The opening of Burling Plaza could easily be overlooked, if not for what it represents in New Rochelle’s development strategy.
The plaza is tiny, just a slice of land at Burling Lane near North Avenue. Interstate 95 isolates the space where it slices through downtown below street level. A pedestrian bridge that spans the highway and connects to the train station has long been closed.
“It was rough and tough and fenced in,” said developer Tony Hammel. “It’s not a big park, but symbolically it’s greater than its physical size.”
The plaza is an important element in Hammel’s plan to create a neighborhood between Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital and New Rochelle Transit Center.
The greater significance is that it is an example of the city’s strategy of creating green spaces, no matter how small, wherever they can be built.
“That’s how you add value to neighborhoods,” Hammel said. “And they’re doing it all over New Rochelle.”
Burling Plaza has sculpture, lighting and a bench with a solar charging station. Within a year, the pedestrian bridge will be renovated and open to the public.
Equity Land Developers, owned by Hammel and his brother, William, will maintain the plaza.
“We want to make sure it is always clean and spotless,” Hammel said. “We want to make sure it’s always green.”
The Hammels have built two apartment buildings near the plaza on Burling Lane. Monday’s plaza opening coincided with the groundbreaking for the Millennia, MillenniaNR.com the third of seven low-rise apartment buildings with 460 units on adjacent property.
The Hammel’s 22 Burling Development LLC, which includes a partner, Robert Leaf, is demolishing a house and small office building for the $30 million, six-story 110-unit building.
S&Co. architects of Nyack designed the Millennia. It will feature a center courtyard and glass roof atrium, apartments overlooking a koi pond and putting green, a large gym and other amenities that are meant to attract 30-year-old renters.
Hammel said it should be built and occupied by the end of next year.