If the project moves forward, a full build-out is expected to create 4,000 construction jobs and 8,000 permanent positions.
By JOHN JORDAN
TARRYTOWN—Add another major private development project to the region’s pipeline. While it may be at least three years from breaking ground, a major bioscience development in Westchester County took a major leap forward earlier this month.
While it may not transform Westchester County into the next Silicon Valley, Research Triangle or Cambridge, MA, the more than $1-billion in planned private investment in a project known as the “North 60” may raise the county’s status considerably as a viable biotechnology/bioscience research location outside of New York City.
Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino announced on Jan. 7th that the county hopes to finalize a long-term lease deal with Fareri Associates of Greenwich, CT to develop a $1.2-billion bioscience park on mostly county-owned property in Valhalla adjacent to the Westchester Medical Center.
Astorino revealed the lease agreement at the annual economic forecast meeting of the Westchester County Association held at the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown. The project, called the Westchester BioScience & Technology Center, calls for approximately three million square feet of space to be built in phases. The total project site includes 60 acres of vacant county-owned land known as the “North 60” and an adjacent 20 acres of vacant property owned by Fareri. The 99-year lease deal will go before the Westchester County Board of Legislators next week for review.
The development plan will also be subject to a full environmental and site plan review by the Town of Mount Pleasant. County officials say that lease negotiations on the bioscience project with Fareri took approximately two years to iron out after the development firm was selected by the Astorino administration as the designated developer as part of a Request for Proposals process. At full build-out, Mr. Astorino said the project will entail more than 2.25 million square feet of biotech/research space, 400,000 square feet of medical office space, a 100-room hotel, 114,000 square feet of retail space and a 34,000-square-foot Children’s Living Science Center.
The first phase of the project will involve $40 million of infrastructure-related work, specifically improvements to the road network, water supply and service, sanitary waste system and storm water management. That work on county-owned property will take between 12 months to 18 months to complete. Shortly thereafter, work will begin on the next phase of the project valued at approximately $200 million that calls for 220,000 square feet of biotech/research space, 100,000 square feet of medical office space, 80,000 square feet of ground-level retail space and a 100,000-square-foot hotel. The first phase will be built on a parcel totaling between 20 acres to 25 acres.
If the project moves forward, a full build-out is expected to create 4,000 construction jobs and 8,000 permanent positions. It is also projected to create $9 million in annual real estate taxes to Westchester County, the Town of Mount Pleasant and the local school district, as well as $7 million in annual rent to Westchester County.
“This strategic investment positions Westchester to grow smartly in the future,” County Executive Astorino said. “It creates jobs that play to the strength of the county’s highly skilled and educated workforce. It expands our tax base. It respects the environment by employing the latest green technologies and leaving half the property as open space. And it expands the county’s growing leadership in the fields of biotechnology and medical science.” County officials stated that 43.6 acres of the total 80-acre property will be preserved as green space.
Astorino says that the project could provide a significant boost to the county’s growing biotechnology sector. Recently, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals announced it was undertaking another $190-million expansion of its operations headquartered at BioMed Realty Trust’s Landmark at Eastview property in Tarrytown. He said that like other strong biotech locations across the country, tenants at the park will benefit by forming partnerships with nearby biomedical and higher educational institutions, which in Westchester’s case includes New York Medical College, Westchester Community College, Pace University and Westchester Medical Center.
Neil DeLuca, a consultant with Fareri Associates, said that the initial phases of the project would be built on county-owned property. County Executive Astorino said he is hopeful that the Board of Legislators will undertake a thorough but expedited review of the lease proposal. Mr. DeLuca, a former Deputy Westchester County Executive, said that a full review by the Town of Mount Pleasant would likely take about 18 months to complete, although Astorino noted that the county has held discussions with Mount Pleasant officials on the progress of the North 60 project.
Mr. DeLuca said that he met with officials of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Westchester & Putnam Counties, about a year ago to inform them about the proposal. “I promised them we would be back once we get a handle on what is going on,” he added.
He said that Fareri will in the future look to secure some sales tax incentives from the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency and will also likely look to secure some incentives as well from New York State once the project is further along in the approval process.
When asked whether he was concerned that unwarranted delay in approving the proposal could derail the project due to possible changes in the economic and investment climate, Mr. Astorino responded, “We could dilly-dally for years and talk about dandelions that have to be protected or we could actually sensibly move forward in an environmentally sound way but also progress and build and that is the balance that we have always tried to reach here… The knee-jerk reaction with any kind of development, anywhere is (to say) ‘No.’ But I think this will get a favorable opinion.”
He added that there are protections in the lease for taxpayers that if certain milestones were not met the property would revert back to the county.
He then added that on a personal note his family residence abuts the project site, “So I have taken a very personal interest to make sure it is done the right way,” Astorino said.