Louis Cappelli, sun bronzed from a Monday afternoon golf round playing “customer golf” with his City Center financiers, presented enhancements to his proposed City Center residential apartment towers Monday night. Afterwards four of seven Councilpersons seemed inclined to back the 34-story project with enthusiasm.
The Monday evening work session brought the White Plains Common Council closer to its “date with destiny” next Tuesday, September 4. On that fateful day, the Common Council is scheduled to vote on a Special Permit allowing Louis Cappelli to erect two 34-story residential apartment towers on his 7 acre site changing White Plains forever.
Two new tower designs reflect Councilmember comments.
“Mr. Development” presented enhancements of his City Center “Twin Towers” based on council comments on the eight tower designs presented just last Wednesday evening.
HOW TO SELL A CONCEPT:”Mr. Development,” Louis Cappelli, of Cappelli Enterprises, showcases the features the Common Council liked most wrapped up into one building Monday night. The 34-story job is redbrick, with stately stepbacks with a gold pyramid on the top. Mr. C. is selling the advantages of taller, slimmer elegance to a riveted Common Council. Photo by WPCNR
Cappelli put the height question into perspective. He said the first 100 feet of each tower up against the City Center building and the new Martine Avenue garage were useless, and “had to be offset by more expensive real estate (at the top of the building).” He said the key floors of each building were the top six stories (above the 28-floor level) which would rent for $3 a square foot as opposed to $2/a square foot for the bottom 28 stories.
What Council wanted.
Prior to unveiling his two new designs, Cappelli recapped his interpretation of what the Council had said they liked about his designs last Wednesday. He said the Council wanted a more “verticular look” and that the tower facades should be defined more dramatically, and that “the top should form some sort of slant,” referring to the enthusiasm for the pyramid caps he had shown.
He advised that each of the tall towers would contain 280 apartments, and his third Conroy & Martine building (replacing the psychiatric center) would contain 40 loft apartments, making up the 600 apartments. He estimated the 600 units would bring 1.4 persons per unit, approximately 900 to 1,000 permanent residents to the downtown.
Now 380 foot towers, not 340. Cappelli prefers two different towers.
The Council learned that the actual height of the buildings would 380 feet, not 340 feet, since the cupolas of the towers would contain 40 feet of air-conditioning, elevator works and boilers to heat the building. Mr. C said he preferred to build two different towers rather than duplicate towers as Beyer Blinder Belle had suggested. The towers would not be the tallest buildings in Westchester, but the second tallest next to The Avalon in New Rochelle.
Up come the Boards!
Cappelli unveiled two views of the first design featuring a square-topped tower with a gold pyramid treatment and a standard square roofed cupola, with two different brick and glass treatments.
With the second design, he hit a homerun, or at least “a gapper.” It was a spectacular, rich, rose brick façade, clear glass ornate and solid with articulated protrusions and solid, sturdy horizontal definitions at each setback with the column soaring to a Metropolitan Life Building-type golden pyramid peak.
The night views of each proposed tower inspired glowing countenances from the councilpersons. Cappelli, speaking softly in a rapturous, seductive tone, said each building with have setbacks at intervals as the columns soared to the heavens, upon which there would be floodlights turning the buildings into spectacular evening art, beckoning drivers for miles traveling on I-287.
“I can’t build a nicer building than this. It has to be brick, has to be glass. This is a monumental building, with lights on the cutbacks, the atrium lit and clear, especially at night.”
Council appears positive to the concept
Cappelli had them on the run. The exception was Pauline Oliva who repeated her complaint about the calls she had been receiving from residents about the proposed height, and still seemed to be a definite “No.”
Larry Delgado appeared to back off from tacit rejection of 34 stories to quibbles about colored glass, and appeared to be wavering in his opposition to the magic 34. Robert Greer, William King, Benjamin Boykin each expressed enthusiasm for both designs and no reservations about the height, though Greer wanted Fred Bland of Beyer, Blinder Belle to give his opinion of the designs.
Rita Malmud remained the coy muse of the Common Council. She refused comment on the new prototypes, or to weigh in on the “look,” or to comment on the height question, despite Mayor Delfino’s asking her twice for her impressions. The coy Mayor reserved comment until the vote.
The reaction was highly positive.
Councilman William King: “That’s a fantastic top.(Referring to design 2).”
Councilman Robert Greer: “I agree. But, I’d like Fred Bland’s opinion on it. I like the one on the right (gold pyramid topping).”
Councilwoman Pauline Oliva: “I like the accentuated lines, it seems to hug it to the ground.” She pointed out that Cappelli had originally come in with a design for 18 stories, and had many phone calls from persons opposed to the height.
Cappelli said “this (meaning the 34-story buildings) was a trade-off. It’s enabled an acre and a half of public open space. We’re a big city. We’re not a sleepy town of 54,000 people.” He compared the success of the Avalon building in New Rochelle (300 rented in six months) as more reason to go with the height.
Ms. Oliva responded that White Plains acreage is smaller (than New Rochelle). Cappelli said, “That’s why I’ve got to see The Lord (go up).”
Mr. Greer recalled Cappelli’s first proposal: “I remember some pretty squat buildings.” Mayor Delfino agreed, remembering Cappelli had three boxes.
Greer came down emphatically supportive of the higher buildings as opposed to the three boxes: “I think this is a big improvement.”
Councilman Delgado, appearing thoughtful, said: “I’m still interested in what Fred Bland has to say.” Delgado asked about a design using one pane of glass for two floors, and Cappelli said that was coming.
Delgado concentrated his statements on the design, and we could not know whether this meant he now could live with voting for the 34-story height. He said he did not like colored glass because that was characteristic of office buildings. Delgado said “The tops they all look beautiful. You just can’t ignore that it is a tall building.”
Councilman Boykin joined Councilman King’s outright enthusiasm emphatically: “They (both new building designs) look very good. But, once it’s built we can’t change it. By going up, you’re optimizing the infrastructure and providing open space.”
Mayor Delfino, queried by Ms. Malmud, said he liked the first building, and that he “could look at 34 stories.”
Cappelli was seeking a consensus. He said he sensed a “lighter council.” Pauline Oliva again demurred: “If it weren’t for all the calls I get and some critics….”
Cappelli said, in a diplomatic way, “They have no idea or any connection with the downtown…they are not connected.”
Oliva said, “They are. They pay taxes and they vote.”
Cappelli, said, “I’m in it (the downtown). And I vote and pay taxes,” then lightening up, he added, “I don’t want this to be a 4-3 vote, I won’t be satisfied until I get a 7-0 vote.”
The City Center could break ground in January, 2002
He closed his remarks by advising the council there was a 120-day appeal period after approval, and that he wanted to close on his financing by September 20. He anticipated beginning construction, January 5, 2002.
Garage construction procedure being examined.
Cappelli said he was still planning phasing the Martine Avenue garage construction. He was not sure whether to finish it early and lose revenue on it, or finish it at the same time the entire project was completed, which would extend the construction.
In comments on the mezzanine of City Hall, during Executive Session, Cappelli said, if he built the garage right away, he could finish the entire project in 12 months, opening at the end of 2002. If he phased it, he would finish the project in 20 months, with the project opening in mid 2003.
He advised that Sears had agreed to lease him 100 parking spaces, to supplement the 125 the city was making available for permit parkers now housed in the present Main-Martine garage. He was hopeful of even more spaces from Sears. He said he would decide on which timetable he would pursue in about 30 days.
The countdown to the City Center Time Table
The Council will also vote next Tuesday evening on a Zoning Ordinance in the downtown Zoning District allowing 280 foot, or 28 story residential towers on properties of 180,000 square feet (with 15 foot setbacks) in the Main Street-Mamaroneck Avenue-to Post Road corridor. This may set a new course for the White Plains of the future, dedicated to bringing high rise residential back to the downtown.
Should the Council approve the City Center Special Permit next Tuesday, there is one more hurdle for the dashing developer.
The Mayor’s Office reported Friday that should they approve the 34-story Special Permit, the Council will hold a special vote about mid-September to approve the $23 Million in bonding towards the new Conroy & Martine parking garage. This double approval is being created for Mr. Cappelli to close on his financing about September 20.
According to George Gretsas, the Mayor’s Executive Officer, in an interview with WPCNR last Friday, the council only needs a simple majority vote to approve the Special Permit. However, the vote for the bonding of the $23 million tentatively targeted for Mid-September, requires a 5-2 majority.
Should the Special Permit not be approved for Cappelli, there is no indication at this time what the developer would do next.