BRONXVILLE, N.Y. – Mayor Mary Marvin writes a weekly column. It is being reprinted by The Bronxville Daily Voice.
Since the first of the year, many very established developers have shown interest in the Kensington Road property. Long off the radar screen due to the economic downturn, the 2007/2008 approved housing plan has generated renewed interest.
As a result, we will be issuing an RFQ, or Request for Qualifications, in early spring so that all interested developers will be on equal footing and operating on the same timetable as we evaluate proposals.
The Trustees and I are not soliciting new development ideas for the property, rather, focusing on the 2007/2008 project previously proposed and approved by all interested parties after addressing their concerns over a two-year period, including our Planning and Zoning Boards, Metro North, Christ Church, New York State Department of Environmental Protection, United Water, Con Edison and neighborhood residents.
As a recap, the approved design was “age-targeted” and envisioned owner-occupied units designed for the empty nester, i.e., large open formal dining rooms, alcove offices and few bedrooms. Moorish in architectural design, the property would be fully landscaped, new sidewalks installed, electrical lines buried and a 200-plus-space covered parking garage deeded to the Village for use by our residents who park in the open air lot, as well as some additional spaces for future needs. There is also a plaza or pocket park at the One Pondfield end to be open space for Village residents. The building would also provide 24-hour concierge services and a circular driveway for ease of drop-off.
Every detail of the project was meticulously reviewed and approved by our land-use boards, right down to the quality of the exterior stucco.
Unfortunately, just as ground was to be broken, the approved developer, WCI, which was heavily invested in the collapsing Florida real estate market, filed for bankruptcy. Due to contract stipulations, the Village was able to retain the $250,000 deposit.
This setback was just the latest event on a property with a very storied history.
Prior to this “age-targeted” proposal, a large senior citizens housing structure was proposed, but failed due to the developer’s insolvency.
The property had been the home of the Lawrence Park Heat, Light and Power Company for decades before being purchased by the Village in 1986 with an eye to developing its highest and best use, including parking.
However, in the past decade, the Department of Environmental Conservation determined that the property had over 22,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil from its use as a power plant, necessitating a remediation cost of $7 to $10 million. As a consequence, companies who believed they could develop the property profitably solely as a parking facility now find it unfeasible due to the significant pre-construction costs.
The Trustees and I have always had the goal of cleaning the property of its environmental ills while at the same time physically and visually improving the streetscape to permanently rehabilitate what is probably the most unattractive parcel in the Village. The proposed development plan for Kensington Road would provide long-needed safe and sheltered parking, add an estimated $615,000 annually in property-tax revenue, generate one-time permit revenues in the tens of thousands of dollars and increase the value of neighboring homes.
Of equal importance, it would provide another home option to our empty nesters who often want to downsize but still remain in the Village proper, as opposed to moving to Mount Vernon or Yonkers. This pre-approved development also allows the Village to be the sole decision maker as to what is constructed on that parcel.
All of the prior developers did extensive market research and concluded that empty-nester housing was the most pressing need. We believe that age-targeted marketing is the best approach and a very important piece of the puzzle. As a condition of selection, we would also require developers to conduct a study of possible school-age families that may also be interested in a property so designed.
Bottom line, the Kensington Road property has been a Village issue for decades. If the developer interests crystallize, it could be a win-win for everyone.
Empty nesters could remain in the Village in a structure designed to have as minimum an impact as possible on our school population, and a project that has been carefully vetted by every constituent group would permanently enhance the physical and visual character of the entire Village and provide amenities and upgrades to the neighborhood far in excess of what the Village budget could provide.