Sources indicate the Town of Harrison has plans in motion to strike a development deal with the AvalonBay Communities concerning the long-awaited Transit Oriented Development project with the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
It has been more than two years since Harrison received bids for construction of the project, but town officials have been mum ever since. Any motion will be the first in just over a year since residents expressed skepticism that the proposed Town Center would ever see the light of day.
However, recently sources with knowledge of the ongoing negotiations between the town, MTA and Avalon, have informed The Harrison Report that AvalonBay Communities will in fact be the developer of the long-awaited project once discussions are finalized.
This story originally appeared in the May 24, 2013 edition of the Harrison Review
The most recent mention of the project arose during a public hearing on the master plan, a non-binding zoning and development use document, last November that hasn’t been updated since 1988.
Due to zoning requirements, the Town Council would first need to adopt a revised master plan, that would allow it construct new mixed-use development in the location sur- rounding the Metro-North train station.
The transit oriented development project would allow for more access to mass transit by replacing the existing parking along Halstead Avenue with something built for a higher capacity and would look to revitalize the downtown business district through mixed-use retail and residential development.
Last November, former Mayor Joan Walsh, a Democrat who left office in December 2011, asked the Town Council if there had been any progress made with MTA negotiators over the construction of a new town center complex on the Metro-North property downtown located off of Halstead Avenue. Walsh received no response from elected officials except to point out that the board had signed a confidentiality agreement.
In an interview last week, Walsh pointed out that Avalon was one of the original bids submitted two years ago, but that the company’s concept did not live up to the Town Council’s intent sending Avalon back to the proverbial drawing board. Walsh said she found it incred- ible that it had been almost two years since the bids had been closed without any further information coming to light.
“It’s about time…it’s just too bad it took this long,” Walsh said. “I can’t wait to see what it looks like.”
Due to a confidentiality agreement between the town and the MTA, any new information has been barred from release regarding the proposal process. According to Avalon representatives, it could neither confirm nor deny whether it had been pegged as the developer of the project downtown. However, official sources, with knowledge of the ongoing negotiations, have informed The Harrison Report that AvalonBay Communities will in fact be the developer of the project.
According to a registration list of developers, representative Mark Forlenza with AvalonBay Communities, Inc. attended the Request for Proposals Pre-bid meeting in 2011. Forlenza could not be reached for com- ment as of press time.
The long-discussed construction involves property at the corner of Halstead and Harrison avenues currently owned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The town and the MTA agreed on a deal in 2011 that would transfer the 3.28-acre property to Harrison in exchange for the construction of a multi- tiered parking garage. At the time, Harrison had sought bids from developers to construct a mixture of residential and retail units at the site, a project many have hoped will be the spark needed to revitalize the downtown business district.
Since receiving the bids, town officials have taken a “no public discussion” stance on the project, declining to discuss who produced the bids or comment on the status of proposals. Officials cited concerns over the potential impact on negotiations as the reason for their stance, though many residents have believed the silence meant the project was losing steam.
However, in recent weeks, officials have met several times behind closed doors to discuss the project, listing their executive session as simply “MTA.”
According to Republican Councilman Joe Cannella, the town had received several responses since first opening the requests for proposals process two years ago and are still hoping to see the project come to fruition in a manner that meets the definitive views of the town.
“There continues to be dialogue with the MTA,” Cannella said who refused to further identify or confirm any developer as of press time.
Downtown resident Michael LaDore, who recently received the Democratic nomination on his bid for Town Council, said his main concerns with the project stem from a potential influx of traffic along the town’s main thoroughfare.
“One of my concerns is the increase in parking,” LaDore said. “Can Halstead handle the influx of vehicle traffic…or will it become a mini [Long Island Expressway]?”
LaDore suggested that due to the requisite that would provide 600 parking spaces for MTA commuters, that the traffic would increase substantially. He also cited a potential PILOT—payment in lieu of taxes—program offered to Avalon should they sell affordable housing units, as a means to compensate for tax revenue.