Feast Your Eyes On The Armory Proposals

Written By: Jennifer Parente

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Two exciting proposals, two unique visions and one giant collaborative effort to revitalize the New Rochelle Armory  in an adaptive re-use project were presented and welcomed by City Council inside chamber doors at City Hall.  Both project teams consisted of professional knowledgeable members, many of them local residents of New Rochelle thus reinforcing a drive and enthusiasm to preserve the Armory to provide something unparalleled to anything else.

The United Veterans of New Rochelle (UVMPA) merged together with the Save Our Armory Organization creating a diverse, experienced, intellegent group who’s common determination has been to see adaptive re-use of the historical Armory located at 260-270 East Main street.  The proposal showcased to City Council involved developing a Veterans Memorial Center for the Performing Arts on the site , a catalyst for economic growth, a cultural hub for  the community and a support center for Veterans. “This is a total volunteer effort, a not for profit operation under 501(c) focused on providing services for the community – this is for the love of the city” said team member Ron Tocci. The former state Assemblyman and government official went on to say “ We are looking to fulfill the commitment to use the Armory for its original purpose, which was deeded for community activities”

As proposed, The Veterans Memorial Center for the Performing Arts would bestow on New Rochelle wonderful outdoor Monument Garden, Boat House, performance/picnic area and a Gazebo while introducing you to a magnificent and elegant building with a beautiful entrance hall on the First Floor. Upon entering the first floor, guests would be greeted with a glorious lobby, restaurant,  fully professional operational performance stage area and theater seating, meeting rooms, Veterans Center, concessions, exhibits and more. The Second floor design includes a spectacular Bar/Lounge, full kitchen, Banquet Hall / Restaurant, a pre-function foyer, Mezzanine theater seating, sponsor seating with an open to below design.  The Armory Cellar consists of Dance classrooms, lounges, offices, dressing rooms, Prop storage areas, rehearsal locations, locker rooms, a visitors center and Hall, Both the mechanical and electrical rooms would be located in the cellar as well as potential studio space. Underground parking for 100 plus vehicles as well as bus parking is included in the site plans. Preliminary drawings were presented explaining the design concept and will continue to be revised, fine tuned and put forth in front of council for September.  The design elements within this concept fall consistently within the proposed Echo Bay Development and also supply a mixture of civic and other uses that mutually reinforce each other. They integrate seamlessly with the surrounding neighborhood.  This project could, if approved, truly engage the community  in education, jobs, health, family and housing needs as well as create a dynamic center for local, regional and national arts groups benefitting and connecting our youth with art, technology and business to spark the next generation of entrepreneur, artist or engineer. The Center would contribute to New Rochelle an opportunity to thrive, to celebrate the city’s rich, often untold history. Opportunities within the proposal include creating as many as 135  job openings as well as job training  and competitive benefit packages for full and part time employees. Plans to revitalize the waterfront would provide the public access to an area that is not currently utilized. New Rochelle could very well have a patriotic space to be entertained, inspired, welcomed and admired,  a destination place for visitors and residents to enjoy dining and entertainment.  The SOA and their partners look forward to facilitating the adaptive re-use of the Armory location and planting seeds for the future that are sure to grow and prosper. 

Team “Good Profit” comprised of several New Rochelle residents as well as some local Westchester residents, created, designed and brought forward their ideas to capitalize and re-use the Armory site for a different and still creative community oriented purpose.  The team’s fresh image and vision for the project is based on a community overview, observations, exploring people, cultures and conversations around town.  The group dynamic is bringing together experience and understanding to turn the New Rochelle Armory into a self- sustaining business center designed to improve the health of New Rochelle residents increasing access to healthy foods, physical activity and overall focus on wellness in the community as well as providing a place to cater to Veterans. A well presented proposal was delivered. The scope of the plan is to function as an indoor open market under the existing vaulted roof and incorporate  two restaurants/vendors to prepare, serve and sell locally raised foods. The idea is to have this bustling market atmosphere on the first floor (Main Hall) of the Armory.  Good Profit proposed to outreach to the public and community through their management of food distribution.  They also want to emphasize their willingness to see an exhibit hall program including art exhibits Veterans services, Aquaponics and Education programs. The second floor of the Armory in their design would then be utilized by the local American Legion, a bicycle repair shop and commercial office space.  The Armory cellar or basement, the proposed area would be dedicated to storing, handling and food preparation for restaurants and vendors. A service area at basement level would be a primary location for loading docks for food and products and the Armory could then serve as a distribution center of the Hudson Valley and Fairfield County produce and farm products. Also inside the basement would be a program to salvage and repair broken bicycles to have them then used in a fleet as an intermodal transportation system that will interconnect different sites in New Rochelle.  One of the newest idea on the agenda is to  incorporate a self sustaining Aquaponic Greenhouse. An Aquaponic Greenhouse is a greenhouse that raises edible fish (Tilapia, Bass, Trout) and plants (usually Lettuce/leafy greens). Water is circulated between the two, creating a closed loop, nutrient rich environment for both fish and plants. It is a up and coming addition to urban agriculture.  Many of the ideas to develop the Armory site by team Good Profit are environmentally and community friendly and welcomed as well from City Council.

Both proposals have fine tuning that need to be completed and numbers that  need to be adjusted and details need to be worked out like any other proposal that has ever been presented within a short time line. Surely New Rochelle will be hearing more about this as September nears and as more details or ideas are presented from both project teams. It is so good to see that the Armory will hopefully be put to great use some day again to again contribute to New Rochelle shaping back up into the Queen City it once used to be.

The the presentations that were made tonight were broadcast live on Verizon Channel 28 and Cablevision Channel 75. Further information and proposal details should also be viewable on www.newrochelleny.com

Photo credit Jen Parente

4 thoughts on “Feast Your Eyes On The Armory Proposals”

  1. Thank You Jen
    Finally progress and an open report. Jen you have come forward with much needed information and I thank you.

    My support has always been predicated on community based, community initiated. These proposals meet the criteria.

    But, there is an additional step that could be taken to unite the four corners of New Rochelle into a single community.

    I propose that both committees see the wisdom of a single vision and UNITE into an elite committee to combine the best features of both into a Univision.

    I propose further that, once done, the City provide its best resource to handle some key administrative, marketing and developmental end, if requested by the elite committee to further unite the community NOW with the administration to look at two main variables.

    1. how can we optimized the funding of restoration via federal and state grants on sustainability. Don’t be frightened…. remember is is a means state and people ought to be looking at NYSERDA, etc for funding on construction, energy, and greening applications. and two.

    2. Ideally, you want a mix of profit making, cultural, and community resources. For one, if the New Rochelle Opera is given a home, it would call for acoustical considerations that could support a dinner theatre, etc… The restaurants are fine as a subordinate clause to support major access features such as museums, veterans chapel, etc… whatever the major attraction points.

    3. Finally it is past time for integration and the City should now be linkiing in the Armory to a restored Echo Bay Plan, rethinking its language and use around what is our waterfront (not just the walking path around this property) as well as looking at the advantages of tying this into East Main where a nice start has been made and eventually, something more solid concerning Davids Island which is a natural outcropping of this work.

    I think there are untapped resources that the City could use from this audience and other places.

    I congratulate the City actually for hearing the echoes of the voices in support of community involvement and now is the chance to make this happen to its fullest potential.

    warren gross

  2. SOA Committee Validated
    I watched both presentations on TV.

    At a high level, I would describe the dueling presentations as a group of well-meaning amateurs with a plan for a performing arts center that is entirely consistent with the deed transfer requirements set forth by New York State v. a group of experienced professionals with a plan to create an upscale culinary experience that pays lip service to the deed transfer requirements set forth by New York State. I find myself agreeing with Warren that somewhere between the two, there ought to be room for a joint venture including a way to convert the restaurant space into a performance space or have a sort of dinner theater on certain nights of the week. For the restaurant group, arriving at such a deal should be in their interest because, if nothing else, the veterans have demonstrated an ability to derail the plans of others when it comes to the Armory and there seems little doubt that if the SOA group that presented last night is denied, they will put a tremendous amount of effort in defeating the restaurant plan. Keep in mind they have defeated the majority on City Council, Forest City Ratner and the state representatives who initially signed off on the Mayor’s ill-conceived midnight home rule bill.

    Regardless, the two presentations represent a validation of the decade-long effort of the Save Our Armory Committee which has argued that the Armory can be and should be the anchor around which to develop the Echo Bay waterfront area rather than a parking lot as envisioned by Mayor Bramson and his friends.

    Hats off to the SOA team. You were right. The Mayor was wrong.

  3. Individuals Making the Presentations
    FYI-Wajdi Atallah, the president of SBI Consultants, was on the Davids Island Task Force. I am hoping he has New Rochelle’s interest at heart and not one of the mayor’s puppets.

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