Armed with plans outlining some of the possibilities for reimagining the WestPark office complex at 1111 and 1129 Westchester Ave. in White Plains into a corporate headquarters for the future, the commercial real estate services firm CBRE has been seeking a tenant for the approximately 366,000 square feet of office space on the 25-acre site that at one time housed Starwood Hotels & Resorts and JAG Footwear, formerly Nine West.
It was back in 2012 that the Business Journal reported PepsiCo had leased the WestPark space for use while renovations were underway at its Purchase headquarters. When the renovations in Purchase were complete, PepsiCo decided to stay in the White Plains buildings on a longer-term basis. During that period, PepsiCo vacated its 540,000-square-foot bottling division headquarters in Somers, sending more employees to White Plains as well as Purchase.
“WestPark is the largest central Westchester County office opportunity listed and available,” William V. Cuddy Jr., executive vice president of CBRE, told the Business Journal. “The next closest would be much smaller, one-third of the size.”
Cuddy said that the current lease on the WestPark buildings expires in the first quarter of next year, coinciding with what should be an accelerated recovery from Covid-19 and businesses becoming more focused on future space needs.
“This is not my first recession. It happens to be my first pandemic, so we’re learning as we go and there’s a lot of feedback from employers and employees about how that dynamic is going to change. People are much more comfortably working remotely. It’s been estimated that 20% of the workforce would prefer to work remotely a significant part of the week, 20% prefers to return to the office and 60% are considering some kind of hybrid operation,” Cuddy said.
“A location like this offers a unique opportunity for employees to come and go by automobile and public transportation but given its tremendous plazas and outdoors space it allows the campus to integrate both use of indoor and outdoor space in a corporate environment. That’s unique.”
Cuddy explained that although the buildings are in good shape now with modern internet service, air filtration, plenty of green space and other amenities, owner Onyx Equities LLC and affiliated company WestPark Associates NY LLP had put together plans to further enhance the property. Those plans, he said, could be modified to suit the needs of a specific tenant.
“What’s really key is the ownership here has flexibility. We have the ability here to really respond to the specific needs of a corporation. We’re not selling and marketing a set vision. We’re inviting corporations to be part of the process to make it their corporate headquarters,” Cuddy said.
Cuddy pointed out that in Westchester County, about 75% of all the office inventory was built in a 30-year window, roughly from 1970 to 2000.
“In that window some of the inventory was not constructed really to be durable and has faced obsolescence,” Cuddy said.
“Other properties were designed and built to last. This project, with covered parking and tremendous floor loads and a very sophisticated HVAC system is really designed to remain and the bones are fantastic. But, like any project, it needs refreshing.
“As with any commercial property there’s a tremendous need to feed it capital to replan and repurpose its uses. This has been a unique opportunity for Onyx, the owner of this project, to re-envision how to reactivate it. It’s allowed us to engage with some very sophisticated professionals on reorienting the broadband use at the campus as well as its HVAC systems and create a unique touchless experience and that’s what’s going to resonate with corporate users.”
Jacqueline Novotny, a senior vice president at CBRE who has been directly involved in the marketing of the property, told the Business Journal, “One of the things that you can’t change about the property that happens to be one of its greatest attributes is its location. It’s located right at the intersection of I-287 and I-684 and the Hutchinson River Parkway, which gives it tremendous access to New York City, Westchester County, Putnam County, Rockland County, Fairfield County along with all the major roadways in those areas.
“It also has access to the New Haven Metro-North line and the Harlem Metro-North line, so for employers that gives them tremendous ability to reach a huge talent pool.”
Novotny said that while prospective tenants may have unique needs, there are some common elements.
“High-speed internet and the focus on air quality seem to be paramount for all companies nowadays,” Novotny said. “There are some companies to who location is important because talent is always an issue that companies struggle with and being in this location you have access to such a huge pool of talent that it’s ideal for any employer.”
She said amenities also are important for a property and pointed out that WestPark has a cafeteria, fitness center, conference space, town hall area and plenty of outdoor space. She also said that a new tenant could take either or both four-story buildings.
The buildings were opened in 1984 and renovated in 1997 and again from 2013 to 2015. The building at 1111 Westchester Ave. has 234,281 square feet and the one at 1129 has 132,179 square feet. There are 1,289 interior and exterior parking spaces, according to Onyx.
Cuddy suggested that the recovery from the economic squeeze caused by coping with the virus is different from previous economic recoveries.
“What corporations are grappling with is the reorientation and return to work. There’s a tremendous amount of thought, planning and research going into the tactical return as well as the strategic long-term vision of how corporations are going to work,” Cuddy said. “It’s really a mix and match of what the employees and employers are looking for that will set the stage for how campus location, a corporate headquarters location, will function.”
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