How to Turn a Hole in the Ground into an Urban Asset
As a law firm Cuddy & Feder strives to make a difference with our work. We start by doing the best job we can for our clients. And then sometimes, because our practice is focused on Land Use and Zoning issues, our attorneys are fortunate enough to be able to contribute in a very tangible way by helping to improve our communities and making our cities more livable.
The story of the Firm’s work for LCOR and RMAP Partners on the redevelopment of the old White Plains train station is a good example. This is a redevelopment effort that spans more than twenty-five years, and our Land Use and Zoning attorneys have been involved at various stages along the way. Long after the old station was bulldozed, this site remained nothing more than a proverbial and visible “hole in the ground.” It readily defied repeated efforts of multiple developers to bring it back to life, first as a hotel, then as an office tower, and along the way a multi-screen movie complex.
Twenty-five years is long time for any redevelopment project – it’s not exactly the sort of timeframe that clients are willing to wait. But the fact is that urban redevelopment projects can face extraordinary headwinds – in terms of financial downturns, political obstacles and community resistance. And various redevelopment efforts on the old train station property had to contend with all these and more. At one point, there was even litigation challenging the site plan approval process with a claim that the “hole-in-the-ground” had become a wetland subject to Army Corps of Engineers jurisdiction, among other things. One part of the site was developed with rental apartment buildings and a smaller retail space on the ground floor. The balance of the site remained a parking lot.
Notwithstanding all these obstacles and stalled efforts, in late 2007 our client LCOR envisioned and proposed a new mixed-use development plan for the remainder of the site with a single tower containing: (a) 554 units of rental housing, including 111 affordable units; (b) 8,000 square feet of retail space; (c) a multi-story parking garage containing 686 spaces at the base of the tower, including 200 self-park and up to 300 peak period stacked parking spaces for commuters; (d) 28,000 square feet of office space screening the parking garage; and (e) 49 at-grade and 11 tandem parking spaces.
Persisting and adapting its vision through the ensuing financial downturn, LCOR revised its plan to facilitate phasing the development by allowing two (2) 280-foot tall towers, approximately 7,800 square feet of retail space, and a free-standing parking garage with 686 parking spaces (including the required commuter parking) and some at-grade parking, as well. On behalf of our client, we succeeded in obtaining approval from the City of White Plains for these revised plans in November 2009.
The plan subsequently was amended twice to address market conditions, as Brownfield tax credits became available to be used to fund deeper digging and more remediation enabling a sufficient volume to be created to accommodate stacked parking (3-tier and 4-tier stackers) that are attendant operated. The project now is commencing construction. Within approximately two (2) years it will become the latest addition to a dynamic, transit-oriented development area in the downtown.
A redevelopment project like this one (and the sister rental buildings on the remainder of the site) requires a deep commitment and represents a huge undertaking. We’ve worked hard to support our client every step of the way, preparing filings, attending hearings, engaging in litigation, and doing whatever is needed to establish and maintain forward momentum. Finally, after more than twenty-five years, from a hole in the ground, we are proud to be a part of facilitating this vital new addition to the White Plains’ skyline.