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WHITE PLAINS-At a ceremony marking the beginning of the demolition of the former Macy’s store Downtown, developer Louis R. Cappelli termed recent media reports that he would walk away from his City Center at White Plains venture as “sensationalized.” He vowed his firm will not abandon the 1.2 million sf project if his plans are not approved by the city this September.

Cappelli, president of Cappelli Enterprises of Valhalla, has made it clear to city officials that he would like to obtain approvals for his 1.2 million sf mixed-use development in the near future. In fact, Cappelli and Mayor Joseph Delfino have publicly stated that the project could obtain city approvals by late August or early September of this year.

When asked by GlobeSt.com whether he would walk away from the project if it did not receive approvals by September, he emphatically responded, “No.” However, Cappelli did say that he has told city officials that the venture should be reviewed expeditiously.

“It’s not about threats, it’s about being frank with them [City Council members]. All I am doing is being frank,” Cappelli said.

While not stating that the city will fast track the project and hand Cappelli the necessary approvals by August or September, the mayor told the crowd yesterday (July 17), “Over the next few months we have some finishing touches to make on the approval process, but I have all the confidence that we will get it done in a responsible manner.”

A stumbling block to obtaining speedy approvals for the venture is Cappelli’s retail component of the project which calls for 560 luxury rental apartments to be housed in two high rise buildings on Main Street and Martine Avenue (32 and 34 stories) and 40 units in a low-rise building on Martine Avenue. The current zoning allows for just 18 stories in height.

At the “demolition party” event, Cappelli said to approximately 200 attendees, “Today marks the start of what will be the most ambitious project in downtown White Plains since the birth of the urban renewal program.”

Cappelli stated that the demolition of the former Macy’s store should take about two months to complete, perhaps in time for when the city might issue final approvals for the project that calls for approximately 600,000 sf of retail/commercial space and 600,000 sf of residential development.

Pointing to where the residential development is planned, Cappelli quipped, “Right now we have plans for 1,000 people to be living Downtown right where you are standing. We don’t know how high those buildings will be yet. They will be hi-rises, but (the height) is still to be determined.”

He later added, “We believe that the residential component of this project will completely help revitalize Downtown.”

The retail component of the project calls for an 80,000 sf, 16-screen movie theater, 395,000 sf of retail space and 55,000 sf of restaurants. Cappelli has stated that he has signed a management agreement with Avalon Communities for management of the residential component of the project and has signed a letter of commitment with National Amusements for the operation of the multiplex theater.

Also part of the plan is a 10,000 sf community theater and a public park/promenade in between the retail and residential developments on Conroy Drive. A $37 million parking garage is also planned. The City of White Plains, if the venture is approved, would contribute $23 million to the construction of the parking garage which would accommodate 2,150 vehicles.

Also on hand for the demolition ceremony were: Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corp., members of the White Plains Common Council and Salvatore Carrera, director of Westchester County’s Office of Economic Development. Jeffrey Castaldo, executive director of leasing for Cappelli Enterprises, while not releasing any specific leasing details, says that leasing interest is very high at City Center at White Plains.

“We have a lot of letters of intent right now and we are finalizing those deals,” he says. “We will probably be announcing the first deals in the next few weeks or so.” Thus far, he said the letters of intent signed to date account for approximately 400,000 sf of retail space.

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