Ambitious New Rochelle Downtown Redevelopment Plan Moves Forward

John Jordan | September 2015

An artist rendering of possible development in Downtown New Rochelle.
An artist rendering of possible development in Downtown New Rochelle.
An artist rendering of possible development in Downtown New Rochelle.

NEW ROCHELLE—After months of public meetings, master developer RDRXR released a recommended action plan for the redevelopment of a large swath of the Downtown district of the City of New Rochelle that has the development potential of approximately 10.7 million square feet of mixed-use space.

The plan outlines development potentials in five separate downtown districts. The total residential potential build out would involve approximately 5,500 units or 4.78 million square feet. It also calls for a maximum of a little over one million square feet of new retail space to be developed, 1.5 million square feet of new office space and 3.44 million square feet of commercial/institutional and cultural space.

New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson in a telephone interview with Real Estate In-Depth said that a portion of the commercial/institutional and cultural space would likely include some hotel development in the Downtown.

The mayor said, “The most ambitious development proposal in New Rochelle’s history is on track.” He said the action plan was the result of hard work by the city and RDRXR as well as a significant amount of community input. The plan given to the City Council proposes design criteria, height standards, planning strategies and infrastructure improvements for the Downtown District.

The action plan will serve as the basis for what the mayor said will be a “comprehensive environmental review” of the district as well as proposed zoning amendments to allow for mixed-use development of city-owned and some privately-owned parcels. A Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement will be presented to the City Council in mid-September. Thereafter, the City Council will be asked to consider the plan for formal approval and adoption.

Mayor Bramson is hopeful that the key components of the action plan could be approved by year’s end. “If all those things are accomplished together, all of Downtown New Rochelle will become a shovel-ready site for any investor that shares our vision of what the future of Downtown could be,” the mayor said.

One expected investor is Master Developer RDRXR, a joint venture of Renaissance Downtowns and RXR Realty LLC. As part of the master development agreement with the city that was approved by the City Council in December 2014, RDRXR has exclusive rights to a number of downtown parcels. The mayor said he expects RDRXR to submit plans for “some exciting and new catalytic development” once the key details of the action plan are approved.

He said that discussions with RDRXR have not covered the possible phasing of development or specific site plans. The mayor expects proposals to be before the city in 2016 with the possible first shovel in the ground in early 2017.

However, he said that timeline may change based on interest the city is already receiving on the action plan. Mayor Bramson said, “The mere announcement of this process has already stimulated refreshed interest in Downtown New Rochelle.” He said that there is already a luxury housing development under construction on North Avenue and he is hopeful that other developers will take advantage of the opportunities the action plan and the forthcoming zoning modifications will provide.

In addition to analyzing previously and newly conducted planning studies, the RAP also includes a report and analysis of stakeholder and community input received through RDRXR’s “Crowdsourced Placemaking” process, as well as recommendations for zoning code amendments and other complementary programs and investments.

The plan calls for a downtown and transit area that would include a healthy and exciting mix of housing options, retail, commercial, office, hotel space, as well as community and cultural facilities. In developing the plan, RDRXR and the city studied the projected market opportunities in the area, based on forecast economic and demographic trends.

Over 100 different ideas for the downtown district were generated during public sessions, city officials stated.

“These recommendations, the product of months of hard work and community input, will reduce barriers to private investment by establishing clear, predictable development rights, and by eliminating the high cost of project-specific environmental reviews,” said Mayor Bramson. “More than ever before, New Rochelle will be open for business and ready to welcome any investor who shares our vision for a thriving, inclusive downtown.”

Donald Monti, president and CEO of Renaissance Downtowns noted, “This is an exciting time to be in New Rochelle—the city has been great to work with, and the community has really embraced the opportunity to be involved throughout this open and transparent process. The culmination of this model Public-Private Partnership will be a re-invigorated and revitalized downtown for all New Rochelle residents and visitors to enjoy.”

“We are pleased to be taking this important step towards creating a better future for New Rochelle,” said Scott Rechler, chairman and CEO of RXR Reality. “This is an exciting time for the city and we look forward to working closely with city officials and the community as the process continues.”

The Downtown Development Project- including the Recommended Action Plan- can be viewed on the city’s website at www.newrochelleny.com. The direct link to the RAP is www.newrochelleny.com/downtownRAP.

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth