The Common Council voted approval of the Louis Cappelli City Center project unanimously Thursday evening, leaving a $275 million check from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce as the final piece left to continue what Mayor Delfino described as “a great adventure.”
A jubilant, magnanimous Louis Cappelli, described the City Center as the greatest project he has ever undertaken. He thanked the Common Council and the Mayor for their cooperation, their feedback and honesty, (“despite some tense moments”). He saluted the City of White Plains Planning and Building Departments, their host of boards as being the best staffs “foremost” of any he has ever worked with on any of his projects in his 30 years as a developer.
CAPPELLI THANKS COMMON COUNCIL FOR HIS DREAM PROJECT: Louis Cappelli said when he was taking Robert Greer on a tour of New Roc City two years ago, that he wished he had the Tishman-Speyer Project. Thursday night that wish came true as the Common Council granted the Super Developer the City Center project. WPCNR PHOTO
The $350 million project will bring a host of goodies to White Plains.
Cappelli will contribute $500,000 towards a redesign of the Main and Mamaroneck fountain, as part of the City Center acquiring EJ Conroy Drive. He has secured tax abatement from the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency that will result in the City of White Plains taking over the new parking garage he will build 7 years sooner, bringing an additional $20 million to the city. He will build a community performing arts theater inside the 16-screen theater, retail and restaurant complex in the city’s heart.
Architecture by Committee
He has granted the Common Council design approval of the two 34-story apartment complexes, which are being designed by Frederick Bland of Beyer, Blinder, Belle of New York. The Council will also have some input into what the exterior of the City Center will look like in the complex 94-page resolution approved by the Council officially at 9:18 PM Thursday night.
Full steam ahead.
Cappelli said after the historic approval that he had all properties he needed to acquire “under contract.” In two weeks he expected to have a 24-foot foundation dug from EJ Conroy Drive to Mamaroneck to Martine to Main Street.
On the question of financing, Cappelli told WPCNR that closing on his Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce loan had been delayed a week from September 25 to October 2. The Super Developer said he had a letter of commitment for $275 million in financing, and “expected no problems.” Cappelli indicated he had not decided yet how construction of the new parking garage would be timed. He would either build it first and open it early, or delay it a year. He predicted the City Center and apartments would be opened by August of 2003.
Common Council commentaries laud developer
Council President Rita Malmud said Thursday evening was “a culmination of a year of effort to find the right way to develop the downtown. The Cappelli project is the best opportunity in over a decade to do so. I applaud the Cappelli company for agreeing to a higher standard of architecture.”
Ms. Malmud expressed the desire that a mural be painted on the Martine Avenue side of the project. She also reported that the Cappelli company would be paying non-discounted permit fees to the city well in access of $400,000. Malmud expressed some concern about what would happen if a fire broke out on the 34th floor of the apartments.
Fire Chief Mark Damon assured her that White Plains fire codes require sprinklers and a smoke purifying system and are the strictest in the state.
Benjamin Boykin II,stated that with the approval of the City Center, “We begin to move forward for future generations…we need to move forward as soon as possible…the Council contributed by demanding great architecture. On Monday we saw a new design (for the apartment towers), that I think is a great improvement. It has a lot less bulk and a lot lower look. This is thanks to Councilman Greer and who said we should not compromise on the architecture and design, and we hired Beyer, Blinder Belle in July to advise us.”
Councilman Larry Delgado said “I want to thank Mr. Cappelli and all of his team. I thank the Mayor and his staff. I know how hard they have worked, how many late nights they have put in.”
COUNCILMAN LARRY DELGADO CASTS HIS VOTE, THANKS STAFF FOR “LATE NIGHTS THEY PUT IN.” Councilman William King followed with pleas for more inspired design from Fred Bland.WPCNR PHOTO
Councilman Robert Greer said “A successful project has many fathers and mothers and a failure is an orphan. Mrs. Malmud and I fought together to have movies downtown years ago, and now this (City Center) is the product of that effort.” Greer complimented the developer on being able to accept council direction on the project and resolve problems as they arose. He also congratulated Mr. Cappelli on moving to hire Frederick Bland, “a first-rate architect rather than one who is not quite first rate.”
Councilman William King remarked that “I am glad to vote for this project. We are just as confident in White Plains now as we were before September 11. I want to thank the staff who developed a 94 page resolution in two days.” King expressed that he did not like the new Bland design: “It doesn’t bowl me over. I think it’s looking a little bulky and we need a more classic look.” He said he hoped we would look at alternate forms of transportation other than the automobile.
Councilwoman Pauline Oliva came full cycle and supported the project after being against it from the start. “You won me over, Mr. Cappelli, your sensitivity to what we asked for. I was very impressed. You hired Mr. Bland to work up another design, and I have to compliment you for that.”
Mayor Joseph Delfino wrapped up the evening, remarking “You can’t imagine how I feel…Three years ago I didn’t know where to start…I’ve never seen a project of this magnitude move as fast. Tonight, each and every one of you in White Plains is who we thought of, is who we dreamed of in doing this project.”
MAYOR JOSEPH DELFINO OPENS MACY’S TIME CORNERSTONE. The Mayor reads from a letter from the President of Macy’s, written in 1954, that professed skepticism that White Plains could support a department store. Also inside the capsule, which Louis Cappelli’s crews had removed from the Macy’s site were copies of The Reporter Dispatch, that worried about a “Thruway Threat.”WPCNR PHOTO
At 9:18 PM, the role was called and the project was approved. A new era in White Plains had begun.
In other business, firemen raise $41,000 for Trade Center victim relief
The Fire Chief, William Daimon, reported that White Plains firefighters had raised $41,000 Thursday morning by firemen passing “the boot” at key White Plains intersections. The chief said the firemen would be out passing “the boot” again Friday morning. Be sure to contribute!
Senior housing on Kensico receives zoning go-ahead
The 42-unit senior housing project envisioned by Bill Brown for Kensico Avenue opposite the Eastview track still must receive site plan approval.