Westchester County Mulls Launching COVID Aid Fund

John Jordan | June 2020

A rendering of the mixed-use development to be built by Southern Land Co. at the YMCA property site at 250 Mamaroneck Ave. in White Plains.

WHITE PLAINS—The Westchester County Industrial Development Agency could be establishing in the near future a fund that would provide grants and loans to county businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

Westchester County Director of Operations Joan McDonald reported this morning that the program could total $500,000 in financing. The county would be moving forward on the initiative once Gov. Cuomo signs legislation that passed the New York State Legislature in late May that would allow for the creation of the “State Disaster Emergency Loan Program,” which would be administered by local Industrial Development Agencies.

Westchester County IDA Counsel Michael Curti during the online session on June 11 explained some of the potential particulars of the program. He noted that the maximum amount of grants to be awarded for eligible firms would be $10,000. Those funds could only be used for the acquisition of necessary Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) or the installation of equipment geared to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The maximum loan amount would be $50,000 and could be used to help offset other costs unrelated to PPEs. There are requirements that the borrower retain employment levels, Curti noted.

The loan does not require a payment during the grace period (60 days following the end of the State of Emergency Declaration Gov. Cuomo issued back in March 2020). Curti said that there is no interest charged on the principal loan amount and the payment has to be made no later than one year after the end of the grace period.

The program would be administered by a third party and overseen by the IDA. Kim Jacobs, executive director of Community Capital, expressed interest in assisting the county in the fund’s operations, according to McDonald and county Director of Economic Development Bridget Gibbons.

McDonald said that it is believed Gov. Cuomo will sign the “State Disaster Emergency Loan Program” in the near future, which could allow the IDA to discuss the COVID grant and loan program further at its July 9th session.

In other business, the IDA granted preliminary inducements to two large projects, including the Kirby Commons project, which would involve the development of two mixed-use buildings and parking garages at 17 Britton Lane and 1 Main St. in Mount Kisco. The $130-million project proposed by Kirby Commons, LLC, will total approximately 613,000 gross square feet and consist of 217 rental apartments, with 7% of the units earmarked for households at 90% of the Westchester County median income; approximately 50,000 square feet of retail and 3,000 square feet of community space. The parking structures would accommodate a total of 896 spaces with 336 dedicated as commuter parking spaces. The developer was seeking $2.5 million in sales tax exemptions, and about $1 million in mortgage recording tax exemption from the IDA.

The other major project to secure IDA inducement was the project by Southern Land to develop a mixed-use project at the site of the YMCA facility at 250 Mamaroneck Ave. in White Plains.

The project, the first in Westchester for Nashville, TN-developer Southern Land Co., will cost approximately $107 million, according to Eon Nichols, a partner in the law firm Cuddy & Feder, LLP, who represented the developer at the IDA session.  Southern Land Co. is seeking $2,487,026.16 in sales tax exemptions and $644,071 in mortgage recording tax exemptions.

The project calls for the demolition of the YMCA building in order to make way for a building that could accommodate 184,858 rentable square feet. The building, upon completion, will feature 177 rental units, consisting of one, two and three-bedroom units, and 1,876 square feet of ground floor retail and a parking garage.

Southern Land, rather than include affordable units at the project, will be contributing $3.15 million to the White Plains Affordable Housing Fund. Nichols said the developer hopes to close on the sale of the property in coming weeks and receive a final approval from the IDA at its July 9th session.

Cynthia Delfino, president and CEO of the YMCA of Central and Northern Westchester, told Real Estate In-Depth that the sale price for its storied property on Mamaroneck Avenue is $14.25 million. The YMCA has already begun renovation work at its future home at 148 Hamilton Ave. The YMCA has signed a 15-year lease for the four-story building that at one time was operated as a grammar school for St. John’s the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church. The YMCA is renovating the entire building and will occupy two of the four floors for the YMCA Early Learning Center totaling approximately 14,000 square feet. The remainder of the building will be utilized by St. John’s and another tenant.

The IDA tabled discussion on a proposal to have the Westchester County IDA provide on a temporary basis financial assistance for projects in the City of Mount Vernon. The Mount Vernon IDA, according to documents filed with the Westchester County IDA, is currently prohibited from offering financial assistance until it has filed annual audited financial statements with the New York State Comptroller’s office.

McDonald said the matter was tabled because the IDA and the State Comptroller’s office could not arrange a meeting prior to the IDA session to discuss some matters in connection with the arrangement.

According to the proposal, the Mount Vernon IDA and the Westchester County IDA have agreed to the temporary arrangement in order “to foster and facilitate the momentum of projects, which will expand economic opportunities for city (Mount Vernon) and county residents and improve their quality of life.”

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth