A former junkyard site in a flood-prone area of the village of Mamaroneck was too tempting to pass up.
On June 16, Halpern Real Estate Ventures and Rosen Development Group broke ground on a $35 million, 100-unit apartment complex in the village.
“I grew up nearby in Harrison,” said project director Joel Halpern, the fourth generation of his family to develop real estate in Westchester. “I know its value.”
Some of the value is obvious. The 2.7-acre property at 270 Waverly Ave. is next to a Metro-North Railroad station and at the center of a picturesque village. Residents will be able to step on trains in less than five minutes and commute to Grand Central Terminal in 35 to 47 minutes or to Stamford in 24 to 38 minutes.
If Mamaroneck were merely desirable, developers would be clamoring to build there. Yet the Halpern-Rosen project is the first large-scale residential development in about 20 years.
“There are high barriers to entry,” Halpern said.
First, land for large developments is scarce.
Second, the village’s approval process can be lengthy. In this case, planning began more than 10 years ago and the Halpern firm is the second developer trying to convert the site to residences.
“That’s a factor that pushes a lot of developers out,” Halpern said.
Blood Brothers auto wrecking occupied the property for 50 years. Ofer Attia of New Rochelle acquired the property a decade ago, got it rezoned, put it through an extensive environmental review and attained site plan approval for condominiums.
But an anti-development movement was afoot. In 2008, the village denied him a building permit. Attia had borrowed heavily, and by 2012 he was on the hook for nearly $14 million.
He filed for bankruptcy and the court authorized a real estate auction.
Halpern Real Estate Ventures and Rosen Development Group gained control of the site for $3.5 million.
Rosen is based in Harrison and has experience on smaller projects in Mamaroneck. It is currently building seven condominiums across the street from Harbor Island Park.
Joel Halpern’s great grandfather, Harry, built apartments in lower Westchester and the Bronx in the 1950s and 1960s. His grandfather, also named Joel, built Tarrytown Corporate Center in the 1970s.
His father, Jon, took over the family’s Westchester operations in the late 1980s.
Growing up, Joel Halpern spent weekends with his dad at the office buildings and construction sites.
Jon Halpern sold the family’s real estate assets to Reckson Associates in the early 2000s. He founded Halpern Real Estate Ventures in 2011.
The Mamaroneck property was supposedly shovel ready, Joel Halpern said. But it is in a flood zone of the Sheldrake River, so the developers decided to increase the elevation.
They also paid the village $125,000 for surplus land. The money will be used to improve the Waverly Avenue bridge.
Last fall, the county Industrial Development Agency approved $1.1 million in tax exemptions and a purchase leaseback deal.
Papp Architects designed the project with an industrial look that fits its surroundings.
“It will look like a Brooklyn warehouse transported to Mamaroneck,” Halpern said.
Three low-rise buildings will include 96 loft-style apartments and a fourth building will have four townhouses.
The exteriors will feature brick work, zinc clad façade and floor-to-ceiling steel casement windows. The apartments will have condo-level finishes, such as tiling, hardwood flooring and quartz countertops. Every unit will have a washer and dryer. Among the amenities will be a gym and an outdoor deck with grilling area and fire pits.
Halpern said the apartments should appeal to a wide range of tenants: young professionals, young families and empty nesters.
“It’s hard to say exactly what demographic group will predominate.”
He declined to disclose the range of rents.
The project has been referred to locally as Sheldrake Station, after the name of the Halpern and Rosen development company. Halpern said a formal name for the project has not been chosen yet.
AMEC LLC of Norwalk is the general contractor. The work is expected to be done by fall 2018.
“It’s exciting to be building something new,” Halpern said.
“What thrills us is to create something that will have a lasting impact on the village of Mamaroneck.”