With a newly launched office in Stamford, Lennar Multifamily Communities plans to focus more of its attention on the New York City metropolitan region. That will include two large-scale developments in downtown White Plains already approved by the city, one by Lennar that has been delayed for two years and another that just came under the company’s supervision.
Greg Belew, Lennar Multifamily Communities’ city president for the New York tristate region, told the Business Journal that the company is reworking plans for its major redevelopment of the former Westchester Pavilion mall site. A short distance from that razed lot on South Broadway, the California-based company has also taken over an already approved mixed-use development project at the corner of Mamaroneck Avenue and East Post Road.
With the two projects, Lennar is in a position to construct more than 1,000 apartments in White Plains over the next few years. Belew, speaking from the company’s office at 1 Landmark Square in Stamford, framed the two projects as part of an enhanced commitment to the region from the company.
“We’ve shifted our center of gravity up to here and we’re getting much more active here,” Belew said. The company had previously managed projects in the region from its Herndon, Virginia, office in the Washington D.C., suburbs.
Lennar Multifamily is an arm of the publicly traded Lennar Corp. The Miami-based development company became the nation’s largest homebuilder this month after it finalized a merger deal with home construction company CalAtlantic Group Inc. The deal included approximately $1.16 billion in cash and shares of Lennar Class A and Class B common stock valued at $4.9 billion.
The Lennar Multifamily Communities division builds mixed-use and other large-scale residential properties. The company made a big splash in Westchester in 2015 when it proposed an estimated $275 million project to tear down the largely vacant Westchester Pavilion mall on South Broadway and Maple Avenue and build in its place two, 24-story residential towers with 707 rental apartments and ground-floor retail.
The project received needed city agency approvals two years ago this month, and Lennar a year later paid $56.6 million to purchase the mall property from Urstadt Biddle Properties Inc. But Lennar has yet to build on those plans, leaving a nearly 4-acre dirt lot standing prominently where the Westchester Pavilion stood.
Belew said the company is still committed to the project, but is reworking some of the original plans. Those plans called for 93,840 square feet of commercial space fronting South Broadway and Maple Avenue, including 77,340 square feet of retail space and 16,500 square feet of restaurant space.
A sluggish retail market and concerns about the number of parking spaces required to support that level of retail has Lennar rethinking the plans.
“We’re reducing the amount of retail and correspondingly increasing the amount of residential,” Belew said.
The design will still be two towers, although Belew said slight changes to their configuration will be required.
The construction will be divided into two phases, essentially one tower at a time. Belew described the project as simply too big to be built all at once.
The White Plains Common Council is considering a request from Lennar’s legal team to extend its site plan approval for another year; it was last extended in February last year. An amendment to those site plans would have to be approved separately by the city once Lennar comes forward with the changes.
The company has had some informal talks with city officials, but Belew said Lennar doesn’t anticipate bringing any new plans forward until the spring. That would leave the start of construction likely at least another year out, he said.
In the meantime, Lennar has taken over development of a separate mixed-use apartment project on nearby Mamaroneck Avenue. The Common Council approved plans last fall for 434 apartments and ground level retail on a 2.1-acre site with frontage on Mamaroneck Avenue, East Post Road and Mitchell Place.
Belew was the developer who took that project to the city in early 2017, though he was working at the time for Alliance Residential Partners, a private multifamily real estate company out of Phoenix.
When Belew joined Lennar, he took the project with him. Lennar Multifamily has purchased the contract to develop the property, Belew said, with plans to start construction later this summer.
The approved plans call for a mix of studios and apartment units ranging from one to three bedrooms. Those apartments would be spread across three building segments that total 440,000 square feet: two 15-story buildings and a six-story building. Included in the project is 8,000 square feet of ground-level retail and restaurant space on Mamaroneck Avenue.
Belew said Lennar was attracted to the project’s location along White Plains’ “restaurant row.”
“We are big believers in transit-oriented urban/suburban nodes continuing to be big centers of growth in the New York metro area as renters continue to get priced out of the higher cost areas in New York City and the immediate surrounding areas,” Belew said. “Cities like White Plains provide a lot for the money with a good lifestyle and easy access to New York City via train.”
Lennar Multifamily moved to 1 Landmark Square in Stamford three months ago after working out of a temporary office. The New York regional office was officially launched in June.
Belew’s office oversees covers the New York City Metro region, including the Hudson Valley, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The Stamford office will also oversee Lennar Multifamily’s development initiatives in the rest of the northeast and mid-Atlantic.