The Sidewalks of White Plains


Louis Cappelli calls for two high rise towers of 32 and 34 stories in his new City Center.

5 of 7 Councilmembers amiable to plan.

Just in from the Coast, he says he has handshake agreement with a West Coast theater chain, for 3,800 seats in 17 theaters and a community theater, and glamour retailers.

Skeptical about proposed development on A & P site proposed to Council Monday.

By John F. Bailey


CityLine: May 23, 2001--City Hall

Louis Cappelli, the head of Cappelli Enterprises, returned to the Common Council Wednesday evening and proposed building two residential apartment buildings approaching 334 feet in height above E J Conroy Drive he proposes to build as part of his Town Center revival.

Mr. Cappelli presented state-of-the-art computer models showing the buildings in height perspectives above the center of White Plains at both street level and aerial views which impressed the Common Council to the point that they asked him to come back with ideas of what the architecture of the buildings would look like.

The "hands-on" developer, who has presented every step of the project himself, said he would come back in one week with styles of existing Manhattan buildings he felt would be appropriate for what he now calls the City Center site.

He also delivered a progress report on how his City Center was being received. He reported "we have a theater operator, on a handshake, ready to sign a lease, giving us a 3,850 seat theater with 17 screens plus a fine arts theater. This gives us 95,000 square feet of theater, on a 30-year lease."

Retailers swarm to project

He delivered the news that he had just returned from the West Coast that morning and at a national retail show in Las Vegas, had received commitments from The Cheesecake Factory, Barnes & Noble, The California Pizza Kitchen, to go along with his signing of Legal Seafood.

Cappelli said things were moving along on the project, saying he was aiming to begin demolition by June 4. That he had arranged for the project financing, saying he had "no problem" in bankrolling the project. He said he has not closed yet with the Sears Great Indoors store, but expected to do so soon, and that Target Stores "is on board."

Advises Council he wants more of a Payment In Lieu of Taxes

The developer advised the council that he was going to ask them for more of a PILOT arrangement than the Tishman-Speyer project. Tishman had been granted a $1,200,000 PILOT per year for 17 years by the Council, and Cappelli said since his project was bigger and would deliver more that he would be asking for an increase in his PILOT.

Residential use sparks restaurant/retail enthusiasm

Cappelli said the residential component of the project (his two or three apartment complexes he visualizes on opposite corners of EJ Conroy Drive) "was the use that caused the excitement of the restaurants."

He said that he expected to partner in financing on the residential apartments, mentioning Prudential Life Insurance as being one of three "partners" that had lined up to go in with him on the two or three apartment complexes.

Presents three apartment configurations, wants two buildings of 340 feet and 323 feet.

Mr. Cappelli showcased three renderings: The first showed the council a three building complex 65 feet x 230 feet in height. Two buildings would be on opposite corners of the South end of EJ Conroy Drive at Martine Avenue. The other would rise on the West corner of Main Street and Conroy.

The second showed two buildings of 270 feet in height and a set of 5 story townhouses in front of the Martine Avenue Garage, facing one of the 27-story buildings, with the other being on the Main and Mamaroneck corner.

The third was clearly Cappelli's baby: two majestic towers rising 34 stories and 32 stories above City Hall, one on the West side of EJ Conroy at Mamaroneck and Main, the other in front of the new parking garage on Martine on the East Side of Conroy.

The case for the taller buildings:

"I can slam-dunk the rentals on this building," Cappelli said pointing to the 34 and 32 story computer aerial shot. "I can rent them at the rate of 50 a month (of the 600-unit complex), completely rent them in 12 months."

Mr. Cappelli said the lower buildings created a greater rental problem for the first 90 feet of the building that would abut the City Center portion of the project. The problem is that no views are available. By building higher, he decreases the number of viewless apartments and increases the desirability and number of apartments with views. He said his designers were toying with plans to create patios opening onto the City Center rooftop esplanades to enhance the lower 90 feet of apartments.

He said the 34 story height zoning he was requesting from the Council was "the best chance I have to rent this."

Expresses skepticism and concern about A & P project proposed.

Councilperson Pauline Oliva asked him about how he felt about the 30-story condominium, supermarket and children's museum proposed by A. J. Rotonde of Preferred Properties Group, Inc., in conjunction with The Meyer Companies of Palm Beach, proposed last Monday evening.

Cappelli said "I wish everybody well. I'm not going to be seen here as an opponent of the project."

He did point out though that if there is no plaza on the side across from his Conroy drive apartment, he would not be happy, because it would affect the ambiance of his project. But the impatient developer was not overly worried:

"He's (Rotonde) not real right now. We are. He's posturing."

However, Cappelli said if construction on the rest of Main Street by the Rotonde group were to interfere with his finished development after opening, he would "not be happy."

Cappelli finished by saying "It's (the height) is a feel thing for the Council to decide whether you like it or not."

The Mayor then asked the council for their comments.

Rita Malmud was uneasy with the height, asking for information from the city staff before "going much farther. I like two buildings if you forget the height. I like catty-cornering."

Pressed by Executive Officer, George Gretsas as to what information she wanted the city staff to provide, Malmud could not be specific, only that she wanted the staff to inform her on the feasibility of city services and environment being able to handle the requirements and demands of residential buildings of the proposed 34-story height.

"I don't know what I might be missing," Malmud said. "I'm looking for staff has to tell me, some kind of feedback on any effects it (the 34 and 32-story buildings) would have on the city. I don't know what issues are out there involving tall buildings."

Larry Delgado commented that he'd be willing to consider the 32 and 34-story height, but "would not want it to proliferate elsewhere in the downtown." He said he liked two buildings rather than three, and "I don't like short, squat buildings." He commented he had seen The Avalon in New Rochelle, saying it looked "horribile," without buildings around it. He said he wanted "to see the shadows (cast by the new buildings) better."

Condemnation of properties contemplated.

Pauline Oliva asked how Cappelli Enterprises was doing negotiating with the property they needed to acquire to complete the City Center site. Mr. Cappelli said that he had been experiencing difficulty getting the owners of the other parcels (the Fleet Bank, 209 Martine Avenue, the clinic on the site) to agree on a price, saying he'd thought he had several agreements only to have the owners ask for more money the next day. He reported that procedures have begun to appraise the properties prior to going to court to ask for condemnation under the right of eminent domain under urban renewal.

Robert Greer said the center of town was where you wanted height and that he was "willing to take a look at it." He said he was very interested in the economic study promised by Cappelli, who said he had already submitted it. Susan Habel, looking very fatigued from her recent medical treatment Monday, but on the scene as usual, said it would be sent out with the council agenda with the rest of the long form environmental assessment.

Benjamin Boykin commented "I'm willing to consider the height issue. This is the place for it (center of town). It's tall though. I like 2 buildings rather than 3. I like the setback."

William King said the style of the buildings was very important.

Pauline Oliva was almost won over by this time, saying "I think you can see, we're thinking now of zoning this for the extra height."

Cappelli saw an opening: "I agree. If you're going to do this it has to be done right."

Oliva said, "I agree with Mr. King. If your buildings are attractive buildings, they'll be much better received by the residents. I've already heard from an experienced planner that 'the residents will never accept that in White Plains,' and that was on the 23 story height. All I'm saying is the better the design, the better the residents will accept it."

Cappelli will be back next week with designs:

"Let's take the mystery out of it," Cappelli suggested. "I'm indifferent. I'll give you 3 or 4 aesthetic choices from buildings that exist in Manhattan to show you what I think should be in the downtown. I'll see you in a week."

Also in the Council worksession Wednesday evening...

The Common Council approved a traffic ordinance, closing and rerouting of traffic around the "City Center" on Main, Mamamaroneck and EJ Conroy Drive and Hamilton Avenues. Check with the City Traffic Department for details.

The council took another step toward purchase of new street lamps and benches as part of the revitalization of the Mamaroneck and Main streetscape. The Urban Renewal Agency will reimburse the city $1.5 million for the complete project, the purchase of street lamps and benches (samples of which are installed at the town fountain at Mamaroneck and Main) will total $750,000. See the story on streetscape for a picture of the bench and street light combination to be installed.

The council approved turning over a parking lot on the North side of the Hole in the Ground to the Bank Street Commons for parking of construction vehicles. Bank Street Commons will pay the city $8,400 a year for renting the space.

The council learned that the Department of Public Works has reached agreement with Westchester County for continued sidewalk improvements on the balance of West Post Road. Work on refurbishing the sidewalks and curbs from Davis Avenue to Sterling Avenue will start on June 4. Streetlights removed from Mamaroneck Avenue as part of the installation of new benches and higher lightposts will be reinstalled (about 50 of them) along Post Road, according to Department of Public Works Commissioner Joseph Nicoletti.

The council approved an air traffic control listening post to be installed close to Windward School on Rosedale Avenue, which will be paid for by Westchester County.

The Council was informed of the installation of a water transmission main to be installed in connection with the Bank Street Commons project.

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