BY KATIE HOOS
The New Rochelle City Council selected Twining Properties to revamp the city’s waterfront following a near decade-long struggle to develop the area.
Twining Properties, a Manhattan-based real estate developer, won the opportunity to develop the mixed-use project through a unanimous vote of the City Council on July 8. The developer will enter into a memorandum of understanding, MOU, with the city within the next couple of months.
Twining was among four groups, including Archi-Tectonics, CDR Studio and Reimagine New Rochelle, to present plans to the council last month.
Twining was the runner-up in the original bidding process in 2006 behind former developer Forest City, whose plan for Echo Bay was shot down last November following community opposition.
The MOU will address the first phase of a possible 26-acre site. Phase one focuses on developing two city-owned parcels of land—the armory, a formal naval militia building, and the City Yard, the city’s Department of Public Works site—and encompasses 430,000 square feet of residential and 55,000 square feet of retail space.
According to Development Commissioner Luiz Aragon, Twining is in communication with members of Reimagine New Rochelle, a local veterans group that vied for the opportunity to redevelop the armory, about the future of the city’s historic building and the possibility of working together on the project.
In a June presentation by former state Assemblyman Ron Tocci, who represented Reimagine New Rochelle, the group envisioned the armory as a community center for performing arts events and a space where local veterans groups can gather.
To make way for Twining’s project, the city would also have to decide the fate of the dilapidated City Yard, currently located on the waterfront. The city has been eyeing property at 85 Beechwood Ave. to relocate the City Yard since 2004, but has yet to make a determination if that is the best location.
“Many council members, I believe, feel very strongly that, without coming to a conclusion on [the City Yard] issue, all of this is a moot point,” Republican Councilman Al Tarantino, District 2, said. “We’re just spinning our wheels.”
Once completed, Twining’s total project will include the development of the City Yard, armory, the former Nelstad Materials Corp., facility, Mancuso boat yard and Con Edison site and incorporate more than 930,000 square feet of residential and 130,000 square feet of retail.
“This is a major development site and, as such, there are going to have to be multiple steps before a shovel gets put in the ground,” Mayor Noam Bramson, a Democrat, said of the city’s first move toward achieving its waterfront development goals. “At each stage of the process, what will initially start as very general information and assurances will gradually crystallize into more precise information and assurances. And the council will have a rolling opportunity to kind of move the project in the direction that it thinks is most appropriate.”
Twining’s proposal calls for building a small town center with shops, restaurants, townhomes, lofts, apartments, parkland and possibly a small hotel that extend to a waterfront esplanade. The development links Main Street—the center of New Rochelle’s business district—with the waterfront in a way that Alex Twining, CEO of Twining Properties, said would combine traditional Westchester architecture with the waterfront experience felt in Newport, Rhode Island.
“Our goal is to create an exceptional new town center that welcomes everyone to enjoy the waterfront,” Twining said.
Twining will work with Northwood Investors LLC, a global real estate investment firm, to help fund the project.
Following the collapse of the former Echo Bay project by developer Forest City—which was scaled back from an original 26-acre, retail-heavy development to just 10 acres following the recession of 2008—the City Council decided in March to go with competitors who have prior experience with the area to possibly save a $1.5 million grant awarded by the state.
The grant can only be used if the city chooses to move forward with one of the original competitors; if the city decided to seek new proposals in launching a new RFP, it would lose out on the grant.
Once the MOU with Twining is finalized, the city will conduct an environmental review of the area and seek further input from the public before moving on to sign a land disposition agreement, essentially selling the land to Twining.
“New Rochelle’s waterfront should be a place of energy, vitality and beauty,” Bramson said. “The challenges at Echo Bay are large, but the positive potential is even larger. We are looking forward to working with Twining Properties to realize this vision.”