As you know, my monthly email bulletins typically contain an assortment of news items from the prior few weeks. Today, I am making an exception by focusing on only a single vitally important subject.
A few hours ago, the City Council received the most ambitious development proposal in New Rochelle‘s history — a sweeping, dramatic vision that would fundamentally transform our downtown and reshape the image of our city as a whole.
Click here to learn all about it.
The proposal, put forward by RXR Realty and Renaissance Downtowns (together: “RDRXR”) responds to a Request for Qualifications issued by the City several months ago. In a larger sense, however, this is the product of many years of hard work and careful planning aimed at encouraging smart, mixed-use, transit-oriented growth — or, in less jargony terms, a thriving downtown that we can all be proud of.
It is very important to understand that the images within RDRXR’s proposal (like this one of Library Green or this one of green roofs) are, at this early stage, simply examples of what this project could become. The precise composition of the plan will evolve as more information is assembled, feasibility studies are completed, and — most importantly — the public weighs in with opinions, ideas, and expectations.
To this end, RDRXR will soon launch a major “crowd-sourced place-making” effort to invite community input. This is not mere window-dressing, but rather an innovative process that integrates social media, face-to-face discussions, and neighborhood meetings, and that will play an essential role in shaping the project’s specific features.
Following RDRXR’s presentation this afternoon, the City Council took a key first key step by unanimously authorizing our staff to work out the terms of a master development agreement (MDA) encompassing multiple sites. The MDA will take a couple of months to finalize and then other actions will follow over a period of years, but RDRXR’s commitment to New Rochelle is real and begins immediately; they are placing funds in escrow to cover the City’s third-party consulting costs and even negotiating lease terms for an office downtown.
Given its breathtaking scope, this proposal probably will (and should) dominate civic and political discussion in New Rochelle for the foreseeable future. That’s why I wanted you to know about it right away, and why I hope you will remain engaged going forward.
Many more steps remain, hard questions must still be answered, and tough negotiations are inevitable, but we now have a compelling opportunity to vault our city to a whole new level of vitality, based on the “triple bottom line” of economic, environmental, and social progress.
I have never been more excited or optimistic about New Rochelle’s prospects.
Noam Bramson is the mayor of the City of New Rochelle.