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Developer Chosen for New Rochelle Armory

Good Profit Works wants to have remake the Armory into a market hall focusing on regional foods.

The New Rochelle City Council has chosen Good Profit Works to pursue adaptive reuse of the Armory on Main Street.

"This is a difficult issue for every one of us in different ways," said Mayor Noam Bramson. 

"I have no doubt this choice will be criticized by some, just as a choice in the opposite direction would have been," he said.

The city issued a request for proposals for remaking the Armory into a viable space.  It received proposals from Good Profit Works, which wanted to create a market hall focused on regional food, and members of the Save the Armory Committee, who wanted to created Veterans Memorial Center for the Performing Arts.

The council leaned 5-2 in favor of Good Profit. Councilmen Lou Trangucci, R-District 1, and Albert Tarantino, R-District 2, said they preferred having the performing arts center.

Bramson said there were still questions about the project which should be resolved during the agreement period.

"I hope all of us will now work towards the common goal of giving the designated team every opportunity to suceed in the mission it has articulated for itself," he said.

Development Commissioner Michael Freimuth said the proposals were analyzed by his department on four fronts: the development team, project costs, sources of funds and the overall operation.

"In the broadest sense, the much stronger team was the Good Profit team," he said, adding they were more thorough in their assessment of the building, more cognizant of the cost of rehabilitation and presented a more comprehensive budget and operating program.

The proposal from Good Profit was estimated to cost $26 million. The Save the Armory Committee's original proposal was estimated at $10.5 million, but submitted a new proposal Wednesday—well past the late-August deadline for submission of information—of $24.5 million.

Freimuth said he had not had time to completely study the Save the Armory Committee's latest proposal, having received it only a couple of hours before the council meeting.

"Whether it's $24.5 million or $26 million, the real fundamental question is, can you raise the case?" Freimuth said. "Are your sources real and can you really get out those sources?"

He said Good Profit's sources of funds was far more sophisticated than the performing arts center, and identifies individuals far more sophisticated in the art of fundraising.

Freimuth said the next step for the city, after choosing a developer, was to draft a memorandum of understanding that would outline what the city needs to learn about the proposed project in a specific time frame.

While one issue—what exactly is the Armory going to be?—is important, Freimuth said the more critical issue was how to operate the building in the long term.

"That weighs more heavily than the fundamental cost up front," he said.

Freimuth said, in his opinion, the city would have to take a more aggressive role in the structure of the entity that is actually the developer and needs to explore federal, state and other creative roles in financing.

Councilman Barry Fertel, D-District 5, said he was always skeptical about whether the Armory could be made useful again.

"I have to give a lot of credit to the Save Our Armory group because of their tenacity, efforts and relentlessness," he said. "That was probably the most important factor in the process that led to the request for proposals."

In spite of that, Fertel said he was satisfied by the Good Profit proposal, and that he would go for entering into an MOU with them.

Councilman Ivar Hyden, D-District 4, said he would have loved to say he was in favor of the Veteran's proposal.

"I have tremendous respect for what they've done," he said, but the updated proposal arrived too late and had too many questions.

Hyden said he wanted the Good Profit group to increase its performing arts components as well as better servicing veterans in the remade Armory.

City Hall staff will now work with Good Profit Works on the MOU which will be presented to the council for consideration in October.

Plans for the Armory will be included in the larger Echo Bay development by Forest City Residential, that will draft an environmental impact study which must be circulated to the council by the end of October.

Theresa Kump Leghorn September 21, 2012 at 12:35 PM
I applaud the City Council’s choice of the Good Profit proposal for the Armory site. Good Profit’s vision for the property has the potential to put New Rochelle on the map as an innovative center for the development of local agriculture and sustainable farm-to-table food as well as a leader in the re-invention of America’s first-ring suburbs. The development of a central farmers’ marketplace for the lower Hudson Valley will benefit residents as well as local restaurants by providing improved access to locally grown produce. And the inclusion of a restaurant and cooking school under the leadership of superstar chef Jeremiah Tower brings real glamour and excitement to the project. In addition, the outstanding team that Good Profit has assembled has actual experience in fundraising, project development, historic architecture, and the food business, and the project they propose will bring multiple benefits to New Rochelle, among them increased revenue from sales tax and positive publicity that will attract additional visitors (and dollars) to the city.
Billy L September 21, 2012 at 12:47 PM
I see the costs in the article and I would imagine they are being born by the developer. I hope that the city is not bearing any of these costs, especially since the property taxes went up, and for some like me 35% and Westchester just got ranked (again) as the higher property taxes in the nation.
Martin Sanchez September 21, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Interesting how New Rochelle is placing significant weight and hope in an organization that really has no meaningful history of actually creating something as remotely close that they have presented here. if you look at Good Works, what is their claim to fame and fortune? No hint of meaningful success in the tri-state area. Given their overwhelming connections to the Real Estate industry (look at their non-diverse Board of Directors), perhaps we can hope for some transformation, but the way they portray themselves, prepare for a long and arduous road to nowhere. What a slap in the face to the local Vets and their proposal. So much for diversity Noam!
Marie Savoca September 22, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Looking forward to the Armory being utilized after so many years of it being neglected....Lets make it quick........
Billy September 27, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Sophisticated funds? How is going to city hall for money sophisticated? And is it true the mayor's wife is somehow connected to Good Profits? Maybe the commissioners departure is connected? I knew it was too good to be true, this is New Rochelle!
John September 30, 2012 at 04:07 AM
The supposed "deadline" to submit information was purely hypothetical. Had council and the mayor truly wanted to continue to review each proposal and ask more questions, they certainly had time and opportunity. By their own admission there are still questions about the chosen one. That being said, doesn't it seem at odds with proper planning to accept one proposal that the mayor admits to as still having unanswered questions while turning a blind eye to an alternative plan that, as many pointed out, has the very same questions to be answered? A rush to judgement on such a pivotal project only serves to sell all of New Rochelle short. The development Commissioner clearly stated there would be no expectation to complete any part of the process during summer months. There was absolutely no basis for the unannounced, no-notice vote that was never listed on the published council agenda. Then again, it would seem, history repeats itself.

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