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History sidesteps in Yonkers

A downtown Yonkers developer has cleared a landmarking hurdle at City Hall and this summer will seek financing to build a residential tower and redevelop several properties on Buena Vista Avenue.

“We’re clear to proceed to site plan approval,” said Kenneth Dearden, president for development at Metro Partners L.L.C., owners of the Lofts at Metro 92, a former Yonkers trolley barn across from the downtown Metro-North Railroad station. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 92 Main St. building would be connected to Metro Partners’ planned 250-foot-high, glass-sheathed apartment building on an approximately 2-acre site on Buena Vista Avenue.

The project, which Dearden estimated will cost more than $100 million, was first presented to city officials in 2009. Metro Partners that year paid $450,000 to acquire from the Yonkers Downtown Waterfront Development Corp. a vacant, environmentally contaminated property at 41-49 Buena Vista Ave., site of the architecturally distinctive but deteriorated Teutonia Hall, a cultural center built in 1891. The developer plans to raze the brick building after dismantling its historic facade and replace it with an apartment building marketed to attract Metro-North commuters as tenants. Metro Partners is targeting the same young professionals market that has filled the company’s luxury rentals at nearby 66 Main, a 166-unit building that opened in 2008.

The number of Teutonia rental units will be less than the 412 in the developer’s submitted proposal for a 25-story building, said Dearden, as the building height has been limited to 250 feet in the revised downtown zoning code approved in December by the Yonkers City Council. The project also will include an automated parking garage, education center and rooftop hydroponic garden and the conversion of three 19th-century homes on the downtown block to multifamily dwellings.

The Yonkers City Council this month removed a solid piece of local history as an obstacle to the developer’s plans.

Council members rejected a recommendation by the city’s Landmark Preservation Board to designate Teutonia Hall a local landmark, a step that would have at least temporarily stopped the developer from demolishing the building and could have killed the project. Teutonia Hall sits on a brownfield, an industrially polluted ground, and state tax credits granted the developer for a brownfield clean-up were said to be critical to making the project financially viable.

The council noted the required environmental cleanup would severely limit any preservation of Teutonia Hall. They agreed with the city Planning Board’s finding that it would be more cost-effective and less risky to dismantle, store and reassemble the building façade. The mosaic-tiled façade will be rebuilt and incorporated in the two-story façade of a project streetfront adjacent to the apartment tower.

Dearden said the façade preservation measures, which will be directed by a building historian, will add about $1 million to development costs.

The developer recently gave preliminary site plans to city planners. “Over the summer we’ll be actively looking for financing for construction,” Dearden said. “Everyone knows the markets are tight. That’s the trick now,” after navigating the city approval process. Lenders favor shovel-ready projects, he said.

“With the approval of the site plan, we’re shovel-ready,” said Dearden. “We’d love to have shovels in the ground this fall.”

 

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As managing editor of the Business Journals, John Golden directs news coverage of Westchester and Fairfield counties and the Hudson Valley region. He was an award-winning upstate columnist and feature writer before joining the Business Journal in 2007. He is the author of “Northern Drift: Sketches on the New York Frontier,” a collection of his regional journalism.

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