The City of New Rochelle and its master developer, RDRXR, are moving forward with plans to allow major new downtown development that could add mixed used skyscrapers with apartments, offices and retail to revitalize the Queen City.
The City Council voted unanimously last week for city officials to go ahead with work on completing the requirements of the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) for the new optional “Downtown Overlay Zone" recommended for downtown zoning changes. A Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be presented to the City Council in mid-September. Thereafter, the City Council will be asked to consider the zoning plan for formal approval and adoption.
The DGEIS will review the impact the new zoning will have on traffic (keeping Main Street and Huguenot Street each one way or making them each two way), school enrollment, police, fire, sanitation, parking, shuttle service, etc. There have already been studies done on school enrollment generation that takes into consideration actual students who live in Trump Plaza and in what are the two former high rise Avalon buildings that have new owners. City officials said police, fire and DPW officials have been involved in meetings about the downtown plan and union leaders are also being invited to the talks.
City officials have also held more than 50 meetings with community groups in several neighborhoods and have used a web site at NRFuture.com to gather community ideas for improvements to the downtown. The inclusion of these economic benefits into projects may qualify for additional height on a new building, for example. Any new housing would have to meet requirements of the city's existing laws covering low income, affordable and "workforce" percentages.
The "Downtown Overlay Zone" is designed to promote rapid redevelopment of the downtown by introducing a form-based code. A property owner can either develop under existing zoning or opt-into the new Downtown Overlay Zone. It was explained that the DOZ is a form-based code that "prioritizes the proper form and placement of buildings to support the creation of vibrant places rather than the conventional overemphasis on the control of uses. This proposed optional overlay zone will reward the aggregation of property by providing three Downtown Incentive Bonus (DIB) levels for each of the six proposed overlay zones."
The intent of the recommended zoning includes:
• Optional code with underlying zoning remaining in place
• Density reallocation in six districts focused around RubyDee Park
• More flexible uses that puts greater emphasis on the form of the buildings, streets and civic spaces
• Improved standards for streetwalls & storefronts
• Base height requirement for all districts of 2 stories
• Minimum Lot Area and Street Frontage requirements for all sites (tall buildings would be set back behind retail stores at street level).
• Ability to achieve Downtown Incentive Bonuses by aggregating smaller sites to create larger more viable sites
• Maximum heights per district with Downtown Incentive Bonuses (DIB)s. The tallest would be 40 stories but could be taller if certain conditions are met. (Trump Plaza is 38 stories.) (The highest number of stories allowed under the overlay would be 48 stories in the new DO-1 district.)
New Rochelle's Downtown Development Plan envisions a downtown and transit area (Metro North will be expanding by utilizing the Amtrak tracks and will connect New Rochelle to Penn Station.) that would be developed over the next 10 years and include a mix of housing options, retail (large and small), commercial, office, hotel space, as well as community and cultural facilities. In developing the plan, RDRXR and the City studied the projected market opportunities in the area, based on forecast economic and demographic trends. Recent marketing reports have suggested a need for rental apartments near the transit hub that would attract millenials and empty nesters.
The public outreach process has been among the City's most comprehensive, with over a thousand people engaged online and more than 50 meetings across the city attended by hundreds of residents and stakeholders. (This process was expanded following the defeat of the proposed Echo Bay Development.)
The accompanying images to this article are from the pdf of the Recommended Plan for development at www.newrochelleny.com/downtownRAP
(Editor's Note: Maggie Klein attended the New Rochelle City Council meeting last week and heard the presentation on the downtown development plan. She will be following the process and reporting on it for The Pelhams - Plus, which seeks to cover not only the Pelhams but where people in Pelham will "go, eat and shop." These plans are also of interest because of possible competing developments at Canal Road in Pelham Manor and on Wolfs Lane in Pelham.)