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Is Development in New Rochelle and Bristol Comparable?

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Is Development in New Rochelle and Bristol Comparable?

March 02, 2015 - 01:27
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NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- It was hard to understand a recent Craig's listing for a New Rochelle downtown coordinator for Renaissance Downtown. In the ad it stated New Rochelle was the sister city to Bristol, Connecticut. Further it stated North Star Destinations was used for the purposes of branding New Rochelle and also Bristol.

Renaissance's TOD (Transit Oriented Development) plan for New Rochelle was approved several months ago for development at the train station and public library. Mayor Noam Bramson called it the most ambitious proposal in the city's history. The city's website stated it would help the economy. be "consensus driven" and would dramatically change downtown New Rochelle. There is a promise that the development would help the economy and create jobs "for the entire region." Don Monti, Renaissance Downtown's Chief Executive Officer, felt using the Uniform Development Approach (UDA) and Crowdsourced Pacemaking) we look to provide a framework that engages all community stakeholders through a proactive and process employed Triple Bottom philosophy of Social, Economic, and Environmental Responsibility. He felt this strategy would allow the city to reach its long term goals.

Mayor Noam Bramson was quoted in "Real Estate In Depth", October 21, 2014, that this company's development team hopes to have a "shovel in the ground" for a first phase within 18 to 24 months. While optimism for positive commercial development is certainly desirable, the characterization and conclusion that Bristol, Connecticut and New Rochelle, New York, will have the same kind of development outcomes may be premature. While Bristol has been given the go ahead by their city government there to revitalize and rebuild in their city's center, the comparisons are not uniform.

Renaissance Downtown about four years ago was given a positive vote by Bristol's council to make a development plan for its vacant former mall site which had been demolished in their downtown. But in May 2014 an amended plan for the 2010 preferred developer was approved. The previous plan had unanimous support of the City Council and the Bristol Downtown Development Corporation. Renaissance's attorney said that the company would sign the agreement as did the city's hired attorney, The plan included using the vacant 15 acre demolished mall to make a section for a piazza and the rear of the first building which would include rental and commercial property facing Main Street.

This new approval was a downsizing of the original plan. Financial information by Renaissance Downtown was released. They had already spent two million dollars on marketing and legal fees. For the first phase of this development Renaissance had estimated a cost of $17.7 million and were asking for $6 million from the city. The original plan was broken down into two phases: (1) l0l residential units and 20,000 square feet of retail space, parking, green and temporary event space. It was also mentioned that residents did not want government funding because this might require some section 8 housing. Don Monti, President of Renaissance Downtown suggested the company might only seek state funding.

It was made clear in Bristol that Renaissance Downtown had only a few more months to produce results. Bristol's entire Renaissance plan can be found on www.bristol.gov Various comments of the residents in the area were summed up by one Bristol resident who said, "Same old stuff - why am I not excited."

New Rochelle resident Lorraine Pierce said the city and developer have delusions of grandeur because we have no space left in downtown New Rochelle to build anything of importance. Bristol had 15 empty acres, and we have already seen extensive developer delays. An example is the Forest City Residential proposal which never came to fruition. Laraine Karl summed up: everyone knows we need downtown refurbished. But at what cost for the taxpayers? Is this developer the right one, considering his track record?