Iona College Announces North Avenue Development Initiatives - Acquisition of Mirage Diner, Cannone's Pizza

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NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Demonstrating support for North Avenue development, Iona College announced several North Avenue initiatives including land acquisitions, roadway improvements and a storefront enhancement program.

Iona College acquires North Avenue properties.

Iona College announced it has agreed to acquire properties located on North Avenue, which include the Mirage Diner and an adjacent parking lot. As part of the agreement, it is anticipated that the Mirage Diner will remain in operation in accordance with the existing lease. The College plans to develop a mixed use commercial and residential building. Working plans include community restaurant(s), bookstore, and other commercial uses on at least the first floor with residential units on additional floors.

"We approached the College in the late summer about buying the diner and related property. They have been a good partner and will develop the land in a way that supports the surrounding area" said Nick Triantafillou, owner of the Mirage Diner. "As part of the transaction, the Mirage Diner requested a nondisclosure agreement which precluded the College from disclosing the purchase until this time" said Anne Marie Schettini-Lynch, Iona College Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration.

In November of 2013, the College also acquired the former Cannone's Pizza and Campus Wings. The College pays real estate taxes at that location. The College will also pay real estate taxes on the Mirage Diner and expects to add additional taxable square footage once the property is developed.

"Iona is committed to increasing the number and quality of student living options at the College" said Charles Carlson, Vice Provost for Student Life. Iona recently completed and opened a new residence hall in the center of its campus and also renovated Rice Hall to add living spaces for students. As a greater percentage of students are opting to live on or near the campus, the college has added residence hall staff, increased security, and a Director of Off-Campus Housing to support students and the surrounding neighborhoods. "Consistent with the recommendations of the Community and College Planning Committee, Iona has demonstrated its intent to pursue development on North Avenue. This is one of several recent positive advances on that front" said District 3 Council Member, Jared R. Rice.

Roadway and storefront enhancements also planned.

Additional investments in North Avenue were also announced by the College, whereby Iona is investing funds to assist the City in making roadway improvements on City property in the vicinity of the College. Further, Iona initiated a partnership with the City to launch a Storefront Enhancement Program, which will provide financial assistance to property owners in an effort to improve the appearance of commercial storefronts located along North Avenue.

"Iona College is the second largest private sector employer in the City of New Rochelle, serving as a significant economic and service engine for the City. I'm pleased the College is working with the community to develop property outside its traditional walls and to revitalize North Avenue" said Luiz Aragon, Commissioner of Development for the City of New Rochelle who indicated that “adding residential facilities and commercial uses on North Avenue and supporting physical improvements to existing properties, will be important initial steps in the revitalization of the North Avenue corridor.”

What is prompting the development?

Since President Nyre's arrival, the College has engaged in a series of community meetings with neighbors and elected officials resulting in renewed support from the College and City of New Rochelle to develop North Avenue. “The collaborative process involving the City, Iona College and neighborhood representatives began over two years ago and resulted in a zoning change for North Avenue, which allows additional student housing while promoting the revitalization of the North Avenue corridor” said New Rochelle City Manager Charles B. Strome, III. The zoning change enacted on June 18, 2013, allows for the development of college-related uses in the North Avenue Zoning District. "Based upon the level of interest we have received from property owners and developers, the impact of the zoning changes is apparent" said Schettini-Lynch. "This is a positive development and concrete example of how a college, community and city can work together to develop a particular area" said Iona College President Dr. Joseph E. Nyre.

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

Bob McCaffrey on Fri, 01/10/2014 - 01:49

New Rochelle Wings It While Iona College Plots and Plans the future of North Avenue Corridor!

Demonstrating support for North Avenue development, Iona College announced several North Avenue initiatives including land acquisitions, roadway improvements and a storefront enhancement program. Where is the Demonstration for support from The City of New Rochelle or are we relying on the Iona Plan?

With the recent activity of Iona College acquiring North Avenue properties it looks like Iona College has set their New Master Plan into action. I think done right this can be a big step towards cleaning up and changing the dynamic of the North Avenue Corridor. However, this vision for the North Avenue Corridor must be a vision agreed upon by The City of New Rochelle, residents, neighbors, taxpayers and then Iona College. Not the other way around. There must be true input and communication not a perceived notion of the same. We saw what happened with Forest City Ratner’s Echo Bay Project. We cannot repeat the secrecy of the past Joint Community-College Planning Commission which was formed back in September 2011.

What is prompting the development? The press release has stated, since President Nyre's arrival, the College has engaged in a series of community meetings with neighbors and elected officials resulting in renewed support from the College and City of New Rochelle to develop North Avenue.

Iona College and The City of New Rochelle keep saying that the “Neighborhood Associations and the College are meeting on these things. That is not correct. Does anyone know of any meetings that involved input and true conversation from the neighborhood associations and the neighbors? Iona College hosted an open forum on Monday night 10/7/13. Part of their Campus Master Planning meetings, everyone was invited to learn about the ideas and offer input. This was more about output. I have attended focus groups and planning meetings, I saw none of that during this gathering. No real exchange of ideas and conversation with follow up and dialogue, just we will take note of it comments.

During the Neighborhood Forum (meeting), nothing was mentioned about any plans as we were told they were only working on the master plan. The elaborate plans, impression and renderings that were shown were only that, Images of ideas and not fact, so we were told. The neighbors questioned the fact that the renderings contained views of several parts of The North Avenue Corridor only to be told that did not mean anything, they were only thoughts and drawings of the way the area could look with Iona College’s input, Another example of being shown what will be done and not asked for an opinion that would be taken seriously.

They speak of The Joint Planning Committee. The Committee members WERE “expected to refrain from talking to the other members of their neighborhood associations” It was part of the preconditions of the committee that was announced back in September 2011. They may have their own spin on it enough to say that, but it is not correct.

I spoke about the this exact point to The City Council on 7/10/12 about the problem of representatives not being able to speak about the process to their association members. Council member Tarintino even spoke of the disconnect at the 7/17/12 Council Meeting questioning the issue.

Iona College and City of New Rochelle on the Road Again!
By Bob McCaffrey on Sun, 07/01/2012
http://www.newrochelletalk.com/content/iona-college-and-city-new-rochell...

Panel member: Iona dorm is 'too much'
Councilman disagrees, says proposal is 'a great outcome'
12:09 AM, Nov. 26, 2012

http://www.lohud.com/article/20121126/NEWS02/311260040/Panel-member-Iona...

Iona says dorm planning process was not secretive
27 November 2012
http://soundshore.lohudblogs.com/2012/11/27/iona-says-dorm-planning-proc...

The City Of New Rochelle and Iona College Get Poor Grades, Must Show More Effort and Results in Their Work! By Bob McCaffrey on Thu, 11/29/2012
http://www.newrochelletalk.com/content/city-new-rochelle-and-iona-colleg...

A Big Disconnect, I would be happier if I saw the finished Master Plan from Iona College and The City of New Rochelle’s input to those plans. There could/should be a presentation of the final Master Plan presented by the college and The City of New Rochelle together. As we saw that night, no members of council attended the Neighborhood Forum (meeting). We are facing the exact same planning issues raised in the 1996 Comprehensive Plan.

Under Planning Issues section in the 1996 Comprehensive Plan:
Over the past ten to 15 years, Iona College has expanded its student population and its physical campus into the adjacent residential neighborhoods east and west of North Avenue. It renovated a public school for college use, built a dormitory, improved its outdoor athletic field adding permanent seating and acquired properties in adjacent residential neighborhoods for college use. While its population has contracted and stabilized, neighboring communities are still impacted by competition for limited on-street parking spaces. Planned improvements to the campus identified several years ago, such as an expanded library, have the potential to create further tensions with the surrounding neighborhood.

New Rochelle has had a detailed Comprehensive Plan since 1996 yet we never hear any references to that plan. The only visions and ideas we have seen over the last several years are those of Iona College, Monroe College, Forest City Ratner and the many other developers who have built in The City of New Rochelle on the backs of The New Rochelle Taxpayers. Most do not even come close to the 1996 Comprehensive Plan. We have also seen a major amount of time and money lost by the flawed processes used during the Forest City Echo Bay debacle and others. Something must change and New Rochelle must start to take control of the development and planning process. But first, you need a plan and follow it.

The closest thing we had as a way of input was something called “EnvisioNR” (“Envision New Rochelle”); this Comprehensive Plan process was developed for the public to have an opportunity to weigh in on important issues. There was a series of meetings held city-wide in June 2012 and on October 3 2012. These meetings were very poorly facilitated at the time. Future meetings were to be planned. I have not seen or heard much about this project except for the few e-mails I got when someone suggested more bike lanes for the umpteenth time. As a matter of fact, Eleanor Sharpe Planning Director for The City of New Rochelle at the time who was the facilitator of EnvisioNR is no longer working for The City of New Rochelle.

This is not just about Iona College and the dorms. It is about the processes the colleges and developers use along with The City of New Rochelle. The City of New Rochelle has a bad habit of spot zoning and not looking out for the interests of the citizens and neighbors of the many projects they approve. We need to get it right so that the changes benefit all. It can and should be done, but not under the same guidelines and practices. We currently have Luiz Aragon, The New Commissioner of Development for the City of New Rochelle. See what he has to offer. New Rochelle needs to create a neutral group of citizens from all the different Neighborhood Associations. Representation from each district with no ties to any of the past hand selected and biased committee’s with the same predictable outcomes.

I agree with what Luiz Aragon Commissioner of Development for the City of New Rochelle who said that “adding residential facilities and commercial uses on North Avenue and supporting physical improvements to existing properties will be important initial steps in the revitalization of the North Avenue corridor.” But The City of New Rochelle must maintain control of this process and follow it carefully.

New Rochelle we have an opportunity to do something good here with a collaborative effort from everyone that has a stake in the North Avenue Corridor, Iona College, Landlords, Store owners, the students, potential customers and most importantly the resident taxpayers of New Rochelle. Take the time to plan and get it right for the sake of the future of New Rochelle.

“Common Sense for the Common Good”

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