Is Mount Vernon a hotspot for commercial development? Given the city’s sometimes beleaguered reputation, some might find that hard to imagine. But not MacQuesten Development, the Pelham-based construction-and-development company that is riding a wave of change in a key part of Westchester’s third-largest city.
“It reminds me of Harlem 25 years ago,” says MacQuesten managing director Joe Apicella. “The ingredients are the same: proximity to the city, good zoning, a densely populated area. We’re going where nobody wanted to go, and we will reap the benefits of being there first.”
MacQuesten’s plans center on the transit-oriented development zone being created around the Mount Vernon West Metro-North station. In July, the company purchased the old train-station building for $3 million, then acquired a one-acre parcel next to it that was once home to a gas station. One block away, at 30 Mount Vernon Avenue, the company’s 81-unit, 11-story workforce-housing project, The Modern, broke ground last year and topped out in August. Apicella believes it will be fully leased when it opens in January. MacQuesten also owns other plots in the area.
“We’ll knock down the old, decrepit train-station building,” Apicella explains, “and build a 30,000 to 40,000 sq ft retail center that will integrate a bank and other uses, like cafes, supermarkets, and the like, which will serve not only commuters but the residents in the neighborhood.” MacQuesten is encouraging Metro-North to update the railroad’s ticket booth and track area that connects with the building.
“We’re going to break ground next spring on a 174-unit residential mixed-use development on the former gas-station site,” Apicella adds. The $71 million 20-story residential building at 22 S West Street will include higher-income and workforce-income units, as well as some retail space. “We also want to build parking there for both the train-station site and the apartment building,” Apicella notes.
Key factors in bringing MacQuesten — and other potential developers — to the area include the city’s willingness to rezone 46 acres to transit-oriented development. In addition to awarding density bonuses, to incentivize development, the city is handling environmental-impact statements through a generic form, according to Apicella.
Apicella adds that the transformation of Mount Vernon West is the direct result of
a partnership: “We are working with the mayor and city council to make what was the back door of the community the front door of the community.”