6 County Communities With an Eye on Growth
These economic development zones are poised for growth.
Some areas of the county are so in tune to economic growth, you never know what might happen next. Maybe new revitalization efforts are taking place, existing businesses are growing or a major corporation is moving in. Take a look at these six economic development centers to find out why they’ve been successful in the past, what they’re up to now and where they’re headed down the road.
Widely known as “Westchester’s Golden Apple,” White Plains is at the very heart of the county’s political, social and economic activity. More than “The Birthplace of the State of New York,” the county seat combines a suburban environment with urban sophistication for a great living and working experience. Its fusion of commercial, retail, dining and entertainment venues allows residents to get the best of all worlds.
A mere 25 miles north of Manhattan and a 35-minute commute via express train, White Plains is home to many major corporations, including Heineken USA (occupying a newly refurbished space) and ITT. In addition, White Plains is ranked fifth in New York State in annual sales volume – retail trade earns more than $2 billion in sales annually, while the professional services and healthcare sectors each account for more than $1 billion. Money magazine also recently included White Plains as number 43 on its list of the top 100 places in America to live, describing it as giving residents “the benefits of the nation’s largest city with a small-town feel.” However, the recognition did come with a warning: “The cost of living can be high.”
This city of more than 57,000 sees its average weekday population swell to more than 250,000 due to shoppers, visitors and workers. With that, White Plains is also considered one of the wealthier cities in America: The median family income came in at $75,031 in 2012, while per capita income totaled nearly $44,000.
White Plains is home to some of the top test-scoring students in the country and has a pair of National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence.
Beginning back in 1998, White Plains experienced significant economic development in the commercial and housing sectors as a result of its Smart Growth and Sustainable Development policies. The city’s Coordinated Review System effectively eliminated bureaucratic roadblocks to development, and changes in zoning laws emphasized mixed-income housing downtown while continuing to attract businesses to the city’s core.
A decade later, White Plains added The Renaissance Square complex, which features two 40-story residential and hotel towers, one with more than 300 condominium units and the luxurious Ritz-Carlton hotel. The City Center, which opened in 2003, is a mixed-use development with two 35-story apartment and condominium towers. There are also municipal parking facilities and 600,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space. This development has expanded White Plains’ preeminence, along with The Westchester and The Galleria, as the retail center of Westchester County. Bryant Gardens is another well-maintained apartment complex positioned on 22 acres of park-like land, minutes from downtown.
White Plains also embraces sustainable development, as several office buildings -– ranging from 123 Main Street and 360 Hamilton Avenue to 10 Bank Street and 150 Grand Street – have been renovated to high levels of energy efficiency and green building standards.
The business revival has allowed the city to showcase its commitment to the local economy. The walkability of the downtown area encourages resident consumers to shop and enjoy high-quality dining in their neighborhoods. Several college campuses – Pace University, Pace Law School, Berkeley College and The College of Westchester – are seated in White Plains, providing a key demographic to many businesses. Restaurants and pubs serve the growing young professional population.
As another feature of Smart Growth, the city funded construction of the 410-seat White Plains Performing Arts Center (WPPAC). Having celebrated its 10th anniversary in November 2013, WPPAC hosts concerts, off-Broadway productions and even business seminars. For something larger, the art-deco Westchester County Center, opened in 1930, has more than 40,000 square feet of space. It is an up-to-date, multi-purpose indoor recreational facility, hosting everything from trade shows to county sports events and even a farmer’s market. Other successful cultural attractions include the Westchester Symphony Orchestra and the Play Group Theatre, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing theater and art experience to children and teenagers.
The 292-bed White Plains Hospital Center is a regional leader in orthopedics, obstetrics, neonatology and cancer care, and is often named among the nation’s best hospitals in U.S. News & World Report. The hospital center is also a nine-time winner of the National Research Corporation’s Consumer’s Choice Award.
The City of White Plains keeps its roads well-maintained. Train stops are found throughout the area, and Westchester County Airport accommodates more than one million passengers each year while providing non-stop commercial services to more than a dozen major U.S. cities.
Nicknamed “The Sixth Borough” for its proximity to New York City, Yonkers is the third most populated city in New York and the largest in Westchester County. Within its 18 square miles is a unique mix of non-profit organizations, commercial operations and private industries.
A very active Yonkers Industrial Development Agency (IDA) has ensured a positive outlook for the city through financial incentives and tax exemptions that help propel business activities forward. In August 2013, the IDA approved a refinancing package with the Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway that is delivering more than $3.5 million to Yonkers. Empire City, whose nearly 1,400 workers makes it Yonkers’ largest private employer, recently spent $50 million to add a modern, 35,000-square-foot gaming floor, two new restaurants – Pinch and Dan Rooney’s Café and Bar – and Alley 810, a craft cocktail lounge with retro bowling alleys. Some of the funds going to the city have been earmarked for improvements to the Coyne Park Senior and Community Center located near the casino.
Other improvements to Yonkers are constantly being made, including the “daylighting” of the long-buried Saw Mill River for downtown beautification purposes and replacement of the city’s 12,000 streetlights with LED lights.
In addition, a new era of business development in Yonkers has been firmly established on a foundation of… Legos! A $12 million, 32,300-square-foot LEGOLAND® Discovery Center opened in March 2013, making it the first of its kind in the northeast United States. The popular family attraction – complete with a Lego re-creation of landmarks throughout Westchester County and New York City – is located alongside many high-end shops, restaurants and entertainment venues already at Westchester’s Ridge Hill.
A few steps away, the new Monarch at Ridge Hill is an environmentally friendly, upscale urban village of four ultra-luxury condominium towers offering hotel-style amenities.
Five major highways offer terrific north-south and east-west connections. There are also two commuter train lines with six stations; travel time by commuter train from Yonkers to the Grand Central Terminal is less than 30 minutes.
Capitalizing on one of the greatest natural resources in the country – the mighty Hudson River – Yonkers has seen the transformation of defunct waterfront buildings into active businesses, such as reviving an old trolley barn as an affordable apartment complex and fitness center. Additionally, a once-dilapidated pier now serves as a New York Water Taxi embankment for people commuting to Wall Street. These innovations help to attract young professionals searching for affordable living in an area easily accessible to New York City.
Yonkers’ health needs are served by two outstanding medical facilities: St. John’s Riverside Hospital and St. Joseph’s Medical Center, both of which have long-established reputations for technological excellence and advanced treatment. In 2013, the American Heart Association recognized St. John’s Riverside with the “Get With the Guidelines – Stroke” Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award; it was the third year receiving a quality achievement honor. The 480-bed facility also earned inclusion among U.S. News & World Report’s 2013 “Best Hospitals,” with particular emphasis on nephrology and orthopedics.
Though relatively small, with 5.5 square miles and a population just under 25,000, Peekskill offers large appeal for residents and businesses enamored with its riverfront location and high quality of life. The city is just an hour’s train ride from Grand Central Station and is conveniently located at the crossroads of both east/west and north/south state highways – Routes 9, 6, 202
Two Fortune 500 companies have facilities in Peekskill: Waste Management, which is known locally as Wheelabrator Westchester, and BASF Corporation, one of the world’s leading chemical companies. Wheelabrator and Peekskill’s largest employer, White Plains Linen, announced recently that they are joining in a brand new renewable energy partnership that will reduce the county’s carbon footprint by close to 90 percent.
White Plains Linen, a family-owned business that celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2013, has close to 400 workers. Other top Peekskill employers are Hudson River HealthCare, which turns 40 in 2015, and the 100-bed West Ledge Healthcare Facility, while still more healthcare jobs can be found just outside Peekskill proper at Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor.
Sections of the city of Peekskill and village of Brewster were selected as 2013 “Opportunity Areas” by the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council (MHREDC), which allows both to compete together for special Empire State Development grant funding for economic revitalization and workforce development. At the same time, Westchester Community College began seeking MHREDC funding to implement workforce training at both locations.
In recent years, old industrial buildings in Peekskill have been transformed into lofts while the riverfront has been the site of new condominium development. A vibrant arts community revolves around the 11-year-old Peekskill Art Lofts limited-equity co-op, built in 2002 to provide affordable live/work spaces within a 10-minute walk of the Metro North train station. Another highlight is the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art (HVCCA), touted in the New York Times as “the most dynamic contemporary art site in Westchester.” HVCCA operates a 12,000-square-foot exhibition space and is a primary sponsor of the Peekskill Project, a yearly, citywide art exhibition. A growing restaurant scene also adds to the cultural attraction of the area.
Peekskill Landing Park, which was under construction in 2013, is a 4.4-acre waterfront park built on remediated industrial land. Another project, the 2.1-acre Main Street Commons, adds a 21,750-square-foot commercial center on Route 6.
The City of Peekskill is turning its attention to the Central Avenue/South Water Street corridor, which is a critical link between the waterfront, the train station and downtown. The area has been rezoned to accommodate mixed-use development incorporating both retail and residential components. But city officials want to ensure the development is consistent with the historic nature of the community and sensitive to the issue of river views.
The Inn on the Hudson, a 53-room hotel that is a gateway to the historic downtown area (not to mention the entire Hudson Valley region), invested more than $1 million in 2010 to complete extensive improvements to its buildings and grounds. Within walking distance of Peekskill’s eclectic array of shops, restaurants, parks and art studios, the Inn welcomes locals and visitors alike to enjoy comfortable accommodations, tasty dining options and sweeping views of the Hudson River.
A vibrant downtown continues to anchor New Rochelle, which is nestled along a 9.3-mile stretch of Long Island Sound. The city of some 75,000 inhabitants boasts a downtown commons, Library Green and the Grand Market, which offers farm-fresh products, specialty foods, food-related services and an al fresco dining area.
The Grand Market is a Business Improvement District (BID) project. BID, which is made up of about 800 businesses and property owners, promotes economic development while maintaining a clean and safe downtown environment. Since its founding in 2000, the group has provided a Wi-Fi network that spans more than 20 blocks, and has initiated such events as outdoor summer movies, family fun nights and cultural events. The business community is also supported by an active Chamber of Commerce, which has served the region’s businesses since 1922. Small businesses continue to thrive in New Rochelle.
The city enjoys a large and educated workforce, while the National Blue Ribbon award-winning public school system promises a bright future for its nearly 11,000 students in a place long known as one of the best in the nation in which to raise children. New Rochelle High School is home to the Regents-chartered Museum of Arts & Culture. Higher-education opportunities are found at the College of New Rochelle, Iona College and Monroe College.
New, luxury living options has attracted an influx of residents that frequent the many ethnic restaurants of New Rochelle.
Following a trend that has worked well in other cities, New Rochelle demolished towers of public housing and replaced them with Heritage Homes, a neighborhood of 130 rental apartments offering a mix of studio and one-bedroom units, and 80 two-bedroom townhouse-style apartments; residents moved into the final 60 units in 2013.
The city also lays claim to one of the largest retail centers in the country. New Roc City spans 1.2 million square feet and offers everything from a glow-in-the-dark bowling alley to an IMAX movie theater. The complex also houses extensive shopping and dining options, as well as a hotel and apartment-style living.
New Rochelle was recognized in 2009 as a BusinessWeek “Best Place to Live” and in 2010 as one of Money magazine’s “100 Best Cities.” Both the crime and unemployment rates are below the national average.
The city contains a major medical center, three universities and two public libraries, as well as plentiful parks.
Transformed from a city of neighborhoods into a burgeoning center of regional commerce, Mount Vernon experienced economic growth that eclipsed 20 percent between 2000 and 2006, making it one of the fastest-growing cities in the metropolitan area of New York.
With its prime location so close to New York City – it’s an NYC “inner ring suburb” bordering The Bronx – Mount Vernon continues to attract homeowners looking to improve older properties as well take advantage of convenient, new residential development, particularly in the North Side. Given its proximity to NYC, it’s surprisingly affordable: Trulia cites a median sales price for homes in the summer of 2013 of $278,000, while Zillow gives it a home value index of $326,200. Mount Vernon is home to three Metro North rail stations that put Midtown Manhattan, Downtown White Plains and Downtown Stamford, Conn., within a 30-minute express trip.
In the summer of 2013, the state senate passed a measure that would create an inter-municipal economic revitalization agency to help Mount Vernon and the Village of Pelham Manor work together to redevelop land along Eastchester Creek. The measure was presented to the assembly, which referred it to the local governments for consideration. With its rocks, silt and tricky tides, Eastchester Creek poses something of a challenge for maritime traffic. Nonetheless, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 739,000 tons of cargo is moved through the creek annually. On its shores, 39 steel storage tanks accommodate nearly 230,000 barrels of petroleum. Scrap metal yards and asphalt and concrete facilities also move cargo on scows and barges.
The city – with its population of nearly 68,000 – remains committed to encouraging high-wage, private-sector employment with a coordination of effort among the city, private enterprise and the banking community. The establishment and support of small businesses, including micro-businesses, remains a priority.
Mount Vernon already has an established commercial corridor in /
Mount Vernon Heights, encompassing Sandford Square and Sandford Boulevard (6th Street).
Mount Vernon’s four major districts -– North Side, South Side, Downtown and Mount Vernon Heights -– together constitute a 4.4-square-mile area known for its richness of diversity. Popular ethnic celebrations are held throughout the year.
The city has 241 acres of parks, playgrounds and open space either owned by Westchester County or the city.
Mount Vernon’s chief employer is the city school system, which consists of 16 schools where more than 700 teachers work with some 10,000 students.
Mount Vernon Hospital (MVH), which treats 25,000 patients a year, is another top employer. In 2012, it received a Press Ganey Top Improver Award for its significant improvement in 26 clinical core measures. MVH was one of only 12 hospitals in the country to receive the award for improvement in patient satisfaction scores; those scores reflect the hospital’s commitment to excellent
A historic shipping and trade center known in the mid 20th century as the home of the Life Savers Candy Company, Port Chester, like so many U.S. towns and cities, saw its manufacturing slip away. But it has adapted to the current economy by revitalizing its downtown and adding retail and service operations.
The change culminated in 2004 with the opening of The Waterfront at Port Chester, a 500,000-square-foot, two-level property anchored by Costco, Super Stop and Shop, Loew’s Cineplex and Bed, Bath and Beyond. Ample parking helped these stores to succeed in a downtown environment. A number of smaller retailers and restaurants followed. G&S Investors, which developed The Waterfront, is currently in the planning stages for several additional phases of the property that will include additional retail, multi-family and hotel space.
In 2013, Port Chester completed its Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP) final draft. An LWRP is a state-sponsored program for the beneficial use, revitalization and protection of a community’s waterfront resources. It’s part of developing a comprehensive municipal strategy for the waterfront resources, including protecting the working coastline and the businesses,
such as marinas, boat yards and charter boats, that depend on waterfront access. Port Chester established an LWRP in 1992, but since then the city has grown. In fact, the original LWRP has parts of The Waterfront at Port Chester within its boundaries and parts outside of it. The 2013 LWRP expands the boundaries to include all of it, as well as some adjacent properties.
Other development projects in this area are the Mariner, a five-story, 100-unit residential development complex that has already been completed, and the Chateau, a mixed-use retail and residential site that will have 120 residential units.
These new residents will continue to feed dollars into Port Chester’s restaurant industry; its Restaurant Row has gained a regional reputation as “the restaurant capital of Westchester,” thanks to dozens of critically acclaimed eateries. A former train station downtown now houses the popular Heartland Brewery.
Elsewhere in Port Chester, plans are still being considered for the site of the former New York United Hospital, which closed in 2005. A long-discussed, 1.1-million-square-foot redevelopment project known as The Gateway calls for five residential towers together with commercial and office space. The location is close to I-287 and I-95, while also offering ready access to public transit.
North of downtown, land uses are primarily residential. Port Chester has also made new park amenities and recreational fields available for the nearly 29,000 residents.