WPCNR WESTCHESTER COUNTY CLARION-LEDGER. From the Westchester County Department of Communications. June 26, 2019:
Westchester County is on the verge of a potential major real estate and business boom thanks to Opportunity Zones. This federal tax program is projected to spur economic development in the County’s distressed census tracts by offering tax breaks on capital gains to developers who invest and hold assets for at least five years.
There are 12 zones designated in 8 different municipalities in the County. The municipalities are Cortlandt, Mount Pleasant, Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, Peekskill, Port Chester, White Plains and Yonkers.
The Opportunity Zones incentive is a new community investment tool, established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, to encourage long-term investments in low-income urban and rural communities nationwide.
Opportunity Zones provide tax incentives for investors to re-invest their unrealized capital gains into dedicated Opportunity Funds. With such valuable benefits at stake, property values are rising as investors and developers scope out these nominated areas’ potential.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said: “My Administration is focused on advancing Westchester’s economy – and to do that best we must take full advantage of all potential avenues afforded to us. The Opportunity Zone program is a perfect example of one of these avenues. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure they have every chance to succeed.”
Since the Zones were released in 2017, the commercial real estate community has been all abuzz looking for investments in the County.
Vince Ferrandino, Principal of Ferrandino & Associates Inc., a planning consulting firm based in Elmsford, has been retained by the County to work with local municipalities to help make these new opportunities work best for them. His firm is also charged with connecting them with eager investors.
“Right now there is incredible opportunity and municipalities can really make this work for them,” said Ferrandino.
For investors who stand to gain in tax breaks, Ferrandino recommends working with a realtor or service that can help identify properties that might not yet be on the market.
“The tax benefits are tremendous, and so many investors are going to want to take advantage of realtors and services – while also lifting up a community in need,” said Ferrandino. He continued, “Ultimately, those who leverage all information have a wider range of properties to consider.”
While office space is always in demand due to the County’s close proximity to New York City, Ferrandino said municipalities also need to focus in on their needs, not just let the developers decide. He recommends forming local committees, holding meetings and surveying the public about what is really needed in the community and then preparing a plan.
“These areas are generally under invested – the developers and the municipalities need to come together and settle on a plan that is best for the community. The municipalities need to be proactive with this anticipated development coming their way,” said Ferrandino.
Bridging the gap between municipalities and developers, Ferrandino said his firm is committed to doing what is best for the community: “Let’s get into the details, beyond just reading the law – we want to show how the County can assist when you, a developer or a municipality, want to help get both sides to achieve what they are looking for.”