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New Rochelle Hits Fast Forward On $4B Development Plan

Less than two years ago, New Rochelle, just a few miles north of New York City, enacted a plan to spur $4B worth of development, streamlining the permitting process and putting out the welcome mat for developers. This week, two major proposals for towering residential projects show the plan is working.

RXR's Seth Pinsky and New Rochelle city officials discuss plans for new two-tower development in the city's downtown.

Wednesday, the city and RXR Realty, the master developer for New Rochelle's downtown revitalization, revealed a $300M, two-tower proposal that, when completed, would bring up to 700 housing units and 40K SF of retail to what is currently a parking lot at the corner between Church and Division streets.

The announcement came on the heels of the city awarding the rights to develop a major housing project on the current site of a fire station at 45 Harrison St., less than a block from its renovated train station. MacQuesten Development, based in Pelham, the next town over from New Rochelle in Westchester County, won the rights to the site with its proposal: a 27-story tower with 284 rental units, 9K SF of retail, a four-story parking garage and the option to build a 50K SF municipal office building.

"Both are exciting developments that are fully consistent with our downtown vision and demonstrate that our pace of progress is accelerating," New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon. "The MacQuesten project and the new RXR development, in their scale and impact, represent significant milestones. But we still have a long way to go."

Bramson said the bill the council passed in late 2015 laid out a 10-year development plan for New Rochelle's downtown, clearing a path for developers to build 6,000 housing units and 12M SF of properties, including office and retail.

RXR has poured the concrete for its first project in New Rochelle, at 587 Main St., which will have 280 apartments and a 10K SF black-box theater.

That project is one of several midsize construction sites underway in the city, Bramson said, but the two projects, both planning on beginning construction in 2018, represent a next chapter in the city's development story. And it cannot come fast enough to please the mayor.

"I’m very impatient," he said. "I’m aware there’s a window of opportunity, and I don’t want that to close on us. If it were up to me, these would be done yesterday."

Rendering of MacQuesten's planned tower in New Rochelle
at 45 Harrison St.

MacQuesten Managing Director Joseph Apicella said his firm bid on the rights to develop 45 Harrison St. because of its access to transit and the appetite New Rochelle has for redevelopment. That RXR, one of the Tri-State region's most prominent owner-developers, is spearheading the efforts, buoyed the firm's confidence in the development site, Apicella said. 

Developing transit-oriented projects in New York City's suburbs, particularly those in Westchester and Long Island, has been an uphill climb for years, and the lack of appetite for it in most towns along the Metro-North and Long Island Railroad has helped New Rochelle stand out among its peers in the development community.

"Developers want to go where they're wanted," Apicella said. "When you have a community that proactively says 'we want this to happen' ... it tells me all I need to know."