Massive STEM High School Project At IBM Back Before Somers Boards

John Jordan | July 2019

1.2-million-square-foot former IBM campus in Somers

SOMERS—Perhaps the most significant project in Northern Westchester County since the IBM property and nearby PepsiCo buildings were constructed here more than three decades ago is set for a public hearing next month.

The Somers Town Board announced at its session on July 11 that a joint meeting between the Town Board and other municipal agencies will be held on Thursday, Aug. 8 to publicly review recent submissions by the owner of the proposed STEM High School (Somers Academy) to be developed at a repurposed IBM property here.

Last September Evergreen Ridge, LLC of Stamford, CT, headed by principal Tim DiScipio, presented initial plans to Somers officials that called for significant interior renovations to the five-building 1.2-million-square-foot complex to convert the property into a school for grades 9-12 that would focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), as well as the arts.

According to a memorandum by Somers Director of Planning Syrette Dyn dated July 2, 2019, the developer (294 Route 100 LLC) after a hiatus of more than six months, recently submitted project assessment volumes 1 and 2 in connection with its petition to seek an amendment to the Town of Somers zoning ordinance to permit the adaptive reuse project.

The new project assessment was filed with the town on June 18. The Somers Planning and Engineering Departments also proposed a draft timeline for the project, beginning this month with its study of the developer’s submissions, as well as the Town Traffic consultant and the applicant’s traffic consultant beginning separate reviews.

The Somers Town Board formally accepted its role as lead agency for the project on Nov. 29, 2018.

In addition to the Town Board, the Aug. 8 special meeting will also include the Planning Board, Open Space Committee, Architectural Review Board and the Westchester County Planning Board. Later that month, the Planning Board is scheduled to review the site plan and subdivision plans on Aug. 14.

In September, the Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the project’s site plan and preliminary subdivision proposal on Sept. 11.

Planning Board and Town Board public hearings on components of the plan are tentatively scheduled for Oct. 9 and Oct. 10th respectively. In November, the Town Board closes its public hearing on the zoning amendment and holds its first public hearing on its comprehensive plan amendment. Also that month, the Westchester County Planning Board considers the project’s comprehensive plan amendment and sends comments to the Town Board on the zone change and comprehensive plan proposals.

In December, the Town Board would hold its second public hearing on the comprehensive plan—Dec. 12—and during the month it considers and then votes on Parts 2 and 3 of the EAF and declaration for zoning text amendment and comprehensive plan amendment. The Town Board in December could approve the application and petition for zone change and amendment to the comprehensive plan, as well as any associated conditions, such as community benefits.

The Westchester County Planning Board could, after receiving results from comprehensive plan public hearings, vote on whether to approve the comprehensive plan amendment and zone change.

The approval process could possibly conclude in January or February 2020 with the Planning Board voting on whether to grant preliminary subdivision approval. The Planning Board would continue review of the project’s site plan and schedule public hearings and then vote on final subdivision and site plan resolutions either at its meeting in January or February.

At the Town Board meeting last September, Evergreen Ridge officials, along with Roxana Girand, president and CEO of Sebastian Capital Inc. of New York City, the asset manager for the 723-acre former IBM campus, and Sean Cahill of Avison Young, a broker in the deal, confirmed that negotiations are ongoing with the building owner for Evergreen to lease the entire 1.2-million-square-foot complex.

If the STEM high school project secures all approvals and lease negotiations are finalized, the lease transaction and the subsequent adaptive reuse project would be the largest of their kind in memory in Westchester County.

According to multiple published reports, the former IBM campus at 294 Route 100, as well as the former PepsiCo campus in Somers, are owned by Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helu. In 2016, IBM sold its Somers complex for nearly $32 million and the PepsiCo property traded earlier that year for $87 million. Evergreen Ridge representatives told the Town Board last September that the owner of the property would be an investor in the STEM high school project as well.

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth