A zoning change necessary for a $450 million redevelopment of the United Hospital site in Port Chester was approved following a six-hour meeting that stretched into the early morning.
The approval marks a major step forward for Starwood Capital Group’s plan to rebuild the decaying hospital site.
The proposal from Greenwich-based Starwood would turn the 15-acre site at 406 Boston Post Road into a neighborhood with a mix of residential, commercial and office uses. The plan, from Port Chester-based Streetworks Development, calls for a 135-room hotel, 217,000 square feet of medical office space, 90,000 square feet for retail or small restaurants, 500 residential units targeting young professionals, 230 age-restricted apartment units for people 55 and over and about an acre of open public space.
The meeting included a public hearing for the zoning change, which maintains the current floor area ratio for the property, but allows bonus density to build beyond it. In exchange, Starwood will pay a $3 million fee that the village can use for community planning, rehabilitation and affordable housing.
The board also approved a statement of environmental findings for the proposal, with an amendment that recommends the proposal replace workforce housing formerly on the site with 36 units of affordable housing set aside for people making 80 percent of area median income. The 36 units would represent about 5 percent of the residential units proposed in the project. The 95-page statement of findings covers possible impact and mitigation of the project on a range of topics from traffic and utilities to construction and natural resources.
The process to redevelop the site stretches back more than a decade. United Hospital closed in 2006 and Starwood bought the property that same year for $28 million.
Village Trustee Dan Brakewood called the project the “biggest development in the history of Port Chester.” Trustee Francis Ferrara called it a historic night for the village, before he was reminded that the clock had turned past midnight and it was actually morning.
“This project has been paid plenty of attention to and is a true benefit to the village,” Ferrara said. “And let’s not forget the ultimate community benefit, which is the remediation of that deteriorated hospital and that fouled site and a beautiful new neighborhood for Port Chester.”
The vote followed a public comment session with 10 speakers who expressed a mix of concerns for the project, among them whether it would include affordable housing and if it would overburden schools. Some speakers were in favor of the project, including one resident who said it should be great for the village in the long run.
Sustainable Port Chester Alliance, which describes itself as a mix of faith, housing, education, labor and Port Chester resident groups, said it is in favor of redevelopment of the United Hospital site, but it has pushed Starwood to agree to a community benefits agreement before the project is approved by the village. The agreement, as proposed by the alliance, would ensure the project provides jobs to Port Chester residents, sets aside at least 20 percent of the project’s housing as affordable and asks Starwood to help fund expansion of Port Chester’s schools.
“Port Chester is our community. Unlike Starwood, we aren’t going anywhere,” said Joan Grangenois-Thomas, a member of the alliance at the meeting. “We demand that development in our community benefit people like us and our neighbors, not just the bottom line of developers.”
The project now moves on to the site plan-approval process. Starwood is expected to seek a payment in lieu of taxes agreement with the Port Chester Industrial Development Agency as well. The Business Journal reported last March that the developer would seek a $60 million PILOT agreement over 20 years. The project is expected to create 2,800 jobs, by Starwood’s estimates.
In a statement, Ellis Rinaldi, executive vice president at Starwood Capital Group, said the zoning change “will make it possible to transform the old United Hospital site into a vibrant mixed-use development that will benefit both Port Chester and the surrounding area.”