An attorney representing the developer of the Hamilton Green mixed use development asked the White Plains Common Council last week to provide a three-year site plan approval, rather than one year as previously considered.
William Null, an attorney representing the developer, discussed the site plan application with the Council at a meeting on Feb. 24. The Common Council and city staff have been reviewing the application for two years and an Environmental Impact Statement was prepared, Null said.
The ordinance to create a new zoning district in White Plains called TD-1 (Transit Development-1) and rezoning property including 200 Hamilton Avenue, the former White Plains Mall, from Neighborhood Business District B-2 to TD-1, was passed by a unanimous vote of the Common Council in July 2018.
The property, now owned by W.P. Mall Realty, LLC and SWD 3 LLC, known as Street-Works Development, requested the zone change.
The maximum allowed building height in the new TD-1 District is 280-feet. The B-2 zone only allows a 25-foot maximum height.
Buildings in the proposed development will include street-level retail, food hall, one acre of public open space, a parking garage and four residential apartment towers with 860 residential units, the tallest two buildings at 14 stories on 3.7 acres. There would be 956 parking spaces provided.
Access to the public open space, which is designed within the courtyard-like interior area, is available at six different locations from the four streets making up the block of the project. Part of the open space will be in an elevated area over the parking garage.
The public space would be managed by Bederman Redevelopment Ventures and include programming such as music, yoga and theater-like presentations. The public space would be similar to that found at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, according to the developer.
Another 20,000 square feet of open space will be constructed for Hamilton Green residents at an upper level of the project.
Construction would likely take place in phases.
Null said last week it will be five years before any revenue would be generated by the site and therefore, a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) would be needed by the developer. Terms of the PILOT are still being negotiated, Null said. The PILOT would have property taxes frozen at the current rate being charged to the mall and would not rise until new buildings would be occupied, Null said.
Null further explained that once the existing mall is vacated it would be taken down and a brownfield on the site would be cleaned up. In an effort to obtain construction financing for the project, Null said the project needs a three-year site plan approval rather than one year, which is the usual schedule for White Plains projects. Null also said the requirement that all parking spaces be constructed in the first phase needed to be removed to ease financial constraints.
Separate financing would be obtained for each phase, Null said. “We’re having major issues with financing institutions.”
Councilman Justin Brasch said, “I’m always nervous” about providing multi-year site plan approvals. “If we give people a lot of time people often do a lot in that time.” Brasch suggested that a two-year approval be given. Demolition of the current mall could begin this fall and it would take more than one year after the demolition and brownfield cleanup before new construction could start, Null said. His clients are “strongly motivated to get this up and running,” Null said.
Mayor Tom Roach said if the Common Council decides to provide a site plan approval of less than three years it would still have the option to provide extensions. “This has been to me a very sluggish process to get to this point,” Roach said. “It was a very complicated site plan,” Null replied. Roach said there have been problems with the maintenance of the current mall.
Councilwoman Jennifer Puja said PILOTs are “helping the developer not the taxpayer.”
“That’s not fair,” Null told Puja. The project would generate significantly more tax revenues than the current mall is providing and the project could not go forward without a PILOT, Null said. The PILOT is not part of the proposed site plan, he noted.
No date for when discussion of the project would continue was announced.