Arthur Collins: Transportation and public-private partnership key to building Hudson Park

From Westfair Communications:

The new Hudson Park complex in Yonkers is a prime example of how improving transportation infrastructure can help revitalize overlooked areas that have been difficult to develop. By funding infrastructure upgrades, developers had the confidence to invest in the area along the Hudson River — creating housing and amenities that will serve families for generations to come. This experience can show municipalities across the state what can be done to repurpose their industrial areas, so they too can once again contribute to the communities they are in.

In a state like New York, transportation infrastructure is vital for growth, and a strong transportation system has proven to bring greater economic and social opportunities, including accessibility to additional markets, employment prospects and increased investments. That is why when public entities decided to make the investments that they did, they knew they would serve multiple generations of Yonkers residents.

The upgraded infrastructure helped make the apartments at Hudson Park much more appealing to a variety of people. The first two buildings are fully occupied, mostly by those who work in but did not want to live in New York City, had a job transfer or wanted an upgrade from their current living situation. The third building will have amenities not included in the first two, including a pool and a room that looks directly over the water. These tenants have not only brought new energy to Yonkers, but also helped lift its financial prospects.

A recent case study by the Urban Land Institute’s Tri-State Land Use Council documented the nearly two-decade process it took to make Hudson Park a success. Sitting on eight acres of former industrial land, this almost forgotten area was in desperate need of revitalization, which had been delayed by community opposition to previous proposals.
In order to entice developers to make investments, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) spent $43 million restoring the historic Yonkers train station. Many tracks and bridges needed to be replaced and now riders can enjoy a much better experience. Yonkers is just a 28-minute train ride to midtown Manhattan and these improvements gave the private sector the confidence to develop knowing they could attract commuters.

Making the rezoning process transparent was also a key element to putting shovels in the ground. With the city and nonprofits purchasing the land, these entities were able to share control of the process, helping to ensure any development that took place benefited the Yonkers community as a whole. By involving residents through public meetings, developers and city officials had the opportunity to address concerns they saw in previous plans. The buildings were smaller and included public access to the water. The private investment wouldn’t have come without the city investing over $100 million for a new library, a 610-space parking structure for commuters, critical infrastructure and utilities as well as an esplanade along the Hudson River. In addition, the city passed new zoning codes specifically for Hudson Park, sparking a renaissance for the long-suffering downtown which has spurred further redevelopment.

This development strengthened Yonkers’ long-term fiscal outlook by expanding the tax base. Even though Hudson Park generated additional costs to the city for infrastructure, education and emergency services, estimates show that additional revenue will also be generated through the added tax base. In fiscal year 2016-2017, Hudson Park generated over $2 million in city/school taxes and over $300,000 in county taxes.

When manufacturing sectors were created, they included several transportation options so products could be easily sent to their destinations. Today, communities are looking for ways to redevelop these former industrial sites to meet current needs. This could include other types of manufacturing, housing, retail and public amenities. Because these areas were built around transportation, strengthening infrastructure – like they did in Yonkers – would entice the private sector to support revitalization efforts.

Building Hudson Park was a long process, but successful in large part because of the transportation improvements made for the city’s residents. In turn, we saw a multiplier effect of greater public spaces, amenities and economic activity. By implementing similar policies in other parts of New York, even more former industrial areas can be turned into economic and socially vibrant communities.

Arthur Collins is the co-founding principal and president of Collins Enterprises LLC, which developed Hudson Park. He can be reached at 203-358-0004.

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