Mixed-use rendering

NEW ROCHELLLE, NY-The City of New Rochelle is now going over the details of a new plan to develop the Echo Bay area along its waterfront. Forest City Residential Group, the designated developer for the project, has proposed a $450-million mixed-use development on approximately 24 acres.

The plan, officially presented to the city last week, calls for 600 luxury apartments, 62 townhomes, 42 condominium units and 100,000 sf of retail. Also part of the plan will be some restaurants and docking space for small boats. A significant part of the endeavor will be the creation of approximately five acres of public parkland and about a mile of a promenade walkway for public access. The project will also be designed as a sustainable green development, Forest City officials say.

David Levey, EVP of Forest City Residential, says the plan is the result of about a year’s worth of work by the firm in conjunction with input from city agencies and from meetings with city residents. In December 2006, the New Rochelle City Council unanimously endorsed Forest City Residential as the designated developer for the Echo Bay project. The firm bested WCI Communities of Bonita Springs, FL and Twining Properties of New York City for the designation.

“The intent is to have a walkable, people-friendly place where people can live work and play. We think the plan we have come up with is a good plan,” Levey tells Globest.com. “Often times when you work with a lot of different groups you come up with what I would call a ‘10-legged horse,’ everybody wants a this and a that and it doesn’t work. I think what we ended up here with is a thoroughbred.”

He adds that the site currently is under-utilized, noting that at present the views of the Long Island Sound are obstructed by what he terms an “ugly industrial wasteland.” The plan calls for the development of a “village concept” that will be bereft of high-rise properties that have cropped up in the downtown district with the likes of the Trump Plaza and Avalon on the Sound developments that have already been built and other proposals in the pipeline there. Instead, the project will feature “stick-built” four- to five-story buildings that will have retail on the first floor with apartments on the upper floors. Parking will be in the back of the buildings. Approximately 20% of the rental housing units will be marketed as affordable.

There will be no parking on the main streets, he says. The project will seek to attract restaurants as well as destination-type retail. The development will not have any “big box” retail, Levey adds.

Levey says that the city and Forest City Residential Group will now enter into discussions on a Memorandum of Understanding to finalize its development agreement. He says he is hopeful a MOU could be finalized in the next two to three months. From that point the development plan will go through the environmental review process, which could take from one to two years to complete.

The project site includes some privately owned parcels as well as about 10 acres that is owned by the city and houses its sanitation and public works yards. A significant part of the project will be environmental remediation of the site.

Mayor Noam Bramson says that the proposal “is among the most ambitious developments in the city’s history to transform an underutilized, contaminated 20-acre site into a vibrant mixed-use community with continuous public access to Long Island Sound. The benefits to the New Rochelle community and to the region from an economic, environmental and quality of life perspective would be enormous.”