Drew Greenwald remembers driving by a used-car lot in White Plains a decade ago and thinking it would be the perfect location for an open-air mall.
This story first appeared in the May 19, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“We’ve loved this site forever,” he said.
The principal of Grid Properties approached the owner of the car dealership, located on Route 22 between West Post Road and Maple Avenue, and asked if the property was for sale. The owner said he would sell for $35 million, a price Greenwald felt was inflated and wasn’t willing to pay. He forgot about his old daydream until recently, when the car lot went into bankruptcy and foreclosure and the property was put on the market.
“We bought a judgment from the bank and bought a piece of the property from one of the owners,” he said, adding that the entire five-acre tract was cobbled together in this way.
The total development cost for the 250,000-square-foot Boulevard, as the mall will be called, is $155 million. It is expected to open by the fourth quarter of 2016, and is being designed by BLT Architects of Philadelphia.
“Westchester is an underserved market,” Greenwald said. “There’s a lot of people with a lot of money. You’re at the edge of a residential area and near downtown White Plains. It’s like Manhasset, N.Y., where you have this retail oasis, the Americana. A lot of retailers who aren’t [already] in the market don’t want to be in a traditional mall.”
The Westchester Mall in White Plains, the closest major enclosed mall to the Boulevard project, is anchored by Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus and populated by stores including Kate Spade, C. Wonder, Rebecca Taylor and Ferragamo.
According to Greenwald, there are more than 200,000 people with a median family income of $123,445 living within a five-mile radius of Boulevard.
“If it were in Scarsdale, we would never be able to do a commercial project like this, so we get the benefit of White Plains’ zoning, which encourages this type of project.”
Boulevard will revitalize the Route 22 corridor, said Greenwald, adding, “We’re trying to provide opportunities for a lifestyle setting. You can’t drive by a mall and see all the brands that are there. Here you drive by and if you like something, you stop and get it.”
Greenwald said sophisticated shoppers who are accustomed to high-end retail in Manhattan or Greenwich, Conn., will now have similar shopping close to their homes. “There’s monstrous demand and high-income demographics.”
The center comprises buildings made of glass, steel, stone and terra-cotta. The architecture — each building will have a different facade — will provide 1,400 feet of frontage.
“These are very expensive to build,” Greenwald said, adding that the cost of construction is about $600 a square foot. “Rent is going to be about $100 a square foot. That’s significantly less expensive than The Westchester, but higher than anything existing in the market that isn’t in the mall. The mall costs some tenants as much as $200. We could be 50 percent less. The highest [non-mall] rent in Westchester now is about $60 a foot.”
The company created a pedestrian look and streetscape that will “replicate the Third Avenue experience or the Madison Avenue experience,” Greenwald said, referring to Third Avenue’s contemporary bent and Madison Avenue’s preponderance of luxury brands. Which street it takes inspiration from depends on the project’s success in lining up high-end tenants.
Greenwald envisions one level of the project to be devoted to health and fitness. “We’re thinking of some of the higher-end fitness clubs,” he said. “There’s hundreds of smaller brands and niche brands with just one, two or three locations. We’ll have an exciting, cutting-edge fitness and health component.
“We created a building that looks like it’s been there for a long time,” Greenwald said. The northern anchor will be 50,000 square feet. “A separate building can be a pure glass box. Because it’s linear, we don’t want an anchor bigger than 50,000 square feet.”
Greenwald is currently making presentations to potential tenants, but as of press time didn’t have any confirmed.
Another feature the center will have — something that’s difficult to find in downtown White Plains — is abundant parking, Greenwald said. The mall will have 780 parking spaces, both indoors and outdoors.
Grid’s retail projects are undertaken through Urban Strategic Partners, its joint venture with the Gotham Organization.
Grid specializes in putting projects in understored locations. For example, the company is the developer, owner and operator of Harlem USA and D.C. USA. Harlem USA has attracted businesses like Old Navy, Modell’s Sporting Goods and AMC’s Magic Johnson Theaters.
Urban Strategic Partners also developed a building next to the Apollo Theater. A Red Lobster restaurant opened on the second floor, and Greenwald said, “We are very close to completing a deal for the ground floor with a national apparel tenant. We tried for years to work the Apollo Theater into the project and had some great concepts for them to do an Apollo café as well as a black box theater, but in the end they could not come up with any funding to expand their space.”
The project is diagonally across from Harlem USA.