As city officials move closer to rezoning a blighted area next to the Mount Vernon West train station, plans for a 20-story mixed-use apartment building are coming into focus.
Macquesten Development of Pelham recently presented drawings to the Mount Vernon architectural review board for 22 S. West Street Tower, a $71 million project that blends low- to medium-income housing, market-rate housing and retail space.
“It’s a very cool glass and concrete structure with insets on both wings,” said Joseph Apicella, Macquesten’s managing director of development. “So as you are heading up and down Metro North, you will have tremendous views of this magnificent building.”
The proposed building fits the city’s plan to transform a scruffy industrial zone into a residential and retail district centered at a mass transit hub. The way to do that, Apicella said, is to attract a critical mass of people.
The company has taken the first step with The Modern, an 11-story, 81-unit building at 13 Mount Vernon Ave. aimed at people with workforce incomes. Rents will range from $1,000 to $2,000.
It is nearing completion and it already has a waiting list for tenants. People could be moving in by the end of the year, Apicella said.
Macquesten’s strategy for 22 S. West Street Tower is to blend workforce rates with market-rate rents. Most of the 205 apartments will go to people who make less than the area’s median household income. The rest will be leased to people with greater incomes, whose higher disposable incomes can support more retail activity. Nearly 5,000 square feet will be set aside for retail use.
Rents would range from about $1,000 to $3,000.
Humphreys & Partners Urban Architecture of Dallas designed the building to be environmentally sound.
The site had been used for a gas station. Since buying the property for $1.5 million last year, Macquesten has removed underground gas tanks and cleaned up contaminated soil.
For now, 22 S. West Street Tower can’t be built because city zoning does not allow high buildings.
“Without 20 stories, we can’t build,” Apicella said. “We have to get 35 feet above the elevated train, for the view premiums. Without the views, we can’t do this.”
The Mount Vernon City Council has been deliberating on a proposed 46-acre zone around the train station that would allow taller buildings and mixed-use projects. Apicella said the council could approve the plan soon. Then Macquesten would submit site plans for approval. Preliminary work could begin this fall.
The company has asked the city’s Industrial Development Agency to approve a sales tax exemption on $1.6 million of materials and equipment purchased for the project, as well as property tax abatement, offset by payments in lieu of taxes.
There is another crucial element. With Grand Central only 22 minutes away by express train, the location could be an attractive alternative for people priced out of Manhattan, Apicella said.
But the old Mount Vernon West train station stinks. It is ugly. People avoid using it.
Macquesten would like to buy it, clean it up and develop the space for cafes and restaurants. The company is also looking to acquire and develop other properties near the station.
Apicella said the company has a winning formula. Design attractive apartments for a blend of income levels. Make them environmentally sound. Add retail space. Locate at a commuter train station, allowing for greater mobility and encouraging pedestrian traffic on the local streets.
The 22 S. West Street Tower, he said, “will stand the test of time.”
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