November 30, 2017 , Westfair Online | The Port Chester village board recently heard presentations from five real estate firms vying to become the village’s master developer, creating a lineup of big names in real estate that “has to be the nightmarish envy of every community from Stamford to Manhattan.”
The appearance by industry suitors at the village meeting was so described by Sean McLean, executive vice president of development for Renaissance Downtowns. His Long Island-based real estate company responded to the village’s request for qualifications, or RFQ, along with partner St. Katherine Group, a real estate development firm founded in the United Kingdom and based in Port Chester.
That partnership was the final presenter in a lineup that included real estate developers HB Nitkin Group, Hines and RXR Realty. The Albanese Organization also submitted its qualifications to the village but is expected to present instead at the board’s first December meeting.
Cushman & Wakefield, the commercial real estate brokerage and services company, also responded to the request with an offer to advise the village through the master developer selection process.
“We’ve got some really good responses,” said Eric Zamft, director of planning for Port Chester. “It’s going to be a good, tough decision that we have to make, but it shows the potential here.”
Port Chester advertised its request for qualifications in July following approval from village trustees to seek a master developer. The village said it is looking to move away from an “ad hoc” approach to reviewing potential real estate projects. Instead, it would utilize a more comprehensive plan devised with a “partner who speaks the language of development,” as Zamft previously described the approach.
Port Chester’s RFQ focuses on the 120-acre radius around its Metro-North train station. It’s there that officials are looking to draw on public and private lands for development that would create a more “cohesive, walkable, transit-oriented” downtown and add life to the village’s Byram River waterfront.
The village’s RFQ also offers opportunities for redevelopment of an 8-acre public works property at the village’s southeastern end, called Fox Island, and for a partnership with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
The master developer could also aid in the redevelopment of the 15-acre former United Hospital site on Boston Post Road, according to the RFQ. The village board in March gave Starwood Capital Group approval for a zoning change to build a $450 million mixed-use development there, but the Greenwich company has since informed the village it will try to sell the property.
The company chosen as master developer will be called on to lead a community outreach effort and prepare a development plan within one to two years.
At the November meeting, the prospective developers took turns pitching their real estate bona fides in the region.
Two of the presenting teams highlighted their experience working as master developer in New Rochelle. Long Island real estate developer RXR Realty previously teamed with Renaissance Downtowns to launch RDRXR at New Rochelle LLC, which the city hired as its downtown master developer in 2015. For Port Chester’s RFQ, the two companies submitted their qualifications separately, with RXR on its own and Renaissance teaming up with local developer St. Katherine Group.
In New Rochelle, RXR is constructing a $120 million, 28-story mixed-use building on Main Street. In Yonkers, its $190 million mixed-use Larkin Plaza project, a collaboration with Rising Development LLC, is under construction.
Renaissance Downtowns has previously worked as a master developer on Long Island with the town of Huntington and on a billion-dollar redevelopment effort in Hempstead, on which it again teamed up with RXR and with developer UrbanAmerica.
St. Katherine Group was founded in the U.K. in 2010, where it has focused on student apartment units. In the U.S., the company has built luxury single-family homes and is constructing a 94-unit studio apartment building in New Rochelle.
Greenwich real estate firm HB Nitkin Group talked up its roots in Port Chester’s neighboring town to the village board, as well as its work with the city of Hartford over the last decade. In Connecticut’s capital, the firm has utilized a public-private partnership to develop the Front Street District, which includes new restaurants, entertainment, retail and residential space on the city’s Connecticut River waterfront.
Hines, a global real estate investment, development and management company based in Houston with a regional office in Manhattan, cited the more than 10 million square feet of property it manages in the New York region. That includes several high-rise buildings in Manhattan’s Hudson Square neighborhood. The firm is collaborating with SL Green Realty to build One Vanderbilt, a $3.3 billion, 58-story office tower next to Grand Central Terminal.
The Albanese Organization in its qualifications statement to the village spotlighted its work partnering with the public sector. The Garden City firm is master developer on a $500 million redevelopment project, Wyandanch Rising, on Long Island. Albanese also partnered with the Battery Park City Authority to construct three mixed-use residential buildings totaling more than 1 million square feet in the Lower Manhattan neighborhood.
Port Chester Mayor Richard Falanka said at the meeting the village would work with its planning department to “set a roadmap” for continuing the master developer process. Zamft told the Business Journal that the board could decide on its next step at its final December meeting, possibly selecting a firm or publishing a request for proposals to a short list of firms.
The village has budgeted $650,000 this year to study its zoning and prepare to implement a form-based code, which would provide more specific requirements for development than simply declaring allowed uses.
The village is already reviewing three proposed mixed-use projects near its train station. They would add hundreds of new apartment units and retail square footage to the blocks surrounding the station.