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Barbara Nelson is editor of Real Estate New York.

WHITE PLAINS-With several multimillion mixed-use and residential projects planned or under way here and in Yonkers and New Rochelle, the cities that once were considered merely bedroom communities of Manhattan are now bustling with their own business development. The mayors from the three cities discussed plans for their communities in a forum during the RealShare Westchester conference Thursday. More than 200 attended the conference, which is hosted by Real Estate Media, publishers of Real Estate Forum, Real Estate New York and GlobeSt.com.

“We wanted to design a city where you literally didn’t have to go anywhere else,” said White Plains Mayor Joseph Delfino. “We made it a very friendly place to do business. We lost the image ‘don’t come to White Plains.’”

The latest development coming to the city is by Cappelli Enterprise Inc., with its $400-million 890,000-sf hotel/residential/office complex that will span an entire city block. Cappelli recently completed the City Center, a $320-million one-million-sf retail/entertainment complex with two adjoining 35-story residential towers.

Mayor Philip Amicone of Yonkers said the key to drawing new development was to prepare for the growth by upgrading infrastructure. “Business is the life blood of this city. When you put in new power lines, new water and sewer lines and new streets, you are saying you are serious. The next step is getting the word out.”

His city has seen $1 billion worth of new investment projects that were focused mainly Downtown and in the waterfront district. Amicone expects $3 billion worth of new development in the next five to seven years. On tap for Yonkers is Forest City Ratner’s $600-million mixed-use project that will be developed on the 80 acres of the former Lockheed Martin complex into a 1.2-million-sf mixed-use project called Ridge Hill Village Center.

Taking a bird’s eye view of your community is very important, said New Rochelle Mayor Tim Idoni. The city has seen more than $1.2 billion in new development since he took office in 1992.

Idoni explained that the multimillion dollar upgrade to his city’s transportation infrastructure was the key to smart growth. “It’s a holistic approach that takes a lot time.” Simone Development will break ground next summer on a $175-million plan in New Rochelle that will create a 34-story residential luxury condominium building, with 425 condominium units, 44,000 sf of retail, 2,500 sf of office space and a 859-space municipal parking garage.

However, in recreating their cities, like Manhattan, one of the biggest challenges will be in creating affordable housing, the mayors agreed. “Unless the federal government, state and county get together, there’s no way to build affordable housing, not with the price of land here,” Delfino said.

“Westchester is extremely expensive now,” Amicone said. “But we’ve got to create a housing market for everyone to live here.”

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