Real estate professionals gathered recently in New Rochelle for Bisnow, a conference on real estate strategies that amounted to a celebration of the city’s ambitious $4 billion downtown redevelopment plan.
About 250 people attended the networking event at the TF Andrew downtown flooring and tile showroom on Feb. 28.
New Rochelle is a “model of what an urban – suburban area can look like,” Mayor Noam Bramson said at the opening of the conference.
The city aims to create 12 million square feet of space centered around the downtown train station, including offices, retail, 6,370 housing units and 1,200 hotel rooms.
The first panel examined the city’s strategies. The speakers were Joe Apicella of MacQuesten Development, Bill Balter of Wilder Balter Partners, Jerry Bermingham of National Realty & Development, Jose Cruz of HFF real estate capital, Alex Twining of Twining Properties and moderator Michael Gilbert of Con Ed.
A key idea behind New Rochelle’s initiative is to cut costs and time. In 2015, the city signed a master developer agreement with RXR Realty, which completed a comprehensive environmental review for the entire downtown development.
The generic environmental review enables any developer to skip the expensive, time-consuming process and take their proposals directly to the city. The city has pledged to approve land-use permits within 90 days.
“It’s a huge difference,” said Bermingham, the man behind the $100 million WatermarkPointe condominiums on Davenport Neck. If you are going to do one or two projects, “this is the right place.”
The second panel focused on art and technology. The panelists included Luiz Aragon, the city’s development commissioner, David Brause of Brause Realty, Anthony Hammel of ELD Properties, Seth Pinsky of RXR, Oshi Rabin of the Mahlstedt Gallery and moderator Sadie McKeown of the Community Preservation Corp.
The arts, Pinsky said, are an investment that enhances the culture, the economy and the talent pool.
“We have an incredible live-work art space that’s ready to go,” Aragon said.