Real Estate

Developer Presents Concept for Crossroads at Baldwin Place

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Ken Kearner, owner of Kearney Realty & Development Group Credits: File Photo
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BALDWIN PLACE, N.Y. - Developer Ken Kearney, who has used outside-the-box affordable-housing concepts to increase residential opportunities south of Route 6 in Baldwin Place, now wants to tap the commercial potential along a mile of that busy thoroughfare’s north side.

Kearney’s proposed revitalization would run roughly from Mahopac Avenue east to the county line, commercially attractive land he describes as “underdeveloped, underserved.”

A public/private joint venture, the upgrade effort would include municipal infrastructure improvements like sidewalks and sewers to encourage private developers to construct retail space, offices and housing, including affordable units. That could make the project attractive to Westchester officials, who must have funding in place for 750 affordable-housing units by the end of next year.

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A Kearney project, called the Crossroads at Baldwin Place, would be the centerpiece of this revitalization effort. A complex of shops, offices and rental apartments, Crossroads’ four separate structures would rise on a site that’s zoned for neighborhood shopping and has been occupied for years by a golf driving range.

Some project specifics—the precise mix and number of affordable housing units, for example—remain to be ironed out. Still, the concept was sufficiently far along to permit Kearney to discuss it publicly earlier this month at a Somers Town Board work session. He sketched this preview:

The Kearney Building, two stories of retail and office space, would face Route 6. Behind it, another three buildings would provide 64 apartments, most of them one-bedroom models for seniors. But a dozen units would have multiple bedrooms, including some that offer both affordable rents and an innovative approach to income qualifications.

Many “affordable” apartments in the multi-bedroom building, for example, would have an income ceiling that qualifies the unit to meet the county’s obligation under the terms of a federally monitored settlement of a 2009 discrimination lawsuit.

All told, 60 of the proposed 64 apartments could qualify for inclusion in the settlement total.

In a discussion at last Thursday’s work session, Kearney depicted a project that could breathe new life into land now hosting, in addition to the driving range, “a farmstand, a deli and a house that can turn into something.”

“If you look at this area on Route 6,” he told the board, “it’s underdeveloped, underserved. And it’s an opportunity...to attract some significant commercial development.”

Achieving that would require town and county cooperation and cash to improve the area’s infrastructure. Kearney called, among other things, for:

• Extending the lines of the county sewer district so they accommodate the needs of potential future developers.

• Constructing a sidewalk along the northern shoulder of Route 6, connecting at least some and perhaps all of the properties between Mahopac Avenue and the county line, a distance of almost a mile.

• Adding pedestrian crosswalks across Route 6 to provide access for foot traffic generated by a planned hamlet and the Mews I and II housing complex on the south side of the road, directly opposite the proposed Crossroads development.

“I called it Crossroads because in effect that’s what we’re doing,” Kearney said. “We’re getting people from one side of the road to the other side.”

Kearney built the Mews rental apartments, pioneering affordable housing in Baldwin Place with his first 72 units about five years ago and following up this year with 75 more dubbed Mews II.

Farther west, but still on the south side of Route 6, the latest approved Kearney project, Hidden Meadows, promises to provide ownership of 45 townhomes, selling at both market rates and, in eight instances, as affordably priced units. Each of those eight will include an affordable one-bedroom rental apartment, simultaneously turning the new townhome owner into a landlord and increasing the total housing units at Hidden Meadows to 53. 

While no official action was sought at last week’s meeting, board members appeared to embrace Kearney’s proposal. Somers Town Councilman Anthony J. Cirieco termed it a “fantastic concept” and Councilman Thomas A. Garrity Jr. hailed the sidewalk as a “great” idea.

Somers Town Supervisor Rick Morrissey pronounced himself “very impressed.” Calling the proposed development “really a shot in the arm for the area,” he said, “This project is a catalyst for getting things going there.”

Morrissey predicted an equally enthusiastic reception from Westchester officials. “The county is going to be a very active partner in this,” he said. “We want the sewer-line connection, we want sidewalks. And, in exchange, they’re getting some [housing] counts.”

Under a 2009 agreement with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), settling a discrimination lawsuit, the county is obligated to fund 750 “affordable” housing units by Dec. 31, 2016. The settlement defines an affordable unit as a residence that a family with a household income that is no more than 60 percent of the area median income, or AMI, has sufficient money to buy or rent.

Kearney’s ambitious Crossroads project could add dozens of housing units to the county’s total. The 24,000-square-foot Kearney Building would devote half that space to first-floor retail. About two-thirds of the second floor would house medical offices, with the remaining space becoming the newly consolidated quarters of Kearney Realty & Development Group.

That would be the Route 6 face of the project. But three other buildings, set back from the roadway and totaling just over 60,000 square feet, would contain 64 rental apartments, 52 of them one-bedroom and set aside for at least one adult over 55. A second resident could be younger, but not less than 18.

One building, the smallest at 14,456 square feet, would have a dozen apartments with multiple bedrooms but would not impose age restrictions. Ten units would have two bedrooms and the final two units would have three.

Some of those units would be set aside for families meeting the HUD settlement’s 60-percent-of-AMI cutoff to qualify as “affordable housing.” Kearney has not finalized any numbers, but he used eight to illustrate for the Town Board how a new wrinkle in affordable housing, called “economic integration,” would work at Crossroads.

“Eight of those [12] units would be true, affordable work-force units, 60 percent of AMI,” he said. “However, four units would be either . . . middle-income or market-rate units.” The middle-income apartments would be earmarked for families with too little income to afford a pricey market-rate dwelling, yet far too much to qualify for the federally defined affordable unit.

A new state program to encourage a mix of income levels in affordable-housing complexes makes it possible to accommodate these “in-between” tenants, Kearney told the board.

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