NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- After a lengthy City Council discussion about possible New Rochelle downtown development, the Commissioner of Development, Luiz Aragon, shifted attention to the Armory. At this June 11 City Council meeting Aragon suggested a "fresh new approach" and said a website was being created to which Armory proposals can be submitted. Registration fees will be required: $30 for students and $100 for professional designers. A timetable for proposals for projects suggested using a deadline of August 5, 2013, A short list of developers could then be approved by August 9. These developers will be asked to exhibit their feedback and another selection recommendation would be endorsed by City Council for an LDA (Land Disposition Agreement). The City Council will have to make a decision on whether to pursue this suggestion further at their meeting on June 18.
It can also be noted that the original request for Armory proposals produced only two plans, one from the Save Our Armory Group and another from Good Profits which was chosen by the City Council. However the Good Profits firm was unable, after many months, to come up with the required $50,000 deposit. )
A panel of eight: four judges named by the City of New Rochelle and four judges by ArchPaper would be used to evaluate proposals submitted according to Aragon. It was felt a list of finalists would be exhibiting from November 15 to 22 and the top ranked team will be chosen during the November 22 to December 2 time frame. The top ranked team will be announced on December ll.
Mayor Noam Bramson called this a "creative new path" which would hold out the possibility of a greater level of inclusion. The panel selected would have not only "quality," but also realism. Aragon expressed optimism that the process began with a vision. Bramson added the "standards" selected would articulate specific parameters for the beginnings of a gateway to the waterfront. Councilman Barry Fertel added that projects can come to the waterfront, as for example, in Greenpoint, Long Island.
Councilman Ivar Hyden said he loved the idea. Aragon emphasized this was a "creative approach for the inherent problems of this development, but added tha people who have previously submitted plans for the Armory, namely the veterans, can submit proposals. Council woman Shari Rackman said it was an "outrageously" good way to look at this site and a "fantastic idea" to team up the best proposals with the developers. When the question of how a good student idea would be handled, she was told the student would have to find a developer.
When Councilman Lou Trangucci asked if the proposal would be consistent with the history of the site, Commissioner Aragon said he was leaving this open so that new ideas could be sought. Councilman Jared Rice asked if the timeline would correspond with the Echo Bay project. However, he was told the problem with getting the judges to get together before Thanksgiving may prove difficult. City Manager Chuck Strome felt the committee selected should not be too large and should have Council involvement. It was suggested that the panel selected be "neutral" toward the proposals.
After the meeting Aragon told the Westchester Guardian that his suggestion for new ideas for this Armory site would attract a "worldwide audience of designers and developers." Those on the short list will present their visionary proposals for New Rochelle to view. A jury of four experts named by ArchPaper and four participants named by the City of New Rochelle will be used if New Rochelle City Council approves this initiative.
Anyone who attended the recent East End Civic Association meeting can wonder if this Association which is the closest neighborhood to the Armory will have no one from their area on this judging committee as was true of the Echo Bay proposal committees.
Originally published in the June 20 2013 issue of the Westchester Guardian