Column: Kensington Road project inches forward

After an exhaustive and thorough process, the Board of Trustees will be ready to make a decision on the selection of a developer for the long approved Kensington Road Condominium Project at the Dec. 9 meeting.Mayor-Marvin

As a refresher, the village sent out a request for proposal the week of June 7, 2013. Responses to the RFP were due back to the village by 4 p.m. on Sept. 3, 2013. The announcement of the RFP’s availability was publically broadcast and followed by publication of the news in various local outlets. The information was also put on the village website. The announcements were sent to a number of developers who expressed interest in the project going back to 2008, when the WCI Corporation abandoned the development. During the intervening summer weeks, many interested parties interviewed with village staff and the project’s architect about the RFP.

With the responses in by the September due date, an expert committee was convened to review submissions, chaired by Deputy Mayor Robert Underhill, trustee point person Guy Longobardo, former Trustee Frank Sica, village resident Jay Urstadt, Village Counsel James Staudt and Village Administrator Harold Porr.

After careful study of submissions, specific candidates were selected for interviews and an intense review followed of both the potential developer’s financial soundness and the quality of their product. I joined in for the site visits of the finalists.

The RFP was essentially the same document issued in 2003-2004 that required the construction of a residential condominium project of approximately 110,000 square feet, creating up to 54 housing units and the inclusion of an underground municipal parking garage with 200 spaces for the exclusive use of the village.

Over a period of two years, the prior developer, who filed Chapter 11 due to heavy investment in Florida real estate in 2008, obtained all required land use and board approvals for construction of the project. These approvals include an environmental finding statement, Planning Board site plan and Planning Board special permit. In addition, agreements were also secured with multiple interested and/or involved third parties, including the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation regarding environmental remediation, MTA relating to access, construction management, drainage and utility issues; the owners of One Pondfield Road modifying an existing easement and providing for relocation of utility lines; and United Water replacing a water main and agreements to protect the property of Christ Church. In addition, both the former project’s architect and project engineering firm have agreed that their drawings and specifications may be used by a new developer.

All of these pre-approvals, both in terms of time and expenses incurred, have great value to the new developer making this a truly shovel-ready project.

After extensive market research, the condominiums are designed to attract the empty nesters, ideally current residents who want to downsize but still remain in our village. The design schematics provide for formal dining rooms, few bedrooms and many staffing amenities.

In addition to the carefully designed building, whose every feature was vetted in the prior comprehensive two-year review process by the village Planning Board and village staff, the adjoining neighborhood to the project itself will be beautifully landscaped with new sidewalks, curbing, planting and underground utilities.

Perhaps even most importantly, approximately 20,000 cubic yards of contaminants will be removed and the property, formerly a power and steam station, gas station and general industrial site, will be returned to pristine condition.

Proposers provided a bond, letter of credit or equivalent form of security to insure completion of the environmental remediation and the entire parking facility. So, net-net, in the worst case scenario, the village is guaranteed an environmentally clean property and a brand new parking facility.

The property is not only a visual eyesore in its current condition, but has been off the tax rolls for decades. The new high-quality development is conservatively estimated to add $600,000 plus to the village tax coffers, of which 85 percent will go to the school district.

The bottom line is that a blighted property in the village will be transformed into a showplace, bringing new quality housing, new tax revenues and improved public parking facilities to the village. This will be our third attempt to get this project built but all indications are that this effort will be the one that gets done.