an upper level exclusive to residents and a lower level near the food hall open to the public. The developer would still own the land, but it would be operated as privately-owned public space. Greene said the development team is working with one of the designers of Bryant Park in Manhattan.
“We would like to turn this into a large attraction, not just for people who live here but the whole community,” Greene said, adding later that the area could have regional draw.
The project joins a long que of luxury and market-rate apartments either being considered for approval or set to be built in the city. A recently-approved $275 million redevelopment of the Westchester Pavilion will include 707 rental units; a $250 million development under construction now at 55 Bank St will have 561 apartment rental units and the city is reviewing a project that would add 400 rental units at the former Good Counsel campus on North Broadway.
With the jump in residential develop, Council Member Milagros Lecuona asked the White Plains Mall developers if they were confident in what the market will look like once the project is finished.
“The market shows that there is plenty of opportunity for more rental housing,” Null said. “And that rental housing in the downtown creates the street life that supports the retail and the restaurants and make it attractive for people to move here.”
Mayor Thomas Roach said there is “no issue here that rents are too low, it’s a high-cost environment. And if we add to the supply, I’m praying that at some point that starts to mean the rents stabilize or they come down and become more affordable.”
Null said the project, if approved, likely wouldn’t break ground for three years, followed by two years of construction.
White Plains Mall is currently home to a DMV, Hecht Hardware, McDonald’s, Bob Hyland’s Sports Page Pub, the Noda Hibachi & Sushi restaurant, Kam Sen Asian Market, Franklin Clock Shop, Westchester Trains & Hobbies and Chillemi Shoe Repair, which has been open at the mall for decades.
The Common Council asked about the fate of those current tenants.
“Clearly one of the things that happens when buildings come down is that tenants need to be relocated,” Null said. “So I think there’s a fair amount of open, lease-able space and that may actually be something that is beneficial, but I’m not telling you that’s the case, I think the DMV will find a location.”
The development team submitted a request to the city for a zoning change that would allow the development shortly before Thanksgiving. The actual zoning change is expected to be discussed further at the White Plains Common Council’s December meeting.