Westchester’s quest to solidify itself as a biotech powerhouse took another step forward today with County Executive Robert P. Astorino’s announcement this morning of a $1.2 billion private investment to create a bioscience and technology center on a county-owned site in Valhalla. Called the Westchester BioScience & Technology Center, the nearly 3-million square foot, mixed-use complex would make its home on the long vacant property known as North 60, on the Grasslands Reservation, adjacent to Westchester Medical Center and New York Medical College.
Astorino, who made the announcement at the Westchester County Association’s 2016 Economic Forecast Breakfast in Tarrytown, noted that the project “positions Westchester to grow smartly in the future. It creates jobs that play to the strength of the county’s highly skilled and educated workforce.” He also pointed to project benefits including an expanded tax base (some $9 million in estimated new real estate taxes annually to the County, the Town of Mount Pleasant, and the Mount Pleasant School District); creation of approximately 4,000 new construction jobs and 8,000 permanent jobs; and the ability to “expand the county’s growing leadership in the fields of biotechnology and medical science.”
The project would be developed by Fareri Associates, a well-known Westchester and Fairfield County developer, on a combined 80 acres of land (Fareri owns 20 acres adjacent to the county’s 60-acre North 60 plot, which it would rent from the county under a long-term lease). The plan proposes three multi-phase components: West Research Village, Central Village, and East Research Village; at full build-out, it would comprise more than 2 million square feet of biotech/research space; 400,000 square feet of medical offices; a 100-room hotel; 114,000 square feet of ground-level retail space; and a 34,000 square foot Children’s Living Science Center, which will seek to “promote the improvement of the health of children in the region” through educational programming. The plan will also include sustainable features such as green roofs, demonstration gardens, and preservation and improvement of on-site wetlands, as well as some 40 acres of open green space.
Projects of this scope are never a sure thing, of course. The announcement itself comes after two years of negotiating, and the project heads next for review by the Westchester County Board of Legislators and the Town of Mount Pleasant. Fareri Associates will also need to conduct a full environmental impact study, which can take one to two years. Answering questions about the timeline at a press conference this morning, Astorino said, “The best-case scenario for approval process is probably two years. Once an approval is obtained, we’ll immediately go to work, and we expect the first phase of construction will take about 18 months.”
That first phase—consisting of $40 million worth of infrastructure improvements (the totally unimproved piece of property requires sewer, water, and road work) and then approximately $200 million in construction costs—will include portions of the biotech/research space, medical space, retail, and the hotel. As Astorino pointed out, “the developer is investing more than $1 billion in this project, and the first phase is on county property, so the county gets its revenues first.”
As for prospective tenants, Fareri Associates says it is too soon to list names, but is confident that if the Board of Legislators gives the project a go-ahead, they will have plenty of companies interested in the space. So too is Astorino. “Westchester County is a growing market with a workforce that is desirable; that makes it attractive for companies to come to a project like this, they are not rolling the dice,” he said. He also cited the project’s proximity to other biotech companies like Regeneron, as well neighboring healthcare and educational centers like Westchester Medical Center, New York Medical College, Westchester Community College and Pace University, as additional draws for health science and biotech companies looking for office and lab space.