The Westchester County Board of Legislators is expected to approve Monday night a land lease for what could be the county’s largest public-private project — a biotech hub next to Westchester Medical Center.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino announced the lease agreement Monday alongside county legislators.
“We are here to proudly announce that we are moving ahead with a 99-year lease with Fareri Associates to help build Westchester BioScience & Technology Center, which is a $1.2 billion private sector investment in our county that will create thousands of good jobs in construction and biotechnology and science and medicine and all the related fields as well as generate millions in rent and tax revenues and foster a lot of new opportunities for our workforce and people of this county,” said Astorino.
The property, known as North 60, will be developed by Fareri Associates. The county would lease 60 acres of its land on the Grasslands Reservation to Fareri, which owns 20 adjacent acres. When fully built, the Westchester BioScience & Technology Center will include more than two million square feet of biotech and research space; 400,000 square feet of medical offices; a 100,000 square-foot hotel with 100 rooms; 114,000 square feet of retail space and a 34,000 square foot Children’s Living Science Center. It’s now up to the Town of Mount Pleasant, which will act as lead agency, to move the project forward. Astorino believes town officials will support it.
“They’ve indicated that they’re much in favor of this and that they were going to try to fast track it, fast track means probably two years. But we all want to make sure that the environmental is thorough and all the questions that the public has is answered in an expeditious way, but these things can take a long period of time before shovel hits the ground,” says Astorino. “So this is the first important step, getting the lease, then, with the lease, they can go forward, put in their actual detailed plan to the Town of Mount Pleasant and, at the same time, start trying to go get tenants for the future.”
Astorino says the hub, which would be near Regeneron Pharmaceuticals - the fifth largest biotechnology company in the world - could lead to life-saving medicines and treatments being developed in Westchester County.
“And when the project is completed, I have no doubt that Westchester will be in every conversation globally when it comes to the likes of a Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego, which are the hubs right now for the biotech innovation that we see in our world,” Astorino says.
Democratic Board of Legislators Chairman Michael Kaplowitz said the deal was a long time coming.
“When you’re in a 99-year deal with no way out, no way you want to get out, you don’t want to see a divorce on the horizon. You want to make sure you’re doing it right. So, the legislature in a legislative speedy one year and two month did all the due diligence that we needed to do,” says Kaplowitz. “And, I might say, that we’ve had three public hearings. I can’t think of another legislative initiative where that’s had three public hearings as well. Tonight’s the third and hopefully the final.”
Astorino, a Republican, says the project’s benefits include $9 million in real estate taxes to the county, Town of Mount Pleasant and the Mount Pleasant School District. There is no residential component, so the center will not have an impact on class sizes in local schools. There will be about $7 million in annual rent to the county. Nearly 44 acres, or about 54 percent of the property, will be preserved as open space, and the complex would be built using many sustainable features. If the developer receives all necessary approvals, shovels could hit the ground in about three years.