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.