Note: This article has been updated to include a sale price
Wegmans Food Markets Inc. has closed on a deal to buy three office buildings in Harrison from Normandy Real Estate Partners LLC, bringing the popular grocer’s entrance into Westchester County a step closer to reality.
Representatives from Newmark Knight Frank told the Business Journal that the company had successfully negotiated the deal, which will have Wegmans take over the 20-acre plot of land that houses three vacated Normandy office buildings. The buildings — 106, 108 and 110 Corporate Park Drive — will be knocked down. In their place will rise a 125,000-square-foot grocery store.
The deal between the Rochester-based Wegmans and Normandy closed Jan. 4 for $26.5 million, according to county property records. Wegmans first proposed the new store plans in December 2016 and announced it had signed a purchase agreement with Normandy. The town of Harrison then approved a special use exemption permit for the project in August.
Wegmans’ plans for the store include a cafe area and 736 parking spaces on the site off Westchester Avenue. Wegmans will build an additional 8,000-square-foot standalone retail building for an undetermined use.
A company representative told the town during the approval process that the new store would hire between 400 and 500 employees, including 180 full-time positions.
Wegmans is expected to start site work on the property late this spring. Company representatives declined to disclose a sale price and said no timeline has been set for an opening date when reached on Tuesday. In a statement released through Newmark Knight Frank, Wegmans Senior VP of Real Estate Ralph Uttaro said the property “meets everything we look for and we’re eager to join the Harrison community.”
NKF Managing Director Christopher Cortese represented Wegmans on the deal. Cortese said in a phone interview that the family-owned grocery chain had been looking for the right location in the county for about two decades.
“I think it’s been a hard market for them to break into,” Cortese said. “I realized that that office park (on Corporate Park Drive) frankly wasn’t long to be an office park and met all the criteria for the land they were looking for, so we approached the owner and worked out a deal.”
Cortese added that it was important that the area had already been targeted by the town for redevelopment.
The three buildings are in what Harrison calls the “teardrop” part of town, which is bounded by Interstate 287, the Hutchinson River Parkway and I-684. In 2013, Harrison adopted a new master plan that recommended the town create a mixed-use zone in the region that would allow apartments, senior living facilities and retail.
The new uses, in the town’s view, would bring additional life to an area once so strongly associated with gleaming corporate headquarters and office parks that it was nicknamed the Platinum Mile.
The three buildings that will be knocked down to make way for Wegmans total about 250,000 square feet. Only about 2 percent of that space was occupied in 2017, according to the initial application from Normandy and Wegmans.
Normandy was also represented by NKF on the deal, by Executive Vice President Michael Cottle, senior managing directors Jessica Curtis and Peter Fine, and director Nick Marona.
Normandy Senior Vice President Matthew Lavell said in a statement that the company has spent the past five years working to “attract alternative and more productive land uses within the I-287 corridor due to the surplus of outdated office inventory that hasn’t fit the needs of the community for a very long time.”
Wegmans will mark the second conversion of Normandy office property on Corporate Park Drive in the past two years. National luxury home developer Toll Brothers started demolition last fall of 200,000 square feet of buildings at 103 and 105 Corporate Park Drive, which it will replace with a 421-unit rental apartment complex.
Those two conversions are just the latest in a string of teardowns along the Platinum Mile corridor that have contributed to an overall decrease in the county’s office vacancy rate. Glenn Walsh, executive managing director in the Rye Brook office of NKF, said the teardowns have brought Westchester’s overall office market down from 32 million square feet to just under 28 million this year.
That trend will likely continue. Over the next year, Walsh said the market could lose another million square feet to repurposing. “It’s not good for the office brokers,” Walsh said, “but the net is that it will make a much healthier market.”
Still, Walsh said adding Wegmans could prove great for the remaining office buildings in the I-287 corridor.
“The big complaint there is that you’re out on an island with these office parks,” Walsh said. “There’s nowhere to go for lunch, there’s nowhere to go for any essentials you need during the day. So, I think this will be a big, big plus for the I-287 corridor to step into this century and start putting amenities around these office buildings which are greatly needed.”
Wegmans has 95 stores along the East Coast, with 46 in New York. The majority of the New York stores are upstate, focused especially in Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo. But the Harrison store will be part of a larger expansion for the company in the New York metropolitan region. Two Wegmans opened in New Jersey last year and a store is expected to open in the redevelopment of the Brooklyn Navy Yard at an undetermined date.