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By Ryan Deffenbaugh
To kick off construction on a 421-unit apartment building on Harrison’s Platinum Mile, a group of dignitaries including Westchester Executive Robert P. Astorino and Harrison Mayor Ron Belmont wielded the typical shiny shovels and pushed around a bit of ceremonial dirt on Tuesday morning.
But that was only part of the event celebrating the Toll Brothers Inc. apartment project. As cameras clicked, a member of the Capital Industries Corp. wrecking crew jumped in an excavator about 100 feet behind the group and, as one onlooker put it, “the real show” began.
The long arm of the excavator ripped through the three-story 103 Corporate Park Drive building, causing shards of glass and chunks of its faded blue facade to fall to the ground. The building is one of two that will be razed to make way for a five-story luxury rental community featuring a club room, pool, bike lounge and a pet spa. The other building, 105 Corporate Park Drive, has already been reduced to rubble.
The project, branded as Carraway, will be the first multifamily housing built in the so-called teardrop region of the town, an area bounded by I-287, the Hutchinson River Parkway and Interstate 684. It’s an area also commonly referred to as the Platinum Mile, a reference to the number of top companies that built headquarters there.
Toll Brothers, a national luxury home builder based in Pennsylvania, worked with the building’s owners, Normandy Real Estate Partners LLC, to repurpose the 10-acre site. Built in the 1970s, the two Corporate Park Drive buildings had lost almost all tenants as they aged and the overall occupancy along the Platinum Mile slumped from its late 20th century heyday.
For Harrison, the conversion is the latest step in its goal to find new uses for underused office buildings along its Platinum Mile corridor. The town laid out the issue clearly in its 2013 Master Plan: 30 years ago, commercial properties represented 60 percent of Harrison’s tax revenue; by 2012 that number fell to about 12 percent.
The most significant office conversion along the corridor to this point comes from Life Time Fitness, which converted the former headquarters and printing plant of the Journal News, part of the Gannett Co. Inc. newspaper chain, into a 209,000-square-foot fitness center. The mega-gym is less than a quarter-mile from where the apartments will be built.
“This is the continuation of what’s been going on for the last five years in Westchester,” Astorino told the Business Journal. “I remember the demolishing of the old Gannett building and there were big question marks about whether Life Time Fitness would make it, whether that type of repurposing would be good. And it’s been a phenomenal success. And, since then, obviously we’ve had many more applications and developments.”
A separate office building on Corporate Park Drive was converted to a hotel, while Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center converted a former Verizon research building at 500 Westchester Ave. to an outpatient center.
In December, the Rochester-based grocery chain Wegmans Food Markets Inc. announced plans to launch its first store in the county, also along Corporate Park Drive. The store would be built on the site of three other mostly empty office buildings just down the street from the future Carraway apartments. The project is still under review by the town.
“We’re excited about (Carraway), we’re excited about Wegmans coming in, and Memorial Sloan Kettering is a big asset to the town right up the street,” Belmont told the Business Journal.
“We’re moving,” he added. “It’s a slow process, but we’re moving. We’re taking the local rather than the express.”
Bryan Oos, vice president of development at Toll Brothers Apartment Living, said the publicly traded company has recently expanded its portfolio nationally to include more apartment development. The company’s other projects in Westchester are townhomes or single-family housing developments, including The Summit Estates at Westchester in Valhalla and Westchester Estates at Wilson Park in Tarrytown.
Oos said the company was drawn to this project, in part, by the broader redevelopment that was already taking place along Harrison’s Westchester Avenue corridor.
“It’s really the transformation of a single-use office community into more of a mixed-use live, work, play environment,” Oos said.
The building will feature a mix of 22 studios, 217 one-bedroom and 182 two-bedroom apartments. The developer will set aside 10 percent of the rental units as affordable housing. The first residents are expected to move in by fall 2019.