The Examiner

Developers Pitch Housing, Hotel Plan for MBIA Site in Armonk

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Attorney Anthony Veneziano points out some of the finer points of the preliminary plan to develop housing and a hotel on the MBIA property on King Street.

A development group is prepared to submit an application for a major transformation of the MBIA property in Armonk that would propose more than 170 housing units and a 125-room hotel on the site.

A partnership called Airport Campus, which bought the 38-acre property at 113 King St. several years ago, also plans to retain and lease about 100,000 square feet of the existing office space on the property to mostly smaller users, said Anthony Veneziano, an attorney representing the group.

Veneziano said the regional real estate market has been shifting away from corporate office parks to housing, particularly for older adults and empty-nesters, which has created an increasing demand for this kind of project.

Since purchasing the property, Airport Campus has attempted to lease the office space, as MBIA had for at least five years before selling, but found demand shrinking, he said.

“As the market has evolved, as the economy has evolved, they’ve noticed interest in other uses and they’ve been following the trend that been happening in adjacent communities that you’ve been following, dealing with repositioning of office space pieces,” Veneziano said.

Approval of a zoning text amendment from the Town Board, an amendment to the property’s preliminary development concept plan and site plan approval would be required, he said. A special use permit will also be needed.

With the property in close proximity to New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) water bodies, Veneziano said he anticipates a positive declaration under the state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).

The preliminary plan calls for a 151-unit multifamily building consisting of 112 two-bedroom and 39 one-bedroom rental apartments. The average size of the units would be about 1,200 square feet, Veneziano said.

A separate area would feature 22 fee simple townhouses averaging roughly 3,000 square feet each. The required 10 percent affordable units for each type of housing would be contained on site, he said.

Veneziano said the multifamily building would replace the 165,000 square feet of additional office space that had been approved for MBIA some years ago but had never been built. Recently, the developers have received overtures from hotel operators, Veneziano said.

“We’ve had interest from hotels,” he said. “We’ve had significant interest over the last six months in particular. It’s close to the airport. The use seems to fit. We haven’t been able to negotiate any financial deals but most of the issue is that we don’t have the zoning for the hotel in place. So we’re going to put that in place there.”

Access to the property would be off of King Street at the existing signalized intersection.

While specifics were not available last week regarding tax revenue and price points for the residences, the housing will be geared toward higher-end professionals. With only one- and two-bedroom units for the rentals, the multifamily structure would lend itself to “a more mature audience,” said Steven Wise, a member of the development team.

He said the number of schoolchildren will be “extremely low,” even within the townhouses because the master bedrooms will be on the first floor. The property is located within the Byram Hills School District.

“The environment is not highly amenitized by nature, which is significant, but the younger crowd seems to want more urban areas today,” Wise said.

Veneziano said he anticipates various issues will arise during the scoping session, including the height of the multifamily building, which is currently proposed for five stories. Other issues aside from visual impact include tax projections, traffic, water supply and sewage capacity with the existing county plant, although there are several million gallons a day remaining in the facility, Veneziano said.

There will be three levels of parking, two above grade and one underneath, said architect Michael Berger.

“It’s an absolutely fantastic site, it really is, especially for a program like this,” Berger said.

Despite a recent pitch by another entity to develop a hotel, rental housing and townhouses at the IBM site, Veneziano said his clients’ proposal will not be impacted by that plan.

“The IBM (proposal) will not affect this,” he said. “It’s close to the airport, it’s a good location.”

Airport Campus is expected to formally submit an application with the Town of North Castle within the next week, Veneziano said. That could allow the Town Board to take the first step of accepting the application as soon as its meeting next Wednesday.

Councilman Jose Berra said the issues with DEP, the height of the multifamily building and density are some of the key issues that will have to be addressed.

“The concerns are obvious,” Berra said. “Obviously, you have to deal with the reservoir issues, but the height of, I think, of the other building is a little tricky and I’m going to want to look at density of the townhouses. But it’s not crazily dense, especially by historical standards.”

Berger said town code allows the height to reach 85 feet, but with seven levels – two above-grade parking levels and five floors of apartments – it would likely be more in the 70- to 75-foot range.

Supervisor Michael Schiliro said despite similarities to the IBM proposal, the SEQRA process and the market will help determine what is sustainable at the site.

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