Imagine, if you can, as you look at the streets surrounding the eyesore known as the Church-Division parking garage in New Rochelle, what could be.
The sprawling, two-story garage takes up the better part of two blocks between Church and Division streets. The harsh, deteriorating concrete and steel structure distracts from old brick apartment buildings and wood-frame houses, a block away from a busy business corridor.
Two developers have imagined something else.
RXR Realty has proposed tearing down the 388-space garage and erecting two 28-story towers, for $300 million.
Next to the garage on Church Street, developer Varghese Ninan is building an eight-story, 80-room boutique hotel at a cost of $14.5 million.
“We were going to repaint the garage and make it pretty before the hotel opened,” said Abraham Philips, chief development officer for the hotel. Now that RXR plans to raze the monstrosity, “We are extremely pleased, to say the least.”
RXR is quite familiar with New Rochelle. The Long Island company is part of a joint venture that won the rights to act as the city’s downtown master developer.
Last November, it broke ground on a 28-story mixed-use building at 587 Main St., just around the corner from the garage. Foundation work is underway and leasing is expected to begin next year.
The RXR proposal is the most significant of recently announced downtown developments, Mayor Noam Bramson said at a July press conference staged next to the parking garage. With 650 to 700 apartments and 35,000 to 40,000 square feet of retail space, the towers would be the largest-scale project yet under a master plan that calls for attracting $4 billion in investments around the downtown New Rochelle Transit Center.
RXR likes the location because it is a large enough space “to create a sense of place,” said Seth Pinsky, RXR executive vice president.
The neighborhood is a kind of transition zone between the business district and residential streets that lead to Long Island Sound. The developer, Pinsky said, wants to “knit downtown into the rest of New Rochelle.”
Bramson said the garage will cost RXR basically zero, or thereabouts. But once a payment in lieu of taxes is negotiated and sales tax revenues start flowing, the city will do well from the development. And without it, the city would have to spend millions of dollars repairing the garage. “This is an enormous win for us,” the mayor said.
RXR expects to submit site plans later this year and if the city approves them, it will try to break ground on the first of the two towers in mid-2018.
PS&S Integrating Design and Engineering is the architect. A general contractor has not been chosen yet.
Ninan has already started work on his V Hotel at 43 Church St. Demolition of a two-story brick industrial building will start any day now and the hotel could open by the end of next year.
Ninan owns Premier Ambulette Transportation Inc. in New Rochelle and two hotels in New Jersey. He bought the Church Street property in 2012. The building had been used as a food distribution warehouse and before that by a jewelry manufacturer.
New Rochelle needs more hotel rooms, Philips said, if it wants to support a growing business sector. The V Hotel will cater to business clients, travelers along Interstate 95 and millennials.
It will be part of the Ascend brand of Choice Hotels International. Ascend bills itself as an operator of upscale hotels that incorporate local features to reflect the locale.
The hotel architect is Robert Stanziale of New Rochelle. The general contractor is Jon Butler from the Boston area.
“We would love to do more projects in New Rochelle,” Philips said. “This is an exciting city to be a part of.”
Pinsky said RXR expects to be making more announcements in the coming months and years. As he stood next to Church-Division garage, he looked across the way to a vast expanse of asphalt known as the 330-space Prospect Street Lot.
“We hope to develop that parking lot,” he said.