There’s no doubt that residential and mixed-use construction projects are booming throughout Westchester and the Hudson Valley — so much so that we may have become numb to the ongoing sight of construction cranes dotting the sky. But not all development projects are created equal. A few are literally transforming our region, and are definitely worth paying attention to. That was the prevailing message from the 3rd annual Real Estate Summit at the Westchester Marriot in Tarrytown on Tuesday morning.
The summit, hosted by the newly merged Westchester County Association (WCA) and Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation, attracted some 300 regional businesspeople, including leaders in commercial and residential real estate, as well as government and planning officials.
Here, a closer look at the five projects that are set to have a huge economic impact on our region:
Developer: Merlin Entertainment
This 150-acre LEGO-themed amusement park — larger than Disney’s Magic Kingdom! — (complete with an on-site 250-room hotel) is scheduled to open next year in Goshen, and Phil Royle, LEGOLAND New York’s director of development and operations, estimates it will bring some 1.5 million to 2 million annual visitors to the Hudson Valley once it opens in 2020. Royle shared some other eye-popping numbers about this $350 million project: the Goshen location is within a 2-hour ride of 23 million potential visitors; the park will employ 1,300 “team members”; and no fewer than 12 new hotels are being planned in Orange County to meet expected demand. Construction is currently underway.
With 12 million sq. ft. of multi-use development currently underway in downtown New Rochelle, the city is undergoing a true extreme makeover that will have a wide-ranging economic impact. Luiz Aragon, the city’s development commissioner, outlined the extensive redevelopment plans, which include 11 construction sites and 27 approved projects in three areas: the downtown overlay zone, The LINC, and Pratt Landing.
Multiple mixed-use high-rise rental buildings, the repurposing of the underused Memorial Highway into a vertical park, and a South Street Seaport-style transformation of the Echo Bay waterfront area are all on the books. The boom has been spurred in part by the city’s accelerated approval process: Aragon explained that acceptable projects go from submission to approval in an average of 60 days.
Developer: Simone Development Companies
Building on the success of nearby projects that lured Life Time Athletic, Wegmans, and Toll Brothers to a formerly dilapidated office park in Harrison, Simone Development Companies is currently redeveloping 104 Corporate Park Drive in partnership with Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM).
The four-story building will get a new life as an ambulatory health center for pediatric and teen care, explained Guy Leibler, President of Simone Healthcare Development. Construction will begin this summer, and Leibler noted that the center will bring 250 new healthcare opportunities to the county.
The importance of Westchester’s healthcare industry can’t be understated: it’s the largest sector in the county. And the ongoing success of the biotech portion of our healthcare industry rests in part on companies being able to find suitable lab space in Westchester. BioMed intends to continue filling that niche, as it develops the remaining 100,000 sq. ft. of space at the Ardsley Park Life Science Campus in phases. (The rest of Ardsley Park’s 300,000 sq. ft. serves as the corporate headquarters for Acorda Therapeutics.)
Colleen O’Connor, director of BioMed’s MA and NY markets, explained that the company is seeing strong demand from firms looking to lease 5,000 to 10,000 sq. ft. of lab space. “We are building out in phases on spec, delivering space that is ready for move-in, and offering flexible leases of 3 to 5 years to meet tenant demand,” O’Connor explained. “We are building for the industry rather than for a specific tenant.”
Developer: Marist/Health Quest
With a $200 million price tag and a lofty mission of “pioneering a new generation of medical education,” this joint venture between Marist College and Health Quest (parent company of multiple hospitals and medical institutions in the Hudson Valley) brings a potential economic impact of $500 million to the region, said Dr. Glenn Loomis, chief academic and innovation officer at Health Quest, and Geoffrey Brackett, executive VP and chief strategy/innovation officer at Marist College, who presented together.
The medical school will start in 2022 with a class of 60 students, and Loomis and Brackett said they expect to hire about 100 new full-time employees as well as numerous part-time clinical staff. The goal is to bring in a pipeline of new doctors to help fill the physician shortage in the region.