Leading Developers Discuss Future Growth, Challenges at State of the Economy Program
Leading developers offered viewpoints on the competitive advantages of building in Westchester and the challenges in getting projects approved at the BCW’s State of the Economy Series virtual program held on Wednesday.
The webinar featured discussion about positive municipal leadership in the cities of New Rochelle, White Plains and Yonkers that has enhanced these communities’ ability to compete with New York City for new residents, jobs, and investment.
“I’m sure you have all noticed the changing skyscape and landscape of Westchester County cities and village and towns,” said BCW President and CEO Marsha Gordon. “These leaders in Westchester County are creating new jobs, new opportunities to live and to work and to play and adding to the vibrancy of Westchester County.”
Speakers at the event were William Balter, President, WBP Development LLC & Griffon Construction LLC; Louis Cappelli, Founder, Cappelli Organization and Chairman & CEO of LRC Construction; Joe Cotter, President, National Resources; Rella Fogliano, CEO, MacQuesten Development; David Garten, SVP, Corporate Affairs, RXR; and Andrew Weisz, Executive Vice President, RPW Group, Inc.
Balter described WBP Development’s eight current affordable- and workforce-housing projects, including the redevelopment of the former YMCA in Tarrytown into 109 units of senior housing and a municipal garage. “We look as a company to work in communities that are really actively engaged in economic development, and then planning the growth of their downtowns,” said Balter. “We’re working with communities that want growth.”
Cappelli announced that LRC Construction will deliver One Clinton Park in downtown New Rochelle to RXR on Friday, and then will partner again with RXR again to begin construction in June on Hamilton Green, which will be a four-year redevelopment of the former White Plains Mall. He said that this building boom will not produce empty apartments. “All of these units that we’re building in New Rochelle, which are 2,000 units under construction now and/or just finished, we have no doubt will be rented by high-quality individuals at great prices for Westchester County,” said Cappelli.
Cotter discussed how National Resources is building the largest film and movie studio complex in the Northeast for Lionsgate Studios in downtown Yonkers. He said the complex will bring 1,500 new jobs over the next three years. At the former IBM East Fishkill site, National Resources repurposed the property for food manufacturers and is building a back lot operation for film and television production. What’s urgently needed now is housing, he said. “Sadly, there’s no places for workforce housing or young people in any of the better suburbs,” said Cotter. “Our aging population should be something of great concern…. We can’t have senior, assisted-living projects in every wealthy community because they don’t want school children. What society is anti-school children?”
Fogliano said that she was initially wary of building an affordable workforce housing next to the Mount Vernon West Station, but the demand for apartments by the Metro-North Railroad made the development successful. She described her vision for affordable housing as a product that looks like luxury housing. “It takes a few dollars out of my pocket to use special materials inside and out, but I think that the rewards are tenfold,” said Fogliano. “I don’t want anybody to look at one of my buildings and say, ‘Oh, that’s affordable housing.’”
Garten noted how the entire region has underbuilt housing, which is causing an affordability crisis. For example, RXR’s 143-unit affordable housing project in Brooklyn has received 11,000 applications. He said one remedy to the affordability crisis in Westchester County is difficult conversations that challenge local mindsets. “You can’t be pro-affordability, but anti-density. You can’t be for sustainability, but against growth,” said Garten. “These are unfortunately economic truisms…How do we move forward not only as a county, but also these individual municipalities? How do they create a development plan that addresses the need but is also unique to their own individual community?”
Weisz said RPW Group’s greatest challenge in past years was housing for existing and prospective office tenants’ employees. Now prospective tenants are visiting office buildings with maps indicating nearby housing, retail, and amenities. Weisz said RPW Group is focused on converting office parks into mixed-use properties that include housing and retail, such as 300 units of new housing at 1133 Westchester Ave. expected to open in September. “Being able to potentially work and live on the same site and being able to take the shuttle to Wegmans or Lifetime and maybe go to downtown White Plains is exciting and attracting talent to Westchester,” said Weisz. “We’re now — with these projects — able to start offering the type of product that these people want to live in.”
The State of the Economic series is presented by PCSB Bank and sponsored by Simone Development Companies, The Catalyst—Westchester County Biosciences Accelerator, and RM Friedland. A recording of the webinar is posted on the BCW’s Facebook page.
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