For years now I-287 corridor has been struggling as office occupancy declined with changes in our society. The large corporate headquarters like General Foods and others that used to grace Westchester Avenue were no longer needed, and in recent years we have been seeing a gradual move towards a new life for the I-287 corridor.
When COVID-19 struck in March, it accelerated a process that was already well along. By the second quarter of 2020 leasing activity in Westchester totaled just above 300,000 square feet, a decline of 36.6 percent from the year before. While I-287 did see some leasing activity, it was still down 21.5 percent from the previous quarter and 39.3 percent year over year. By the third quarter there was some improvement in the overall Westchester office market with a 4.8 percent increase over the previous quarter, but well below the 10-year historical third–quarter average.
Despite some setbacks, the long-needed repurposing of the I-287 corridor continues, perhaps even spurred on by the pandemic, as people seek refuge in the suburbs. According to Houlihan Lawrence, 37% of the buyers in Westchester in the third quarter originated from New York City, an increase from 26% year-over-year. Year-to-date, 54% of the NYC buyers were from Manhattan, and of those, 18% from Brooklyn. In neighboring Putnam County, the percentage of third quarter NYC buyers rose to 33%, nearly twice as many as last year.
In the coming months, the pandemic will continue to escalate changes along the I-287 corridor. The opening of Wegmans supermarket, although delayed by COVID-19, shows that there is a demand for services to support new residential development in the area. The Rochester-based grocery store chain opened in August. The 121,000 square-foot store on Corporate Park Drive in Harrison has 732 parking spaces and is expected to add a retail component to new planned housing in the area.
McCullough, Goldberger & Staudt LLP has received accolades for its involvement in the repurposing of the I-287 Corridor from office parks to housing and retail uses. MGS Senior Partner Frank McCullough was honored by the Westchester County Association and the Pace University’s Land Use Law Center for his role in repurposing Westchester’s I-287 Corridor and his and the firm’s expertise in land use planning.
In addition to its involvement in the Wegmans project, MGS has been integral in obtaining approvals for other I-287 corridor projects including:
- Life Time Athletic at the former site of The Journal News building on Westchester Park Drive, the company built a 200,000-square-foot fitness center.
- Simone Developmentplans to spend $61 million on renovating and expanding 104 Corporate Park Drive for a state-of-the-art 21st century healthcare facility.
- The Toll Brothers/Normandy Real Estate Partners transformation of office space on Corporate Park Drive, adjacent to the new Wegmans, into a multi-family residential development with 421 rental apartments, including 42 affordable units.
Despite the setback that the pandemic has dealt Westchester’s entire economy, it has created an influx of new residents leaving New York City for the suburbs. This will create more demand for housing and can only benefit the I-287 repurposing and spur the creation of housing and retail to accommodate these new residents.
The writer is Seth Mandelbaum, Managing Partner with McCullough, Goldberger & Staudt, LLP. MGS represents a diverse group of clients and has been an integral part of the Westchester community for more than 60 years. The firm offers a wide range of services in areas including land use, transactional real estate, banking law, commercial and residential real estate, trusts and estates, municipal law, construction law and surrogate’s court litigation. Its clients include corporations, insurance companies, municipalities, coop, condo and homeowners’ associations, developers, individuals, golf and country clubs and not-for-profits.