By JOHN JORDAN
SLEEPY HOLLOW, NY—With approvals in hand for its first phase of development, the developer of what is now being called the “Edge on Hudson” at the former General Motors assembly plant property here is expected to begin site work and necessary infrastructure upgrades in early 2016. The activity will set the stage for what will be a massive mixed-use development project.
The redevelopment of the former GM minivan assembly plant has been discussed and debated for more than 15 years. General Motors shut down the minivan assembly plan in 1996 and shortly thereafter the village and the automaker have attempted to secure approvals for a massive redevelopment of the parcel. Since that time, environmental remediation of the property has been completed. However, lawsuits, the recession and other factors have contributed to the lengthy delay. In December 2013, General Motors, SunCal and Diversified Realty Advisors signed a contract for the parcel. A year later the deal closed in a transaction valued at approximately $39.5 million.
The project that could approach or exceed $1 billion in value calls for the construction of 1,177 units of housing including condominiums, townhomes and apartments; a 140-room boutique hotel; 135,000 square feet of retail space and 30,000 square feet of office space. The project will also feature 16 acres of parkland, and a promenade along the water linking to the existing RiverWalk to the south and Kingsland Point Park to the north.
The Village of Sleepy Hollow Planning Board granted approval for the first phase of the development in late October. In a telephone interview with CONSTRUCTION NEWS, Peter Johnson, vice president, director of land development for SunCal of Irvine, CA and Jonathan Stein, founding and managing partner of Diversified Realty Advisors of Summit, NJ, said about 15 months to 18 months worth of infrastructure work will be undertaken prior to the commencement of construction of the first phase. SunCal and Diversified are joint venture partners in the project.
Mr. Johnson said that the infrastructure work would include the demolition of the existing concrete slab as well as piles and pile caps. He said after that is completed, the developer will import to the site about one-third of all the earth necessary for the entire project—approximately 250,000 cubic yards—which will increase the height of the property a few feet in some areas to be in conformance with new flood regulations imposed in response to Hurricane Sandy, he noted.
The entire former GM site totals approximately 100 acres. A total of 28.3 acres (known as the east parcel) has been donated to the Village of Sleepy Hollow for public open space, the development of a new public works facility and recreational ball fields. The development site consists of 66.3 acres on the west parcel and 1.7 acres on the south parcel. As part of the approval process, the developer will be contributing $11.5 million over a period of years toward the construction of the DPW facility. Mr. Johnson said that a first payment of $1.75 million will be delivered to the village for the DPW facility after Jan. 1, 2016.
Mr. Johnson in explaining the other necessary infrastructure-related work that will be necessary before it can start on the first phase’s residential construction, said, “We have to deliver sewer, storm drain, (sewer) lines, water lines, streets, electric, gas and utility work will need to be done before work on the buildings can begin.”
A key facet of the infrastructure work for the first phase will be the construction of a temporary bridge over the existing Beekman Ave. bridge to allow construction-related vehicles, equipment and materials to be brought to the project site. Eventually, the existing Beekman Ave. bridge that spans over Metro North train tracks will be demolished and improvements will be made to the temporary bridge that will eventually serve as a permanent span providing access to the project. The bridge project will total approximately $5 million to complete.
He estimated that the hard costs for the first phase’s infrastructure work would be approximately $25 million. He said the developer will likely spend another $5 million to $6 million in consultancy and planning fees.
Construction of the temporary bridge is expected to start within several months, with on-site preparation continuing in 2016. Construction of the first homes is expected in 2017.
Phase one of the project calls for the construction of 306 units of housing, including 40 senior affordable units and 21 affordable workforce units. The plan calls for 188 loft-style apartments in the four-story “Loft District” section at the eastern edge of the property, 46 three- and four-story condominium homes and 72 townhouses in the “Central Park District.” The plan also calls for at grade parking, on-site parking. The apartments will have 292 parking spaces, while the condominium and townhomes will also have garages or parking spaces as well. There will be no structured parking at the development.
The first phase will also feature neighborhood green space, a central park and a new roundabout and village green at the base of Beekman Avenue adjacent to the existing Ichabod¹s Landing community. The project is expected to be certified to LEED Neighborhood Development standards.
Mr. Johnson estimated that construction on the residential component of the first phase is about two years away. While no firm development cost for the first phase has been formulated, he said it could approach $250 million. The entire full build-out of the development will entail at least four or five phases.
“Our market research tells us there is a huge hole in the market for modern apartments that have been built in the last 15 to 20 years, certainly specifically in Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown,” Mr. Johnson said. He adds that while there has been new residential apartment development to the east in White Plains and to the south in Yonkers, he believes those developments will not compete against the Edge on Hudson units.
Mr. Stein added that his firm Diversified Realty Advisors is actively building approximately 800 rental apartment units in the Hudson Valley and that the demand for those apartments has been very strong. “For this site, which has all the drivers one looks for in today’s market, including waterfront access, commuting with the two (adjacent Metro North) train stations, views of the Palisades, the (Tappan Zee) bridge and of New York City in the background, this is an unbelievable development site as we have continued to believe in it for many, many years,” he said. “We don’t see any change in the market… and we expect extremely strong demand on it.”
Mr. Stein is a former executive with Roseland Property Co., which was the designated developer for the Lighthouse Landing project at the GM site. However, Roseland in late 2007 exited the project due to litigation surrounding the project and issues over the scope of the project between GM and the village. Mr. Stein left Roseland shortly thereafter, and later formed Diversified Realty Advisors with fellow founding partner Nicholas Minoia.
Both Mr. Stein and Mr. Johnson said that after years of a lengthy and sometimes difficult approval process, they are seeing “the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Mr. Johnson said that the partnership has not as yet selected a general contractor or construction manager for the project. When asked when that work might be put out to bid, he responded, “We are beginning to have some early conversations with a couple of GCs. That is probably not something we will not put out to bid, but we will certainly have conversations with a number of GCs before we select one.”
When asked if the developer had or was planning to work with the unionized building trades in connection with the project, Mr. Johnson responded, “No, we’re just being an open shop.”
He added that the company will likely look to secure some assistance from the Mount Pleasant Industrial Development Agency in the next 60 to 90 days as well as from New York State in connection with some of the infrastructure work, particularly the Beekman Ave. bridge component, as well as work on public-related amenities.
“One of the things we would like to do is utilize our contribution of the waterfront landscaping to maybe get some improvements done in Kingsland Point Park with some (state) grant money that would be matching funds to our waterfront park construction,” Mr. Johnson said.