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WHITE PLAINS-Fortwest LLC, an affiliate of the Fortunoff retail chain, was granted preliminary bond financing inducement for $70 million from the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency for its proposal to build a new store at the current Saks Fifth Avenue store location at 100 Bloomingdale Road.

Joseph Carlucci, an attorney who represents Fortwest, says that Fortunoff has a tentative agreement to purchase the Saks site and is seeking $70 million in bond financing as well as real estate-, sales- and mortgage-tax exemptions from the agency. In late July, Saks announced that it will close its underperforming White Plains store after this year’s December holiday season. The same day, the Birmingham-Alabama-based retailer reported it had struck a deal to sell its White Plains store site to Fortunoff.

Carlucci, a partner with the law firm Cuddy & Feder & Worby LLP, tells IDA members that once the Saks store is closed, Fortunoff plans to demolish the existing 128,000-sf store and its parking garage to make way for a larger store that would total up to 200,000 sf as well as a new parking structure.

The Saks store currently employs approximately 138 workers. Fortunoff estimates it will have a payroll of 600 workers, including 360 on a full-time basis.

Louis Fortunoff, executive vice president of the jewelry and home furnishings retailer, notes that while the company is seeking $70 million in bond financing, “It will most likely cost more than that to build.”

In fact, according to Fortwest’s inducement application with the IDA, the firm calculates the cost of building the White Plains store will run $80,209,250.

Carlucci adds that while specific plans for the new store have not been drawn up yet, “There is a possibility that there may be a couple of other accessory users on the site that are under consideration, such as a convenience restaurant.”

Fortunoff says that once construction can begin, the venture will take approximately 18 months to complete.

Normally, a retail venture of this kind would not be eligible for IDA funding under state law. However, the location of the project, adjacent to an economically distressed census tract, makes the Fortunoff development eligible for IDA assistance, according to IDA Counsel Alan D. Fox.

However, the project’s eligibility could change once U.S. Census figures for the city are updated later this year, IDA officials say. Carlucci requested that the IDA “grandfather” the project so that it can retain its bond financing eligibility. He adds that Fortunoff hopes to close on the purchase of the Saks property by year’s end.

At the same meeting, the IDA also approved a preliminary sales tax agreement for a residential rental housing development at 300 Mamaroneck Ave. The venture, to be developed by JPI Apartment Development LP of Westborough, Mass., will feature 281 rental apartments and approximately 4,000 sf of retail space. The city of White Plains granted final site-plan approval to the JPI proposal earlier this summer.

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