Iona buys North Ave. diner with dorms in mind

Looking to build more campus housing, Iona College has purchased the Mirage Diner located at 690 North Ave. File photo

Looking to build more campus housing, Iona College has purchased the Mirage Diner located at 690 North Ave. File photo

By KATIE HOOS
Iona College will further expand its campus along North Avenue to include the Mirage Diner and the adjacent parking lot located at 690 North Ave.

The college plans to turn the space into a multi-use residential and commercial building to accommodate the growing demand for campus housing. The first floor of the property will be developed into a community-use restaurant and a college bookstore. Residential units will occupy the additional floors of the building.

Nick Triantafillou, owner of the Mirage Diner, said he approached the college about purchasing the restaurant and parking lot in the summer of 2013.

“They have been a good partner and will develop the land in a way that supports the surrounding area,” he said.

A non-disclosure agreement requested by Triantafillou prohibited the college from announcing the purchase until now. The purchase is currently under contract and the diner will remain open under the terms of its existing lease agreement.

Through campus development projects such as the recent acquisition of the diner and the November purchase of Cannone’s Pizzeria and Campus Wings U.S.A., located at 654 North Ave., the college is actively expanding to accommodate the growing number of students looking to live in campus housing. Although residents speculated that a college dorm would be built on the Cannone’s Pizzeria site, Anne Marie Schettini-Lynch, senior vice president for finance and administration at Iona College, said it would remain a food venue.

According to the college, 1,297 students out of 3,770 are currently living on campus and 70 percent of first-year students choose to live on campus. With nearly one-third of the student body living on campus, the college is looking to add more residential space and is creating support roles to manage campus housing needs.

Dawn Insanalli, director of media relations at Iona College said, “As a greater percentage of students are opting to live on or near the campus, the college has added residence hall staff, increased security and a director of off-campus housing to support students and the surrounding neighborhoods.”

Before the start of the 2012 academic year, the college also opened East Hall, a newly constructed three-story dorm in the center of Iona’s campus, which houses 112 students. The college also renovated Rice Hall, the oldest on-campus dormitory, to incorporate more residences.

New zoning legislation, which the City Council passed in June of last year, gave the opportunity for Iona to further develop along North Avenue. The special permit allows for college-related uses within 1,500 feet of the college’s main administration building, or approximately the distance from the intersection of Eastchester Road and North Avenue to the intersection of 5th and North avenues.

The Community-College Planning Committee, comprised of Iona College, the City of New Rochelle and residents from the surrounding area, came to an agreement that the North Avenue corridor could be rezoned to accommodate a seven-story residence hall and a ground floor commercial space.

“We embrace their plans,” Luiz Aragon, commissioner of development for the City of New Rochelle, said. “It’s a good location for a dormitory adjacent to an already existing dorm.”

Schettini-Lynch said the Mirage Diner and Cannone’s Pizzeria purchases not only benefit students, but also the surrounding New Rochelle community.

“For Iona students, these purchases will enhance their experience at Iona by providing more desirable living accommodations as well as other amenities,” she said. “For the New Rochelle community, it will help to continue the revitalization of North Avenue as well as to provide new commercial uses for the community to patronize.”

Schettini-Lynch added the college is also working with the city to revitalize the North Avenue corridor by partly funding the Storefront Enhancement Program, which provides local businesses with funding to replace signage and awnings.

Contact: katie@hometwn.com