99-Year Lease Deal Brings $1.2B Bioscience Park Closer to Reality
John Jordan | January 2019
TARRYTOWN—The long sought-after development of a major bioscience project at the Grasslands campus in Valhalla cleared a major milestone on Jan. 10 when a lease deal was signed between the developer and Westchester County.
At a meeting of the Westchester County Association, Westchester County Executive George Latimer announced the county had signed a 99-year lease with development firm Fareri Associates of Greenwich CT for 60-acres of county-owned property to be developed as a $1.2-billion biotechnology park that could total between 2 million to 3 million square feet of mixed-use space.
The concept of developing a bioscience facility in Westchester has been discussed for about a decade, but took hold in January 2016 when then Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino announced the county hoped to finalize a long-term lease deal with Fareri Associates to develop the bioscience park called the “Westchester BioScience & Technology Center” on county-owned property called the “North 60.”
In April 2017, the Westchester County Legislature approved the long-term lease, but the deal was never signed off on by Astorino prior to leaving office in December 2017. The Latimer Administration has since been studying the deal and signed the lease at a ceremony at the WCA meeting held at the Westchester Marriott. It should be noted that three years earlier, the initiative with Fareri Associates was first announced by former County Executive Astorino at a WCA event held at the Westchester Marriott.
Fareri Associates president John Fareri said that the first phase of the project would involve the development of approximately 500,000 square feet of space, including an approximately 135-room hotel, biotechnology-medical and retail space. He put the cost of the first phase at approximately $200 million.
With the lease in hand, Fareri is now in the approval process with the Town of Mount Pleasant to secure zone change and environmental approvals. He estimated the process could take 12 to 18 months, putting possible groundbreaking sometime in 2020. He said the project at full build-out could take 10 to 15 years to complete.
Westchester County officials stated that the lease calls for the development in the first phase of 220,000 square feet devoted to biotech and medical technology use, 100,000 square feet in medical office space, 80,000 square feet in retail space and a hotel with conference facilities.
County Executive Latimer, who praised the Astorino Administration and the Board of Legislators for their work on the biotech initiative, stated, “As I learned in my business life, there is a risk for everything, things don’t always turn out as you plan, but if you don’t take risk—prudent risk—you don’t succeed. In this case, the 60 acres here will be a bio-tech center that can attract people to our area where they will see Westchester as a central place,” he said.
Fareri said, “At long last, we can move forward with what we are confident will be a major economic engine for Westchester County and the region. The concept for The North 60 has been in the works for a decade, and now we are ready to see our vision come to life.”
The biotech park at the moment does not include any housing development, but Fareri said that housing has not been ruled out for the project. Fareri owns a 20-acre parcel that adjoins the North 60 site. At the present time, no portion of the North 60 or Fareri’s parcel are zoned for residential use.
It is expected that Fareri will seeking incentives from the Mount Pleasant Industrial Development Agency for the project.
The effective date of the lease was Jan. 10 when it was signed by both parties. The annual lease payment obligation starts at the time the lease was signed and is payable in monthly installments.
Fareri is responsible for providing the infrastructure needed to serve the development, which includes streets, water, sewer, electricity and other utilities.
The lease calls for the county to initially receive $125,000 per year in rent and then 6% of annual gross rental income from the varied biotech-medical uses, except 3% of annual gross income from any hotel or assisted living facility use at the property.
The business community praised the lease deal between Fareri and Westchester County.
At the event, WCA President William Mooney said, “This may be the largest deal done in Westchester in the last 30 or 40 years. He added that the development could produce between 7,000 to 9,000 permanent jobs in the years ahead in the county and approximately 4,000 construction jobs in the development of the project.
Marsha Gordon, president and CEO of The Business Council of Westchester, said. “The North 60 will cement Westchester’s standing as a leading hub for biotechnology and life sciences.
She noted that Westchester’s biotech sector already includes Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Acorda Therapeutics, ContraFect Corp. and the bioscience development will benefit from being near Westchester Medical Center, New York Medical College and other institutions of higher education such as Westchester Community College, Pace University and others will foster innovative partnerships.
“The potential for synergistic relationships is clear, and there is demand for the laboratory and research space planned at The North 60,” Gordon said. “ In a county where 47% of residents have at least a bachelor’s degree or higher—with nearly half of those being in science, engineering or related fields, according to The BCW Data Exchange—it makes perfect sense that a biotech development would thrive in Westchester.”