BY PETER KATZ - AUGUST 2, 2020 @WESTFAIR COMMUNICATIONS
Construction workers setting rebar at The Mitchell project in White Plains. Photo by Bob Rozycki
After some delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic, construction again is in high gear on The Mitchell, a project by Lennar Multifamily Communities LLC (LMC) on properties carrying the addresses of 9 Mitchell Place and 131 Mamaroneck Ave. in White Plains.
“We had some stops and starts like a lot of other construction projects,” Greg Belew, LMC’s divisional president for the New York tristate area, told the Business Journal. “We lost some time but are looking to deliver the first units in early fall of 2021, which is roughly consistent with where we were.”
The site covers approximately 2.1 acres. The plans call for two 15-story buildings and a six-story parking structure. There would be 434 rental apartments ranging from studios to three-bedroom units. The plan includes about 8,000 square feet of ground-level retail and restaurant space along Mamaroneck Avenue.
“We generally open projects like this in phases,” Belew said. “Even if it was one discrete building we would still open it in phases with some floors being leased while other floors were being finished, so this will be no different.”
Belew said that making sure that there is full compliance with best practices to protect workers from the virus has been challenging.
“The safety of the workers is paramount so that’s a huge focus of time and energy, making sure we can have a safe environment for all the workers on-site,” Belew said.
The project rises along Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains. Photo by Bob Rozycki
“We went in and enforced mask rules early-on. At first there were some shortages of masks; it was difficult to get them. We actually were able to order a large amount of bandannas and used that as a stopgap solution until more masks were readily available. Between masks and social distancing we also had hand-washing stations that were installed all over the site. There were rules about the workers on-site not clustering too close together and so forth. We had social distancing rules. The subcontractors were very diligent about testing so we didn’t have any workers on-site that were sick.”
Belew said that the construction site to date has had the advantage of being an outdoor environment with none of the project’s elements being closed in.
“That has made for a safer environment versus if the various personnel were indoors and in enclosed areas,” Belew said. “Our job as a developer in a lot of ways is to deal with problems and pursue challenges and in this case you’re dealing with health and safety. The general contractor and subcontractors certainly felt comfortable that they could continue on. At the end of the day it’s a balancing act between being safe and having people maintaining their jobs and maintaining an income. It’s been an interesting problem but unlike some other problems we encounter this one had solutions and workarounds that were feasible.”
Belew said that LMC is bullish on the project and on White Plains even with the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic.
“Our observation is that people are less comfortable living in New York City and feeling more confined and looking for alternatives. A lot of people are looking at the suburbs and are not ready to rent or buy a single-family home so they are renting apartments,” Belew said.
“Major suburban nodes such as White Plains and Stamford offer a good transition from the city where you’ve got easy access to the city should you need it via Metro-North but at the same time it’s less expensive and offers more of a value proposition. We’ve been seeing this pattern going on for a long time now. We think this will only just accelerate movement of people out of the city.”
Belew mentioned that LMC has been seeing the pattern reflected at an apartment development it has opened in Jersey City called The Lively. The 18-story building with 180 apartments and ground-floor retail also has provided 14,000 square feet for a black box theater and the Nimbus Dance Works dance studio.
The view of the project from East Post Road. Photo by Bob Rozycki
“The amenities are being operated with certain restrictions in place in terms of the number of people that can use the amenities at one time and certain amenities have to be reserved ahead of time such as barbecue grills but people seem to be getting back into more normal modes of activities,” Belew said.
“We haven’t seen any drop-off in demand at that property so I think that people will start to get back to normal modes of their routines and hopefully we’ll have vaccines and therapeutics before too long that will help even more as we go forward.”
Belew pointed out that the layout of The Mitchell site provides a substantial setback from the corner of Mamaroneck Avenue and East Post Road.
“We ended up with a very large plaza-type of area with the idea that whatever restaurant locates there at the corner will be able to put a lot of outdoor dining tables there,” Belew said. “Of course, now that so many restaurants have outdoor dining as an important part of their business it’s going to be a great thing for that restaurant to have a very large outdoor dining area on that prime corner.”
Belew said that an outdoor dining area would be created for The Mitchell’s second restaurant to be located at the Mamaroneck Place open area near the currently operating restaurant Don Coqui.
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