The White Plains Common Council on Monday night approved The Collection, an estimated $120 million project that will add shops and apartments along Westchester Avenue across from The Westchester mall.
The project will add about 25,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space along with 276 apartments spread between Westchester Avenue and Franklin Avenue.
The Common Council voted on April 2 in favor of environmental findings and site plan approvals for the development.
White Plains Mayor Thomas Roach praised the project as a way to connect the city’s residential Franklin neighborhood to its Westchester Avenue shopping district.
“This is what adds value to homes in a downtown now, people want to walk to things,” Roach said. “And I always thought it was an irony that in this neighborhood, which is in the middle of everything, it wasn’t as easy as it should be.”
The proposal comes from Saber Chauncey WP LLP, a partnership between affiliate companies of Armonk-based Saber Real Estate Advisors LLC, and Chauncey Station Partners. The two real estate firms previously collaborated on the 450,000-square-foot Rivertowns Square mixed-use development in Dobbs Ferry, which includes a movie theater, apartments, restaurants and retail.
The White Plains project will follow a similar concept. As designed by the Virginia architecture firm Antunovich Associates, the project would bring 25,218 square feet of retail and restaurant space to Westchester Avenue in the area between the White Plains Chrysler Jeep Dodge and the Westchester Burger Company buildings.
The Westchester Avenue portion will include 90 apartment units in three stories above the retail. On the back end of the property, on Franklin Avenue, an 11-story residential building will have 186 units.
Of the 276 apartments, 17 will be offered at rents affordable for people making 60 percent of area median income. The complex would include 25 studio, 160 one-bedroom and 91 two-bedroom units between the two residential buildings.
The project also adds 745 on-site parking spaces, including a parking garage on the first four stories of the apartment building on Franklin Avenue. A little more than a third of the spaces – 275 total – will be reserved for municipal uses.
Two pedestrian pathways on the site will connect Franklin and Westchester avenues. The project will also add a crosswalk on Westchester Avenue.
Once built, The Collection will replace a group of largely vacant single-story retail buildings on a 3-acre tract.
The city also approved the transfer of ownership of a 153-spot public parking lot on Franklin Avenue to the development team. The Collection project will replace that parking and add to it with the 275 designated municipal spots on site.
The project was first reviewed by the city in 2015, but has since been scaled down. The project footprint went from 4.4 to 3.14 acres. A spa and hotel were eliminated from the plans, along with an underground automobile showroom. The retail and restaurant space was also decreased from the original proposal of 91,000 square feet.
The larger project was at the city’s request at the time, which wanted the development team to incorporate the White Plains Chrysler Jeep Dodge property next door at 70 Westchester Ave. The larger project would have built a new showroom and service area for the dealership, but the two sides ultimately couldn’t reach a deal.
The updated plans were first presented to the city’s Common Council in May 2017.
Martin G. Berger, managing principal of Saber, told the city council Monday that his group is excited to get going on a project he described as many years in the making.
“We’ve studied it quite well and we’re ready to get moving and start the development,” he said.
The project did receive two votes against out of the seven-member council. Council member Milagros Lecouna described the project as too big for the site and said the developer should include more affordable units. The city’s code gives developers the options set aside either 6 percent of its units as affordable to people making 60 percent area median income, or 10 percent of its units to people making up to 80 percent median income.
Council member Dennis Krolian said the project did not add enough municipal parking, should have incorporated solar panels and doesn’t go far enough to ensure pedestrian safety along Westchester Avenue.
But the rest of the council praised the project. Council member Nadine Hunt-Robinson said she looks forward to the project “changing that blighted concrete area into a streetscape with people, retail, residences.”
“I’m looking forward to the shovel going into the ground,” she said.
This is wonderful for White Plains! However, those with suggestions should give Mr. Berger more credit, and work with him to realize their goal within his context. He’s gotten far by being smart, and might listen better than one thinks. Having 6-10% of units as more affordable will help jump start his project and improve community relations… were not talking public housing here. More parking might be achievable by looking at the space utilization of what’s planned. Solar power aspects could easily become more attractive, especially as companies like Tesla improve both cosmetics and economies. Pay attention, Mr. Berger, and you’ll improve your responsiveness to community needs. But we should all give him credit for the boost this gives White Plains.