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Adaptive Reuse Could Renew the Platinum Mile- Attorney Frank McCullough Points to Special Use Permit

The use of “special exception use permits” could be the key to reviving the I-287 Platinum Mile, according to noted real estate land use attorney Frank McCullough, Jr.

Dec. 21, 2011 - PRLog -- WHITE PLAINS, NY (December 2011) – The use of “special exception use permits” could be the key to reviving the I-287 Platinum Mile, according to noted real estate land use attorney Frank McCullough, Jr., Senior Partner in the law firm of McCullough Goldberger and Staudt, LLP of White Plains.

Mr. McCullough, who has most recently helped shepherd the Life Time Fitness Inc. project through the municipal approval process, participated in a roundtable discussion entitled “What’s Old is New Again: Repurposing Commercial Property to Met Today’s Demand – A Case Study from Westchester’s Platinum Mile.” The program focused on the Life Time Fitness project as a blueprint on how to reposition or effectively reuse underutilized existing commercial properties at corporate office parks along I-287. The event was held on Friday, December 2 at Pace Law School as part of its Land Use Law Center’s 10th Annual Land Use and Sustainable Development Conference.

At the roundtable discussion, Mr. McCullough related that large-scale rezoning of all of the corporate office campus properties along I-287 would be extremely difficult, especially in light of the lengthy SEQRA process such an application would require and the enormous expense municipalities would incur to rewrite their zoning laws.

“The use of zoning amendments by providing special exception use permits I think is a very good tool to use when looking at very specific sites (along the I-287 corridor),” he said. In addition to the Life Time Fitness project, which proposes to replace the existing Journal News property with a 209,000-square-foot recreational facility, Mr. McCullough related that other properties for such a municipal approval strategy.

“It is a way of dealing with the issue of change without going through a lengthy process that involves doing the whole zoning ordinance over, which is not going to happen in this economy,” McCullough said.

By employing this strategy and hiring a qualified team of consultants, Life Time Fitness and its representatives began discussions with the Town of Harrison in January 2011, officially filed its application for a zoning amendment and special exception use permit in May and received all of its approvals by the end of November 2011, including the approval of the zoning amendment, site plan approval, wetlands and steep slope permits and a Negative Declaration under SEQRA by the Town of Harrison finding no adverse environmental impacts from the project. The entire approval process was completed in just seven months, he related.

The veteran attorney’s firm has previously represented Hyatt Summerfield Suites in its project to replace an outmoded office building at 101 Corporate Park Drive with a new hotel: Fordham University’s conversion of a former Verizon/NYNEX office at 400 Westchester Ave. into its Westchester campus; the rezoning of the Hitachi corporate headquarters site from office to residential use; and the Aquatots Westchester Swim School’s plan to replace an existing building on West Red Oak Lane with a new building to house a swim school for children. All of the aforementioned projects went before and successfully secured all approvals from the Town of Harrison.

Another critical suggestion Mr. McCullough shared for those interested in pursuing repositioning or adaptive reuse ventures is to work with the municipal regulatory agencies before filing an application to assure political and municipal staff support for the venture. “This strategy saves time and money in the long run,” Mr. McCullough related, and allows the applicant to know early on whether the project has a chance to win municipal and community support. If the project does not win the favor of local planning and zoning officials, the applicant can then decide relatively early to cut his losses and go home, he added.

Other participants at the roundtable discussion were: Stephanie Harris, senior director of real estate for Life Time Fitness, who shared insights on why the Minnesota-based company chose Westchester County for its newest location; William V. Cuddy, executive vice president of CB Richard Ellis, who discussed the high vacancy rates in the commercial office market in Westchester County; and Justin D. Krebs, principal of Normandy Real Estate Partners, the owner of 15 commercial office buildings along the I-287 corridor. Mr. Krebs revealed Normandy’s planned $10-million capital improvement program at the portfolio and possible future plans for its 103/105 Corporate Park Drive property in Harrison. The moderator of the discussion was Marissa Brett, executive director of economic development for The Westchester County Association.

McCullough, Goldberger & Staudt, LLP represents a diverse group of clients MGS has been an integral part of the Westchester community for more than 30 years.  The firm offers a wide range of services in areas including land use, transactional real estate, banking law, commercial and residential real estate, trusts and estates, municipal law, construction law and surrogate’s court litigation. Its clients include corporations, insurance companies, municipalities, coop, condo and homeowners’ associations, developers, golf and country clubs and not-for-profits.  Services are provided by a team headed by five partners and six associates.

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