Old Post Road Partners, a developer group, presented a plan to remodel an office building into a 150-room hotel to the Planning Commission on Tuesday, in the mayor’s conference room at City Hall. On April 18, City Council first heard the proposal. The project would require Council’s zoning change approvel to convert offices at 120 Old Post Road.
By Jon Craig
Old Post Road Partners, a developer group, presented a plan to remodel an office building into a 150-room hotel Tuesday to the Planning Commission, in the mayor’s conference room at City Hall.
On April 18, City Council first heard the proposal. Council’s approval is required to make a zoning change and convert offices at 120 Old Post Road. A public hearing also would be required.
The plan, presented by the group’s lawyer, Seth Mandelbaum, and architect Jeffrey Wyszynski, calls for a 150-room hotel. The proposed hotel would not include a restaurant or bar or banquet room. “This is not an extended-stay hotel,” said Mandelbaum.
The developers extolled a number of benefits from the project: reducing the impervious surface by 15,000 square feet, reducing the number of parking spaces by 71, adding a multitude of improvements to the plantings, establishing a retention basin and rain garden, improved screening for neighbors, and increasing taxes paid to the City and School District. By their estimates, the new hotel would bring in $500,000 in tax revenues: $184,000 to the City from hotel occupancy tax, $235,000 to the Rye City School District, and $65,000 to the City in property taxes.
Alan Weissman, the owner of the building, added that the current annual taxes on the seven-acre property are $267,000; and, because the building has been vacant for several years, he is asking that the taxes be reduced to $200,000 a year.
Councilman Joe Sack said that the City must weigh the project’s revenue benefits against damage to Rye’s quality of life.
One factor missing in the presentation, said Councilman Peter Jovanovich, is “public safety.” He asked the developers to consider the safety of children walking to and from school in front of the hotel. He noted that the office entrance feeds into a busy intersection at Old Post Road that does not have a traffic light or school crossing guard. Further, he added that a hotel would attract hundreds of new occupants each night, something he characterized as a “different population.”
Speaking for the developers, attorney Mandelbaum assured the Council that it would incorporate the safety questions raised by the Council into their presentation to the Planning Commission.
At a joint meeting of the City Council and Rye Board of Education April 21, Ed Fox also raised concerns about the overnight population at a new hotel. “We all know there are people who check into a place very late and then check out very, very early,” he said.
If the project is to receive preliminary approval, it must be referred to the Planning Commission for review. Planning, in turn, will send its recommendation back to the City Council, which will make the final decision.
Resident Greg Wilson, speaking to the Council, expressed his disapproval of the project, citing safety and traffic concerns. He said a hotel would create “new costs for police, fire, sanitation, and public works. I do not think this is improving the quality of life for homeowners.”
The market for office buildings in Westchester is depressed. The County has one of the highest vacancy rates in the nation (21%), while Class A office space in White Plains has a vacancy rate of 27%, according to the latest figures from nationwide office broker Cushman and Wakefield.
Christian Miller, Rye’s City Planner, confirmed the dire, long-term condition of the office market in Westchester and informed the Council that communities throughout Westchester are reconsidering how to reuse their office zones. He advised the Council to forward the Old Post Road Partner’s proposal to the Planning Commission for review so that they could send an advisory opinion back to the Council. The Council voted 7-0 to do so.