New Rochelle refining waterfront district plans for Pratt Landing

Lohud.com | Dan Reiner

NEW ROCHELLE – The developer of the city’s vision for an extensive Echo Bay waterfront district, with shops, apartments, restaurants and parks, is turning to residents for suggestions.

Twining Properties, the New York City-based developer chosen by the City Council to redevelop and revitalize the run-down Echo Bay area, recently held its first community meeting to get input from those who would use the future site on Long Island Sound.

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“The old style of development was ‘Go do what you want,’” said Alex Twining, CEO of Twining Properties. “Now, the best solutions usually weave into the neighborhood, and people who have been living there forever know what feels good. Part of what we’re trying to figure out is, rather than just assume that people want this or that, is to see what we can integrate and fine-grain (the project).”

More than 27 acres make up the site along the Sound, which includes the soon-to-be-moved City Yard and a deteriorating Armory building. Twining will build Pratt Landing, a 12.5-acre waterfront district in the center of the overall site.

The first waterfront district meeting was attended by more than 50 eager city residents, who worked interactively in groups with site plans to craft their own ideas of what they’d like to see at Pratt Landing. Most groups mentioned wanting a waterfront pathway, a boat launch and converting the historic Armory into a sort of public marketplace.

Some of the more unique ideas called for a trolley to the city’s downtown, a brewery and restaurants with rooftop seating.

There was one common theme in nearly every group presentation: No big box stores, such as Walmart or Home Depot.

“I don’t think big box is very practical anymore,” said New Rochelle resident Chris Selin. “Retail has changed today. If you go down into Larchmont, there’s so many empty stores, it’s amazing. We were talking art galleries, farmer’s markets, pop-up stores; something a little bit more interesting.”

Twining's original vision, pitched to the city in 2014, called for a mix of about 450 housing units, about 100,000 square feet of retail, and 100-200 hotel rooms. The property would also feature a waterfront esplanade and more than three acres of open space.

Marvel Architects, Twining's partner on the project, used waterfront examples from Somerville, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., and Brooklyn to craft ideas for New Rochelle's vision.

We’re going to put city streets direct to the water so everybody can get out there and wander around between the buildings, whether or not they live there," Twining said. "It’ll feel like a place you want to go."

But it'll be a while before residents can expect to visit Pratt Landing, Twining said. The new City Yard, which is expected to begin construction in January, would take about 1.5 years to build, he said. Once the new Department of Public Works home is built, the old one can be deconstructed, and environmental testing would be done after that.

Twining said he hopes to begin construction on Pratt Landing three years from January.

Many residents at the community meeting said they didn't mind the lengthy schedule as long as the plan opens up the waterfront for future generations.

“It is the developer’s problem now to figure out how to satisfy everybody’s need and desire for access with the fact that he has to make a return on investment," Selin said. "That’s a very difficult site to develop, but I think it’s going to be very attractive for the whole city of New Rochelle to have something that we can be proud of on our waterfront."

Two more community meetings will be held this fall to refine the plan, Twining said. He encouraged the public to attend or take a survey on the waterfront district website.