It is always great to learn about what is happening in our great city. City? Mr. Luiz Aragon Commissioner of Development spoke yesterday (September 15th, 2017) at the New Rochelle Public Library to the League of Women Voters of New Rochelle. Mr. Aragon stated that we are a ‘village trapped in a city’ and I think that is so true.
Mr. Aragon stated that in order to bring productive retail stores into the city, there must be a larger and better walking accessibility too. With no easy access, how can restaurants survive? retail stores thrive? It was determined that there is the need to bring more people to New Rochelle in order to realize our great potential and become the vibrant city we all know it is.
In the past, the city ‘rolled out the red carpet’ to developers so they would come to the city. Today it is different. Today, after the significant rezoning of Downtown and planning initiatives, businesses want to come here. We can all readily view the high rise crane in motion where the former Loew’s Theater once stood. The developers are on target to reach almost 28 stories by the end of the year.
Questions were asked about transportation. New Rochelle is endeavoring to create a city that is pedestrian friendly, a city where millennials, empty nesters will enjoy a thriving walk-able community. Mr. Aragon reflected that ‘people kept telling him they felt unsafe downtown’. However, it is a known fact that New Rochelle is the safest (lower crime rate) city of its size in the state, and the 14th safest city in the country. He then asked himself, “what makes people feel unsafe?”. He realized that it was the cars moving down the streets too fast, chaotic traffic congestion, and the city needed a calming, counter intuitive change.
In order to address traffic issues downtown the City is taking a multi-pronged approach that focuses on traffic calming techniques, the potential implementation of a shuttle bus, and strategically placing parking lots in various locations downtown. “When you slow traffic down, it is better for pedestrians, cyclists and businesses alike”. Mr. Aragon continued that Main Street used to be 2 ways when the I95 did not exist. People go to Boston Post Road to avoid paying the toll. The traffic signals are obsolete (over 50-60 years old). Result? The cost to upgrade the system is 12 million dollars and the City has received a grant of 7 million dollars towards that cost.
The city has applied for a grant to build a garage on Main Street. This area has always been Mr. Aragon’s bailiwick as he was the Department of Transportation Assistant Commissioner for planning under Mayor Guiliani. All of the decisions that have been made, have been based on extensive analysis.
When asked about the loss of parking in connection with the 2018 demolition of the Church Street garage, Mr. Aragon explained that the garage currently offers half of the ground floor for public parking, and those people who have permanent parking will be relocated /absorbed to the Prospect Park or New Roc garages. Someone lamented on the longer walk, but Mr. Aragon quipped that “if you were to walk 10-20 blocks in the city [New York City] to find a parking spot, you would rejoice. We are talking just a few blocks in New Rochelle.”
The city is also looking into the transit center. Complete occupancy during the weekday, but not the weekends. How that can be utilized better?
The discussion then continued on the topic of the downtown redevelopment. The City has approved an overlay zone of approximately 300 acres downtown and on parts of North Avenue. New projects have popped up everywhere. It is a new form/shaped based zoning code which applies to 6 districts and creates an overlay zone. It just made sense.
However, to have first been able to do this, an environmental study was required at a three million dollar cost and undertaking (SEQRA). It takes years, and this was all done on the city’s behalf by the RDRXR Master Developer. Based on that alone, plans can be now approved in 90 days which is unheard of, and as a result the businesses are flocking to the city.
Some of the New Rochelle Projects that were highlighted:
The Lombardi was completed as a luxury rental building, and with our own Lisa Sangster of Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s as the listing agent, it was all rented There is also 10% affordable housing in the building. A great success.
- 165 Huguenot is under construction which will be another rental building. Next to Westmed, the 72 Unit building will be aimed at Millennials. How so? There will be a huge shared living room/kitchen, everything will be computerized, there will be parking too of course.
- The Burling Lane Triangle. A rental building was built there, and was immediately occupied by doctors/nurses as it is near the hospital, and with people in the area wanting easy accessibility to downtown. As a result, a second building was built last year with a third under construction too. This one area alone has created a new neighborhood, and they have even constructed a little park on the corner. You will soon be able to access the train easily and use a jogging path – all to come.
- 393 Huguenot is located across the street from the old Loew’s Theater. It will be a 70 rental unit building with retail on the ground floor and offering robotic parking too!
- 10 Commerce Street (Opposite Toyota – there is a red sculpture in front as you access the street), and you will find an old warehouse. It will be demolished and a 200 unit building will be built (it is immediately behind 165 Huguenot).
- 14 Locust Street is under construction, and will be a dormitory for Monroe College.
- North Avenue from Fifth Avenue to the car wash will all be demolished and a 114 rental unit building is to be built with retail on the ground floor (featuring a National chain). There will be parking, and one of the retail stores will be the Smokehouse which will move into the first building. The area where the Smokehouse is currently located will be demolished for another development.
- Club Miami – next to the Post Office on Le Count – will be demolished also and a 14 story building with 114 luxury residential units (rentals) will be built.
- The developer of 587 Main will be restoring the facade to its original splendor. After all, New Rochelle offers great history. The city will control 10,000 square feet in the form of a black box theater. What is a Black Box Theater? It is basically a squared space that is interchangeable for each venue so seating, staging can readily and easily be changed to adapt to the venue, and simply enhancing our cultural district. New Rochelle is always trying to create interest from the artist community. We have always been a cultured city.
- There will be two twenty-eight story residential towers built on Church street with retail stores on the ground floor, and the city has hired a company to approach various retail companies to come to New Rochelle. That should not be too hard!
- There was a groundbreaking ceremony for a new hotel in the area – The Boutique V Hotel – 80 units on Church Street with a full service bar and restaurant. Luxury guest rooms, an exercise room and open lounges too.
- The city then wanted to address the unusable space at the 2 Avalons. The Avalon 1 ( La Rochelle) agreed to demolish its existing swimming outdoor pool, and amenity area within (to the right as you enter the building). They will re-target the first floor of the La Rochelle by taking away all of those apartments, and will construct a new amenity area, new offices and a swimming pool will be built where the circle currently is. The space then made available will then be targeted for a through street so you can easily access the train station. It will extend from the Lawton extension (next to Chase) onward. As you exit the train station, you will be able to see downtown New Rochelle.
- The old Beckwith Pointe now Watermark Pointe will be the site of 72 luxury condos, all around 2700 square feet each , and are selling at a rapid rate.
New Rochelle is GREAT!