Astorino Seeks Developers To Turn 60 Acres At Grasslands Reservation Into High-Tech Research Complex

Written By: Talk of the Sound News

Screen Shot 2012 03 01 at 6 09 25 PMCounty Executive Robert P. Astorino said today that the time was right for Westchester to seek out private developers to create a research and development complex aimed at supporting the county’s growing medical and bio-tech industries on 60 acres of the county-owned Grasslands Reservation in Valhalla.
“This is a jobs-creating initiative with multiple benefits,” Astorino said. “It will strengthen Westchester’s growing medical and bio-technology industries and in so doing, improve the county’s economic foundation and future competitiveness.”

Specifically, the county is issuing a request for qualifications, or RFQ, to developers who are interested in the property. Known as the North 60, the property is adjacent to the Westchester Medical Center, sitting on 60 acres of undeveloped land on the northern portion of the 512-acre Grasslands Reservation.

“When it comes to real estate, the watchwords are: location, location, location,” said Astorino. “The North 60 is ideally situated in the middle of Westchester’s bio-tech corridor. It can take advantage of the county’s highly trained workforce, and market prices are extremely attractive right now. We think that can be a winning combination for a developer with the right vision for the property.”

The RFQ can be viewed here. Proposals are due on April 24. The county will then evaluate the proposals and negotiate with the preferred company.
The objectives in the RFQ include the following:

Provide the county with substantial financial benefits, including rents, taxes and assessments
Create a development that generates high quality jobs and other local economic benefits for the community
Reinforce the outstanding reputations of the Westchester Medical Center, New York Medical College and the county’s growing bio-tech and medical industries
Enhance and preserve the positive character of nearby neighborhoods
Develop the site in a manner that promotes environmental conservation and access to public transit.

The North 60 property is presently undeveloped, but has been the focus of several proposals over the last two decades, ranging from a “simulcast theater” for the New York Racing Association (1992); a bio-medical research center (2002) and a continuing care community center (2005).

Mount Pleasant Supervisor Joan Maybury praised Astorino’s initiative, saying: “The possible use of this property as a laboratory/office complex to support bio technology in our region is an exciting proposition. We welcome the opportunity to review proposals and to partner with the county to develop this property in a meaningful way that will benefit the residents of our town.”

County Legislator Michael Smith, who represents Mount Pleasant, added: “The North 60 initiative shows that Westchester County is open for business. County Executive Astorino is to be applauded for taking action to create jobs and increasing the commercial tax base. I look forward to working with him in moving this initiative forward.”

Economic development has been a cornerstone of the Astorino administration, and the latest effort builds on success of the past two years in the bio-tech and pharmaceutical areas.

Last year, BioMed Realty Trust, Inc. of San Diego bought the Ardsley Park campus, located at 410 and 412 Saw Mill River Road, Ardsley, to lease it to Acorda Therapeutics, Inc., a biotechnology company that develops and markets therapies for neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury. It currently employs 159 people and may potentially add up to 200 more positions over the next five years.

HistoGenetics, a biotech company in Harrison, announced in December that it had finalized its purchase of an 118,000-square-foot office building off Westchester Avenue, relocating there from Ossining. The property will be used as a research and development facility.

Other successes include bio-tech firm ContraFect moving from New York City to Yonkers and healthcare software company AmkaiSolutions moving its headquarters from Connecticut to Armonk.

Larry Gottlieb, Westchester’s director of Economic Development, said the North 60 initiative would help solidify the county’s position as a powerful engine for economic growth in the state.

“When combined with the $4 million grant that we helped secure for the region’s first biotech incubator at New York Medical College, the county executive’s North 60 initiative is seizing on an opportunity to fuel tremendous entrepreneurial activity for decades to come,” he said.

Westchester County purchased the Grasslands Reservation in 1915 to provide an isolated setting for a poor house, a penitentiary and a public hospital. It is now the site of the Westchester Medical Center, the county’s jail and penitentiary, New York Medical College, as well as various county departments including Labs & Research and Emergency Services.