HIGH FALLS, N.Y. — The gas station in this Hudson Valley hamlet sat empty for years, leaching petroleum into the soil and well water. But a renovation that will transform the abandoned station into a yoga studio, wellness center and a charging station for electric carshas turned the eyesore into a symbol of this struggling community’s revival.
The station’s decline mirrors that of many others across the country.
Thousands of gas stations have closed in the last two decades, leaving many communities saddled with vacant or abandoned properties. Because gas stations are often built on busy street corners, boarded-up stations have marred the entrances to many bustling business districts in American towns and cities.
More than 50,000 stations have closed since 1991 when there were nearly 200,000 nationwide, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.
The high cost of oil has made it hard to turn a profit selling gas, pushing station owners into selling snacks and soda at their convenience stores. With big-box retailers like Walmart and Costco now in the gas business, attracting customers has become even harder. Simply put, mom and pop stations that once thrived just by selling gas and fixing cars in the repair shop can no longer compete.
No numbers are available on how many closed stations remain vacant, but despite problems, the properties can be attractive to developers, especially if they are at desirable intersections.
“If you own the real estate, there’s no better time to get out — everybody wants that convenient location,” said Jeff Lenard, a spokesman for the convenience store association. “You could be sitting on a gold mine.”
But converting these sites can be challenging. They often are on small lots and may be contaminated by petroleum leaking from underground storage tanks, as was the case in High Falls.
Petroleum brownfields — ground contaminated or thought to be contaminated by fuel — make up half of the 450,000 brownfields in the country, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. As gas stations close, towns must grapple with what to do with this land. If fuel has migrated into groundwater or a neighboring lot, costs can balloon.
State and federal money available to municipalities to clean abandoned sites is limited. Federal regulations require private owners and operators to clean any spills on their property. Still, some developers are reluctant to buy old stations because of the risk that contamination could be found later and they would be stuck with the cleanup bill.
“Gas stations are the gateway to a community,” said Robert Colangelo executive director of the National Brownfield Association. “So it’s very important to get these things cleaned up.”
In High Falls, a $300,000 renovation is changing a derelict structure to a colonial-style strip of yellow storefronts with white trim that will be completed this summer. Then, charging pumps for electric cars will be installed where two gas pumps once stood. The quick-charge pumps will offer free charging to store customers and anyone else. A wind turbine affixed to a 30-foot ledge behind the station and solar panels atop the ledge will generate the electricity.
The five service bays have been converted to shops, and the garage doors replaced with storefront windows. The second floor has been turned into 2,200 square feet of office space offering views of the nearby falls. “People who come to a town like this, they’re looking for a memory to take home with them,” said Mark Robinson, who owns the property with Ronald F. Faia. “I’ve always loved old gas stations,” he added. “It’s a view into American history.”
In a village that once was home to Marc Chagall and the setting for some scenes in “Splendor in the Grass” a former neighborhood blight has become a new downtown center.
“It’s so nice. It’s part of the revitalization of High Falls,” said Michael Warren, town supervisor for Marbletown, which encompasses the hamlet.
But it is not always easy to persuade developers to invest in a property that may need costly environmental cleanup. The High Falls station cost the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation more than $100,000 to clean up in 2001, seven years before Mr. Robinson bought it.
“Whenever you see a for sale sign, it never says ‘brownfields for sale,’ ” Mr. Colangelo said.
While rural communities struggle to fill empty stations, New York City has a different problem. Property values are so high that stations are being converted to more profitable uses, like high-rise buildings, giving drivers fewer places to fill their tanks. The city had 809 gas stations in 2011, down from 872 in 2006, according to the Department of Consumer Affairs. Of the remaining gas stations, only 44 are in Manhattan.
In 2009, Eyal Shuster, a developer, spent $1 million to convert a defunct Long Island City service station into the Breadbox Cafe, which his wife, Tal, manages. A Getty gas station next door, however, is still operating. Mr. Shuster and his development partner, Moshe Mizrahi, hope to eventually build a high-rise building above the restaurant and demolish the Getty gas station.
On a rainy afternoon in June, the 48-seat restaurant was full of customers. From the street, the boxy single-story building still resembles a service station, despite the quirky addition of 1,600 rolling pins on the facade. New garage doors with large glass panes roll back, opening out onto a wooden patio. Inside, zinc countertops and mahogany paneling give the space a modern look.
“The main challenge is changing people’s perception,” said the restaurant’s architect, Eran Chen, a principal at ODA-Architecture. “How do you create an attractive food space in a place that used to service cars?”
While gas stations might be an eyesore in some communities, in others they are treasured slices of Americana. A St. Louis developer met fierce resistance when he considered demolishing a 1968 Phillips 66 station. The building has an enormous flying saucer-shaped roof. Although it has not been a gas station since the 1980s — its latest incarnation was as a Del Taco restaurant that closed in 2011 — residents saw the building as a piece of the city’s architectural history.
Rather than build anew, the developer Richard K. Yackey will begin a $1 million renovation this month on the property, which has 3,200 square feet of usable space. The roof, which is 12,000 square feet, will cost $100,000 to replace. When construction is complete next year, the station will house a Chipotle restaurant and a Starbucks and have a 1,300 square feet addition.
“If you do the math, it doesn’t make a lot of sense economically,” Mr. Yackey said, adding that constructing a building on the property would have provided him with more space to lease.
Because many old gas stations sit on small, three-quarter-acre lots, they often have to be expanded to be marketable. Buyers of old stations often angle to get the neighboring lot. But that, too, can be fraught with complications.
“Any time you’re putting multiple parcels together it becomes more difficult because you’re dealing with another seller,” said Joseph S. Botta, president of Pineville Properties, which has redeveloped several gas stations in the Philadelphia area.
In Roxborough, a section of northwest Philadelphia, developers drew the ire of local residents when they knocked down two houses next to a former Mobil gas station to make way for a TD Bank that opened last November.
“Neighbors get very concerned when you’re knocking down residential houses for commercial uses,” said Michael J. Cooley, vice president of real estate for the Provco Group, which built the bank.
But developers who cannot expand can be left with a property they cannot use. Mr. Botta said he bought eight gas stations from Lehigh Gas Corporation for $11.5 million in 2008. By June 2011, unable to expand the lots, he sold four back to Lehigh.
Mr. Botta said, “When you have a small parcel and you can’t acquire any ground, you can only build so much.”
ARDSLEY — A father’s frustration with driving his children to far-flung sports events has produced a $20 million indoor athletic center expected to open Sept. 10.
House of Sports at 1 Elm St. hopes to turn the village into a training and tournament destination with a 120,000-square-foot complex that includes a children’s nursery, restaurant, bar, fitness center and more than 100 covered parking spots. Don Scherer, House of Sports’ chief executive officer, said the idea for a sports training academy with adult-friendly services came to him while taking his son to sports events in Connecticut and New York City.
“That’s how I learned this community’s need,” said Scherer, 43, of Tarrytown, who is opening his complex in the former Selecto warehouse.
The training center will employ about 200 full- and part-time workers and will focus on basketball, lacrosse and baseball. The complex has four regulation-sized basketball courts and training baskets equipped with computer sensors to help students perfect their arcs.
The center has hired former coaches who have worked with some of the country’s best-known college teams, such as Andy Borman, who played basketball for Duke University when the school won the NCAA National Championship in 2001.
The lacrosse academy will be run by Ned Crotty, an all-American at Duke University and a member of the 2010 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship team. Crotty received the 2010 Tewaaraton Trophy as the nation’s top lacrosse player.
Scherer said the 100-by240-foot artificial turf will allow House of Sports’ lacrosse academy to raise Westchester County players’ skill levels with winter practice.
“You go down south and and there is skills-building all year round. That has impacted the ability of our kids to compete,” Scherer said.
House of Sports will open as the Town of Greenburgh is embroiled in a controversy over a proposal to put a sports bubble on land at the former Frank’s Nursery & Crafts at 715 Dobbs Ferry Road in Hartsdale. The idea is to lease the property, acquired through a foreclosure for nonpayment of taxes, to Game On 365.
Some residents oppose the proposal and Scherer called the sports bubble proposal unfair competition.
“If they don’t have to pay rent at fair market value, if they don’t have to pay taxes, if they don’t have to do (environmental review) to the same level, if their cost structure is radically different from mine, it makes it very hard for me to compete,” said Scherer, who predicted that Greenburgh’s efforts to lease the property will be found unlawful.
There’s been much evolution of thought during the decade-long-plus discussions to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge. Ambitious plans to overhaul the whole Interstate 287 corridor — principally by including rail or “bus rapid” transit with the new span — receded in October, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled plans for a scaled-back (and much cheaper) bridge, one designed to accommodate mass transit in the future but featuring neither bus-rapid transit nor rail at the start.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino has taken heat for changing his views on the project. His spokesman, Ned McCormack, told the Editorial Board that he doesn’t see Astorino’s opinion as changing, but rather “exercising due diligence.”
Astorino has applauded the governor for moving things forward, McCormack said, and “if the governor was in (Astorino’s) shoes, he’d be asking the same questions.”
As the plans for the bridge have dramatically changed, plenty of opinions on the project have evolved.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino
“My pledge to Gov. Cuomo is that I am ready to stand with him. I am willing to invest whatever political capital I can bring to getting a new bridge built. ... The first rule is that we must have a plan that is practical enough to actually get the bridge built. Commuter rail trains over the Tappan Zee would be great to have. But how realistic is it to add $6 billion to a $9 billion project, when we don’t have the first $9 billion?” — Astorino during a June 23, 2011, speech to the Manhattan Institute’s Forum on Replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge.
“He’s got to say, ‘Enough is enough. Put the pencils down and let’s build a bridge.’ ” — Astorino during a July 2011 news conference, where he called on Cuomo to move forward with a scaled-back bridge, engineering it so that rail or bus rapid transit could be added later.
“I’m concerned that, at this point, there is no money set aside for bus rapid transit off the bridge and that there (is no) design for light-rail for commerce and or for commuter rail to get people to and from (work).” — Astorino during an October 2011 Q&A with Westfaironline.com, after Cuomo’s scaled-back plan was revealed.
I don’t think it was an outlandish request to get some information before I have to vote on such a huge project.” — Astorino on July 9, 2012, as he, Rockland Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef and Putnam Executive MaryEllen Odell called for delaying a key vote on the project.
“We can do this in stages, but let’s make a commitment to do it and let’s do it, as opposed to let’s pretend we’re going to do it and never get it done, which is really the direction the state would be going in if we don’t make a commitment from day one.” — Astorino on July 11, 2012, explaining that he wanted assurances from Albany that mass transit would be part of plans for the new crossing.
Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef
“I think the overriding theme … is that this is not about the bridge. It’s about mobility for the entire 287 corridor for both Rockland and Westchester.” — Vanderhoef in July 2007, calling for a comprehensive approach to the region’s bridge and mass transit challenges.
“You can’t just throw a bridge down there and say we’ll build the rest of it later.” — Vanderhoef in October 2011, after the Cuomo administration announced plans for a scaled-back Tappan Zee project, without immediate plans for bus rapid transit or rail.
“Government is renowned for changing the promises it makes for the future.” — Vanderhoef in December 2011, expressing skepticism about plans to build a “transit-ready” bridge now but only adding bus or rail later.
“(Vanderhoef) simply wanted to delay the vote because he felt he didn’t have the information that he needed to vote on this important issue. It’s a $5 billion project.” — Vanderhoef spokeswoman Sue Cerra, on July 6, 2012, after Vanderhoef, Astorino and Odell delayed a vote by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council.
“Given the current information and the ongoing discussions, I think I would vote in favor of moving forward.” — Vanderhoef on July 11, 2012.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
“You know what I say, ‘Build the bridge. Build the bridge.’ … I don’t want to hear why we can’t. I don’t want to hear about the problems. If that was the attitude, this state would never be this state.” — Cuomo in November 2011.
“If the county executives are each willing to write the state a check for $1 billion for construction and over $100 million for operating costs, we will move forward with (bus rapid transit). If not, the governor is committed to building a new Tappan Zee Bridge that ends a decade of delay and puts tens of thousands of New Yorkers back to work now.” — Cuomo spokesman Matthew Wing in December 2011.
“The new Tappan Zee Bridge will be built with a dedicated express bus lane (during the peak morning and evening hours).” —http://thenewtzb.ny.gov,the project’s website, and New York Thruway Authority spokesman Andrew O’Rourke, confirming an announcement by the governor’s staff on June 28, 2012.
“The new bridge will be built to last for at least 100 years, and include eight general traffic lanes as well as additional wider lanes that would accommodate a pedestrian-bike lane, emergency breakdown lanes and a dedicated bus lane.” — New York State Thruway Authority Executive Director Thomas Madison, in a July 11, 2012, letter to The New York Times.
“(We’re) starting a whole outreach program, to talk to the issues, even if we say, ‘We don’t know yet.’” — Cuomo to the Editorial Board June 29, 2012.
Business Council of Westchester President/CEO Marsha Gordon
“A crucial element of this east-west rail transit system is a direct connection between Orange and Rockland counties and Grand Central Terminal via the Metro-North Hudson Line. This new commuter rail system (represents) the best means to eliminate congestion and improve air quality along the I-287 corridor.” — Gordon, in a March 26, 2006, “Community View” co-written with Catherine Nowicki. The two served as co-chairs of the Westchester-Rockland Tappan Zee Futures Task Force.
“We need to think in a visionary way, and we have to forecast not what we need to build today but where we need to get tomorrow.” — Gordon in July 2007.
“The (Business Council of Westchester) stands behind Gov. Cuomo’s commitment to building a new Tappan Zee Bridge. … We agree that a bridge replacement, as presented, will provide a safe, structurally sound crossing with needed width, strength and components to accommodate all forms of mass transit for both the near- and long-term. The bold plans we have before us will get the bridge we need built today for the safety and security of our citizens and create tens of thousands of much needed jobs for our region.” — Gordon in January 2012.
Rockland Business Association President/CEO Al Samuels
“The business community of Rockland implores you to come up with a vision for tomorrow that includes a new bridge and commuter rail.” — Samuels in February 2008.
“Anyone who wants to add to the cost of that bridge is an obstructionist.” — Samuels in May 2012, responding to calls that mass transit should be part of the new bridge from the beginning.
“This bridge cannot be preserved in perpetuity. It must be replaced.” — Samuels in July 2012.
Journal News/LoHud.com Editorial Board
“With an eye on the emerging needs of east-west as well as north-south commuters, we think that two plans hold the most promise: either a commuter rail or bus rapid transit system stretching across the whole 30-mile corridor from Suffern to Port Chester, feeding into existing north-south rail links and crossing a new bridge.” — March 2008.
“The smartest (transit) options were Bus Rapid Transit or Commuter Rail. We got a little of both … the bus option may offer the flexibility — and least disruption to property owners — needed to create new transit stations along a tight I-287 corridor.” — September 2008.
“Mass transit needs to remain a part of the solution.” — October 2011.
“Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pledged a bridge design that will accommodate mass transit later. ... It’s too early to make that compromise. … Just like the first one, a new Tappan Zee Bridge can transform the region, if it can support smart growth. Cuomo should aim higher and seek funding for mass transit in tandem with the new bridge.” — January 2012.
“A true mass transit system — even bus rapid transit along Interstate 287 in Westchester and Rockland — would take years to plan. … The Cuomo administration should be talking more about how a transit system could be built, even if it’s much further down the line.” — July 2012.
RYE BROOK, NY -- Cushman & Wakefield released its first quarter 2012 report for the Westchester County office market on April 17 which indicated that market fundamentals remained flat at the beginning of the year.
Although there was a small increase in vacancy and a decrease in leasing activity, the market suffered from large amounts of sublease space added to the market in the first quarter.
Countywide, the Class-A overall vacancy rate increased to 21.1%, a 1.9 percentage point increase over the 19.2% overall vacancy achieved in the first quarter of 2011 and a 1.2 percentage point increase over the 19.9% overall vacancy rate recorded at year-end 2011.
The White Plains Non-CBD’s Class-A overall vacancy rate continues to be the highest in the county at 27.6%. It increased from last quarter’s 23.7% by 3.9 percent points, primarily due to the 222,626 square feet of space added to the market when Starwood Hotels & Resorts completed its relocation to 333 Ludlow Street in Stamford, CT. There was also 36,000 square feet of data space from IBM at 800 Westchester Ave. that was converted to office space and added to the market this quarter.
The Eastern submarket also saw a significant increase in the Class-A overall vacancy rate, rising 24.4% from 18.0% in the first quarter of 2011 and 12.6% from 19.9% at year-end 2011 to the current 22.4%. Contributing to the overall vacancy increase was the 60,000 square feet of sublease space at 440 Mamaroneck Ave. in Harrison that Bank of NY Mellon put on the market, along with the 22,000 square feet of sublease space from Morgan Stanley at 4 Manhattanville Road in Purchase. In contrast, 59,000 square feet of sublease space was removed from the market by Westcon at 520 White Plains Road in Tarrytown, helping to decrease the Central submarket’s Class-A overall vacancy rate from last year’s 19.9% to the current 17.7% rate.
Countywide, Class-A leasing activity in the first quarter was at 230,003 square feet, slightly lower that the 294,692 square feet leased in the fourth quarter of 2011, but somewhat higher than the 213,811 square feet leased in the first quarter of 2011. This level of leasing activity has been consistently flat since the third quarter of 2008, when market fundamentals were more robust.
The largest office transaction of the quarter was TAL International’s 27,718-square-foot lease renewal at 100 Manhattanville Road in Purchase, while the largest new office lease was Voyetra Turtle Beach’s 20,817-square-foot transaction at 100 Summit Lake Drive in Valhalla.
Other significant deals in the first quarter were Byram Healthcare’s 27,011-squarefoot expansion and renewal at 120 Bloomingdale Road in White Plains, Greywolf Capital Management’s 18,531-squarefoot renewal at 4 Manhattanville Road in Purchase, Akzo Nobel’s 17,500-squarefoot lease at 120 White Plains Road in Tarrytown, and Regus Workspaces’ 14,297-square-foot lease at 777 Westchester Ave. in White Plains.
Class-A overall absorption skyrocketed this quarter to negative 403,194 square feet almost quadrupling from last quarter’s negative 51,990 square feet and a more than 10-fold rise from the negative 35,892 square feet recorded in the first quarter of 2011. This marked increase in overall absorption reflects the combination of large amounts of sublease space added to the market, with the flat leasing activity and minimal tenant relocations from outside the county.
Direct average asking rent for Class-A office space in the county decreased by $1.23 per square foot over last year, from $30.87 psf to the current $29.64 psf. The Northern submarket’s Class-A rental rate experienced the most significant yearover- year drop of 11.5% from $28.21 psf in 1Q-11 to the current $24.96 psf. The White Plains Non-CBD submarket also saw a decline in Class-A direct average asking rents dropping 9.2% from last year’s $31.42 psf to the current $28.52 psf. Showing strength, the White Plains CBD’s Class-A overall asking rent reached its highest level since the beginning of 2009 —$33.92 psf —an increase of $0.92 psf over last year.
“Although the Westchester County real estate market continued its malaise through the first quarter of 2012, two drivers are expected to boost market activity in the near future,” said Jim Fagan, senior managing director and market leader of Cushman & Wakefield’s Fairfield and Westchester County region. “The first is adaptive re-uses for existing office product including medical, residential and retail; the second is the increased economic activity that we believe will be created by the new Tappan Zee Bridge project. These factors point to lower vacancy and increased leasing activity in the future.”
The White Plains CBD’s overall vacancy rate for Class-A space averaged 17.1%, on par with last quarter and a slight increase from the 16.5% vacancy rate recorded last year. Class-A leasing activity in the CBD in the first quarter was 48,476 square feet, almost four times the leasing from the disappointing 13,225 square feet leased last quarter, but comparable to the 44,732 square feet leased last year.
Class-A leasing activity in the White Plains Non-CBD totaled only 48,209 square feet, a 70.7% decrease over the 164,430 square feet leased in the fourth quarter of 2011 but more than double the 23,819 square feet leased one year ago.
WHITE PLAINS – Construction industry association executive Ross J. Pepe briefed members of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors on Feb. 28 at the HGAR offices in White Plains on the plans being advanced by state and federal officials to build a new $5.2-billion Tappan Zee Bridge.
Pepe, president of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc. and the Building Contractors Association based in Tarrytown, said that if all goes according to plan a Design- Build contracting firm will be selected this summer and a Record of Decision reached by the end of August or early September with construction starting shortly thereafter. The project calls for the construction of a new bridge that would support mass transit at a future date.
Approximately 50 members of HGAR attended the joint session of HGAR’s Commercial Investment Division and its Legislative, Legal and Political Affairs Council.
After the session was completed, the Legislative, Legal and Political Affairs Council met to discuss the Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing Project and approved a policy statement in support of the new bridge plan.
HGAR in its policy statement noted, ”Considering that building a new bridge is now among the highest infrastructure priorities at both the federal and New York State levels, that we have the commitments of the Obama and Cuomo administrations to commence the project, and that there is serious consideration of fundraising options by those parties, it does not make sense to risk all that by tacking on an untold number of years to plan and review the transit options. Our preference as an organization is that the project stay on its current fast track and in transit-capable mode.”
The Legislative Committee stressed that its position in support of the expedited plan “is not to be interpreted as a less than enthusiastic endorsement of the mass transit component, but rather a pragmatic seizure of an opportunity that may not reoccur. We do in fact strongly support mass transit, and we urge that every effort be made to start planning for it right now, so that a final configuration could be in place when the bridge construction is completed, if not sooner.”
The committee noted that prior studies have amassed a tremendous amount of information concerning a mass transit component on the new span. The committee stated, “The Federal Highway Administration and the New York State Thruway Authority and Department of Transportation should assist local governments in the I-287 corridor with program grants and other resources to complete the corridor study as a separate project. County governments in the corridor could perhaps be the coordinating entities; Westchester and Rockland both had advisory groups for the former project. In short, we recommend that there be two tracks, the mass transit capable bridge, and the mass transit redesigned I-287 corridor. Neither must wait for the other, the need is too urgent.”
Developments on the Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing have come fast and furious. In fact, later in the day of the HGAR session was the first of two public hearings on the recently released Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the new bridge project that found no adverse environmental impact. The Feb. 28 public hearing was held at the Palisades Center in West Nyack. On March 1, a session was scheduled at the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown.
Proponents of the project were expected to be out in force for the project that is expected to create more than 10,000 construction jobs and thousands of other jobs. Also predicted to have large contingents at the sessions are those that are pushing state and federal officials to have some form of mass transit (bus rapid transit or commuter rail) be part of the bridge project upon completion. Among those mass transit advocates are Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino and Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoeff.
On Feb. 7, the New York State Thruway Authority and the New York State Department of Transportation announced they had selected four design-build consortiums as qualified bidders for the new bridge project.
State officials reported that a request for proposals (RFP) would be issued to the four bidders in coming weeks. Thruway Authority officials noted that a total of five design-build partnerships expressed interest in the new Tappan Zee Bridge project, but only four were deemed qualified based on what they said was a “thorough multiagency technical review.” The identity of the firm not deemed qualified was not released.
The four groups that will be sent RFPS for the project are:
Hudson River Bridge Constructors
(a group including Dragados USA, Inc., Flatiron Constructors, Inc., Samsung C&T, E&C Americas, Inc., and Yonkers Contracting Company, Inc.)
Kiewit-Skanska-Weeks Joint Venture
(Kiewit Infrastructure Co., Skanska USA Civil Northeast Inc., and Weeks Marine, Inc.)
Tappan Zee Bridge Partners, a Bechtel/Tutor Perini Joint Venture
(Bechtel Infrastructure Corporation and Tutor Perini Corporation)
Tappan Zee Constructors
(Fluor Enterprises, Inc., American Bridge Company, Granite Construction Northeast, Inc., and Traylor Bros., Inc.)
In relation with the new bridge project, the New York State Department of Transportation announced that Trevcon Construction Company, Inc. of Liberty Corner, NJ was the apparent low bidder at $17.9 million for test pile installation across the Hudson River as part of the Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing project. Work has already begun on the pile project.
Pepe explained that the design of the new bridge would either be an arch style or “cable-stay” with two towers. Both design options would be a twin span (two decks) each featuring four 12-foot traffic lanes (for a total of eight lanes), a left shoulder and emergency access, a right shoulder, and barriers along the decks’ edges. The left and right shoulders would serve as disabled vehicle lanes. The left shoulder would also provide emergency vehicle access. A bicycle lane would also be provided.
He also noted that the expedited project is being advanced under the “Design- Build” process, which was passed by the New York State legislature last year, where the private sector competes to offer the most innovative, cost effective designs for the new bridge. Rather than the state mandating a specific bridge design and construction method, qualified firms are now competing on their respective designs for the replacement bridge. The designbuild process permits an expedited construction schedule compared to traditional state contracting, and offers significant cost savings with less risk to state taxpayers of design changes and resulting cost overrun, state officials have said.
In October 2011, President Barrack Obama announced that the Tappan Zee Bridge project was one of 14 megaprojects across the nation to be fast-tracked in an expedited approval process. The project team, which includes the Federal Highway Administration, the New York State Department of Transportation and the New York State Thruway Authority (the owner of the bridge that connects Rockland and Westchester counties), are now working on the environmental approvals and design for a new span to be built just to the north of the existing structure. The project team issued a Request for Qualifications to interested contractors in November of 2011.
The Federal Highway Administration, which is now spearheading the project, rescinded the prior environmental studies that were underway, which included a number of designs for a new span as well as bus rapid transit and commuter rail to be possibly incorporated into the project. Cost estimates ranged from $8 billion to $16 billion for a full build-out that included commuter rail in a more than 30-mile study area that began in Suffern and ended in Port Chester. Instead, the new fast-tracked study now involves a little more than three miles from Nyack to Tarrytown, and is focused solely on building a new bridge that “does not preclude transit in the future.”
“Until last October, it would have been a safe bet that a new crossing would not be started or built for at least a five to 10-year period,” Pepe said. “The (prior) process that was engaged had reached nearly a decade with little movement to success.”
He charged that the prior study involved a 30-mile area and included bus and commuter rail options with little financing available to fund the nearly $20 billion project.
The expedited plan could allow a groundbreaking for this project to be held prior to Election Day in November.
Pepe said that under the new plan the state has been or will be applying for approximately $3 billion in federal (TIFA) loans and TIGER grants. The balance of the project will be financed via traditional bonding (likely to be issued by the bridge’s owner The New York State Thruway Authority) and toll increases. State officials have also said that pension fund and other private investment could be possible.
The New York State Department of Transportation has hired Jeffrey A. Parker Associates of Philadelphia to provide financial advice and analysis on the financing of the new span. A report on financing options is expected to be released soon.
Pepe later in the day was part of a press conference orchestrated by ReplaceTheTZBridgeNow. org, a statewide coalition of major employers, transportation professionals, civil engineers, and labor organizations representing more than 300,000 employees and 15,000 employers, in support of the expedited bridge plan.
In a press statement, Pepe said, “Based on the assessment of the project’s limited funding opportunities for the foreseeable future, the decision to exclude the complete build out of a mass transit program was a wise decision. Based on the reality of the funding that is now available, the new Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing Project will not preclude the planning, design, construction or consideration of future transit modes through the TZ corridor. In other words, the final bridge design will not preclude future transit operations
With the "recovery" moving forward (slowly), folks are getting back into prudent investing. Prudence demands that investors diversify their portfolios (cash, stocks, bonds, gov't T-Bills, & real estate). Real Estate is a staple that belongs in your investment portfolio.
As a commercial real estate professional with Rand Commercial Services, I would be foolish not to encourage people to take a serious look at moving out of their rental properties, and buying a home while prices & financing are at historic lows. House prices are expected to rise slightly in 2012, but bargains are still abundant. Contact a licensed broker - using a broker will actually save your time & money.
Ask your broker about distressed inventory in your neighborhood. Nobody would be a better owner/investor or landlord than you - WHY? Because you already have a vested interest in making that property work!
Remember-the rental market is hot, and if you own a desirable property purchased at a low price; renting it out could provide a very profitiable return on your investment.
When the "for sale" market heats ups, sell on the upswing, don't wait for the top of the market; you'll get burned. Use the money to pay for college or reduce debt. On the commercial front, the "recovery" is lagging behind the residential comeback. 2012 will be a very interesting transitional period for commercial markets.
More to come about: retail, office, industrial and multi-family real estate investments next time. The face of Commercial Real Estate in Rockland is Changing.
ALBANY – New York State and federal transportation agencies are committed to an aggressive approval timeline that could end in the start of construction of a new multi-billion dollar Tappan Zee Bridge by the late summer or early fall of this year.
On January 24, the New York State Department of Transportation and the New York State Thruway Authority jointly released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Tappan Zee Bridge project. The DEIS concluded that there would be no adverse impacts with the construction of a new span that would not preclude a mass transit component in the future.
While a host of business and political leaders commented favorably on the expedited plan by the Obama and Cuomo administrations to build a new span, a number of local politicians, including Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino and Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef have repeatedly called for mass transit to be included in the initial construction of the new bridge. Proponents of the expedited plan argue that including mass transit now would add years of delay and billions of dollars to the cost of the project.
Major highlights of the DEIS report included: the construction duration is anticipated to range from 3 to 5½ years, and the construction cost is anticipated to run from $3.5 to $5 billion. Using the Design Build project delivery method, a construction duration of 4½- to 5½ years was assumed, and the construction cost was estimated at $4.64 billion (in 2012 dollars). The total number of construction job generated by the project is estimated at 14,094. Over the estimated five-year construction build-out, the project would directly generate an average of 2,819 fulltime workers per year.
“New York has spent a decade talking, studying, and meeting about how to replace this vital bridge,” said NYSDOT Commissioner Joan McDonald. “But under Governor Cuomo’s leadership we have been able to make significant progress in building a new Tappan Zee Bridge. The governor’s expedited timeline has accelerated this project, which will create jobs and generate much needed economic development opportunities in the Hudson Valley. At the same time, the study does not rule out mass transit options. Now that we understand the environmental effects of reconstructing the bridge, it is time to start laying out real construction plans.”
Thomas Madison, executive director of the Thruway Authority, added, “The completed DEIS represents the remarkable team effort that is quickly becoming a hallmark of the new Tappan Zee Bridge Project. Leadership from Governor Cuomo and support from President Obama have enabled the Thruway Authority, NYSDOT, and the Federal Highway Administration to work in a focused, collaborative way to meet this critical deadline and maintain project momentum.”
The agencies announced that comments on the DEIS will be accepted until March 15, and public hearings will be held in Westchester and Rockland counties in late February. New York met the January 19 deadline to submit the DEIS to the federal government, state officials said. The replacement bridge will have eight traffic lanes as opposed to the current seven, and feature two breakdown lanes that could also be used to accommodate transit or other transportation purposes, state officials said. Additionally, unlike the current structure, it will include pedestrian and bicycle lanes.
A host of politicians from the region expressed their support of the DEIS and expedited plan in statements included in the state-issued press release, including: Rep. Nan Hayworth, Rep. Nita Lowey, Rep. Eliot Engel, State Senators Suzi Oppenheimer and Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, Assemblymen Robert J. Castelli, George Latimer and Kenneth Zebrowski, Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins, Rockland County Legislature Chairwoman Harriet Cornell, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, and Christopher St. Lawrence, supervisor of the Town of Ramapo.
Marsha Gordon, president and CEO of the Business Council of Westchester, said, “Today’s Environmental Impact Study takes us one step further towards completing Governor Cuomo’s bold plan to aid in the reconstruction of the Tappan Zee Bridge which needs to provide a cohesive transportation network for the region and north-east mobility. Today’s announcement provides a concrete timetable for when improvements will begin, and how the new bridge will differ from its antiquated predecessor. This project also provides thousands of job opportunities for the region and state.”
Al Samuels, president and CEO of the Rockland Business Association, said, “For too long the Tappan Zee Bridge has been rapidly decaying and government has done nothing. The Governor’s Environmental Impact Study demonstrates significant progress in rebuilding one of New York’s most essential bridges. The governor’s expedited plan to replace the obsolete Tappan Zee Bridge, generates much needed job creation and economic development in Rockland and Westchester. It is clear that anyone who opposes the Governor’s plan is directly opposing jobs in the Hudson Valley. I commend Governor Cuomo for his bold plan which will facilitate safer and faster transit to help rebuild our economy.”
NYSDOT and NYSTA are currently reviewing statements of qualifications that were submitted by prospective contractors as of a January 10 deadline. A short list of qualified bidders will be identified by the agencies on January 31. The project team is scheduled to publish the final Environmental Impact Statement, which would include the selection of the bridge design, in June 2012. It will announce the selection of the Design/Build contractor by July 2012 and reach a Record of Decision, execute the Design/Build contract and issue a Notice to Proceed to the winning contractor by August 2012.
In October 2011, President Obama announced that the Tappan Zee Bridge project, which had been mired in more than 10 years of study with no end in sight, was one of 14 mega-projects across the nation to be fast-tracked in an expedited approval process. At that time, the Federal Highway Administration, which is now spearheading the project, rescinded the prior environmental studies that were underway, which included a number of designs for a new span as well as bus rapid transit and commuter rail to be possibly incorporated into the project. Cost estimates ranged from $8 billion to $16 billion for a full build-out that included commuter rail in a 35-mile study area that began in Suffern and ended in Port Chester. Instead, the new fast-tracked study now involves a little more than three miles from Nyack to Tarrytown and is focused solely on building a new bridge that “does not preclude transit in the future.”
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Marketing Messaging: 6 Strategies to Turbo-Charge Your Website
Posted By susanne On January 8, 2012 @ 1:05 pm In Best Practices,Business Development,Coaching,Marketing,Real Estate Technology,Real Estate Training
With the arrival of a new year, now’s a great time to look closely at your website and evaluate what worked well in terms of bringing you the results you wanted as well as what didn’t work throughout the last 12 months. Here are six strategies that you should incorporate into your website to hit the ground running in 2012.
1. Make sure you have a strong MLS search tool on the front page of your site. Having an interactive search tool where the visitor can choose a specific town, price range and even property type can be a powerful way to compel them to want to click-through and access listings. Having an IDX-integrated search on the home page eliminates the need for buyers or sellers to click-through three or four levels just to view homes.
2. Double check that you are the point of contact on every listing when the visitor searches the MLS. If you are driving people to the MLS search, don’t forget that the name of the game is lead generation. Make sure they can ask for more information easily, schedule a showing or even share the listing with a friend in a matter of seconds, all while positioning yourself as the point of contact and keeping an eye on the activity.
3. Have specialized buttons right on the front page so that visitors to your site can get information for what they are specifically interested in. For example, take a look at http://hollimccray.com and you’ll see buttons dedicated to one-level living and for properties close to the downtown area of Knoxville.
4. Have a built-in blog within your site. Notice that I didn’t say HAVE a blog as your website like http://markspain.com/atlanta_real_estate_blog. Instead, take the time to create a blog that can be integrated within your site. This way your website has components for lead capture through search engines and your blog is working to add content and build relevance for the search engines. Make sure your visitors have the ability to retweet your information as well as share it on Facebook and other social media channels.
5. Have social media-share features on every single page in your website. People want to see information and then they want to “like” it or share it on their Facebook wall or on their Twitter account.
6. Have built-in email campaigns so that you can easily send specific emails to targeted groups. For example, let’s say you come across a great foreclosure deal and you want to let your foreclosure buyer pipeline know about it. Have the tools so that you can email the entire group within moments to let them know about the new listing.
Tricia Andreassen is the CEO/founder of Pro Step Marketing.
Entrepreneur Jane Stout briefly tried to obtain financing from a bank to start her grocery business in Port Chester, an unusual retail venture for Westchester County. Instead of that conventional lending route, she found what she needed through a nonprofit agency that works with small-business owners in the region, many of whom have been turned down for loans by banks.
Stout operates That Discount Place, a 3,500-square-foot grocery in former warehouse space at 155 Irving Ave. that sells foods in damaged packaging or past their stamped expiration dates. The goods typically are priced at 30 percent to 60 percent below those at conventional grocery stores.
“It’s basically the first market in this part of the country,” she said. Discount groceries are popular in the South and Midwest. In her youth, Stout worked at her family’s three discount groceries in Indiana.
Formerly the chief operating officer at a Manhattan marketing and production company, Stout saw her position eliminated following a company merger. “I had a forced opportunity to do something that I had been really wanting to do for a long time” as a discount-grocery pioneer, she said.
Stout was referred by a New York State Small Business Development Center adviser to Community Capital Resources in Hawthorne, the U.S. Small Business Administration microlender for Westchester and five other Hudson Valley counties and the largest nonprofit lender in the region. “I just basically needed to get my hands on $50,000 and they were able to accommodate me.” She opened her business in late October.
Community Capital could not have made a loan in that amount until about 18 months ago, when the SBA raised its program loan cap from $25,000 to $50,000 as part of the federal economic-recovery stimulus package.
“This is a very expensive part of the country to be opening a business in,” said Tamara Underwood, director of small business lending and support at Community Capital, which also has offices at the Orange County Business Accelerator in New Windsor and at the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce in Poughkeepsie. Previous SBA loan limits were too low for Westchester, she said.
Even with the loan-cap increase, “We see businesses that need more than $50,000,” she said.
Since the recession and the credit crisis that began in 2008, “We saw a big increase in demand for our loans,” Underwood said. Some businesses in 2009 had their lines of credit closed out by banks and severe cash flow problems. “The banks had kind of packed up and shut down” their lending, she said. Community Capital began to see more mature companies and businesses with higher revenues as clients.
The agency’s average small-business term loan has more than doubled since the recession, from $11,000 to $12,000 prior to 2008 to $24,000 to $26,000 in 2011. Community Capital, though, still has only one client with annual revenue of more than $1 million, Underwood said.
One year ago, the agency launched a lending partnership with the city of Yonkers and the state’s Empire State Development Corp. Tapping Empire State Development’s small business revolving loan fund, Community Capital matches dollar-for-dollar the amount of a commercial loan made by Yonkers from its Community Development Block Grant fund. The partnership provides small loans of $25,000 or less and larger loans that range from $25,000 to $250,000. Only businesses that have been operating for two years or more are eligible for the larger loans.
Five Yonkers businesses received loans of $25,000 or less in the partnership’s inaugural year. Three companies have received larger loans and another business is about to close on a $100,00 loan, Underwood said.
From his Yonkers home, Marvin Vasquez operates Multi Marketing USA, an Internet and social-media marketing and website development business he launched in 2010. When he decided to take his startup “to the next level” last year, Vasquez knew from his brother, a Webster Bank employee, that banks would not approve the loan he sought for working capital and to invest in hardware and software equipment.
“I think financial institutions haven’t grasped how lucrative this (web) business can be,” he said. “That was one of the challenges that we had to overcome.”
Referred to Community Capital Resources by his brother, Vasquez obtained the financing he needed. His business location in Yonkers, where the lending partnership operates, “gave me an extra push,” he said. He has hired a graphic designer to join him and his wife in the business.
“It was a very interesting process,” said Vasquez. “It’s not as easy as people think to get funded.”
Between October 2010 and September 2011, the U.S. Small Business Administration backed more than $30 billion in loans nationally and $1.4 billion in New England alone.
While those numbers are unlikely to repeat themselves, there has been a continued strong demand for SBA-backed loans by businesses across Fairfield County and across the state three months into the organization’s 2012 fiscal year.
The robust demand is likely the result of several relatively new measures, including an increase in the maximum loan amount from $2 million to $5 million and a simplification of the CAPLines program, which is designed to help businesses meet short-term working capital needs.
Through the first quarter of the SBA’s 2012 fiscal calendar, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 31, the Connecticut office has backed 137 loans worth a total of $44.4 million compared with roughly 200 loans that were approved with SBA backing in the previous year.
“It looks as though we are ahead of schedule,” said Bernard M. Sweeney, district director of the Connecticut SBA office. “We’ve certainly done more minority loans in the first quarter than we did in all of last year, and that to me says an awful lot.”
Sweeney attributed the perceived annual drop in the number of loans to a huge surge in SBA lending activity that took place at the end of 2010, when a job stimulus bill temporarily increased the guarantee level on SBA-backed loans to 90 percent and waived a number of fees for loans made between September and December of that year.
Currently, the SBA guarantees 80 percent of sponsored loans that are for less than $150,000 and 75 percent of sponsored loans that are for more than $150,000.
The SBA’s two signature loan programs are its 7a Loan Guaranty Program and its Certified Development Company/504 Loan Program that targets businesses looking to construct, buy or renovate fixed assets, such as land, buildings and machinery and equipment.
While business and consumer confidence has risen over the past several months on steadily improving employment numbers and improving retail sales, Sweeney said banks are still lending conservatively and that as a result, there has been a consistent demand for loans with SBA backing.
“The banks are still looking for the enhancement on their loan and of course the SBA guarantee provides the greatest such enhancement,” Sweeney said.
Robert Polito, director of government-guaranteed lending for Webster Bank in Waterbury, said there is generally a higher awareness among Fairfield County business owners, leading to a higher demand for the various SBA loan programs.
“My sense is there’s a sophistication level here that might not be seen in such concentration levels as in other areas,” Polito said. “Because of that, the demand is going to be there for this type of lending.”
Webster Bank divides its clients into a small-business portfolio and a commercial banking portfolio. Among the small-business portfolio, SBA-backed loans represented roughly 14 percent of the total loans approved by the bank last year, Polito said.
“We would like that number to grow significantly for 2012. It would be wonderful to reach that 25 percent level for the portfolio,” he said.
During the SBA’s 2011 fiscal year, Webster Bank was the state’s top backer of SBA 7a and 504 loans and was the seventh-ranked SBA lender among New England financial institutions.
Polito said three areas that will drive SBA lending in 2012 include the organization’s budget flexibility, banks’ response to the October 2010 measure that increased the maximum SBA-backed loan value from $2 million to $5 million, and banks’ and businesses’ response to the simplification of the CAPLines program.
It has taken some time for lenders to get comfortable with the $5 million loan maximum, Polito said, but with 2012 may come a greater application of higher SBA-backed loans.
Additionally, Polito predicted that changes to the CAPLines program would result in a significant uptick in the number of businesses that take advantage of SBA backing of working capital lines of credit.
“In prior years the product was not even remotely used by SBA lenders because of the complexities,” he said. “What the SBA did was to drastically decrease the hoops you have to jump through to get one approved.”
Access to working capital lines are essential for local businesses, Polito said, predicting that SBA-backed loans under its CAPLines program would “significantly increase in volume for fiscal year 2012.”