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Supermarket still on council plate

October 10th, 2012

The Newburgh City Council, this past week, continued on a path toward a downtown supermarket and as many as 103 affordable rental units of housing that would be located on what is known as the mid-Broadway site across the street from the New York State Motor Vehicles Division.

Patrick Normoyle, of Excelsior Housing Group, said his company is responding to the City’s Request for Qualifications, which expressed a need for a project that would result in a dense, mixed-use community. It would combine both commercial and rental units that would help reactivate the downtown area.

Normoyle is asking the city to sign off on the plans that would make Excelsior eligible for low-income tax credits. Exact plans for the project are a bit fuzzy at this time because they are contingent on Excelsior receiving federal funding and/or tax credits.

Normoyle said that the development would contain an 18,000-square-foot supermarket and rental housing units.

“As far as the housing, we’re pursuing all avenues available,” he said, in hopes of coming up with a financially feasible project.

Stressing the time factor, he said “we want to pursue any and all options to improve our chances of being able to build something in Newburgh by next summer.

“The development handles that in two ways,” he said.

In one Excelsior plan, there would be as many as 103 housing units with an 18,000-square-foot supermarket.

“Or, a two-phase project that would combine the supermarket with 67 housing rentals and a second phase that could add 13 2-bedroom town homes.

“Homeownership in the City of Newburgh, like Habitat, is very hard to make happen. We’d love to promise you that we could do 2-family homes, but given the market, carrying the mortgages in the city, we couldn’t promise you that Phase 2 would happen.”

“As of now, we’re basically trying to pursue all options.”

“We’re trying to come up with an important project that can happen as soon as possible for the city.”

Normoyle said there were two objectives for the project:

“We know that local hiring is important during construction as well as during the operation of the supermarket.

“We also know that the city has been working through financial struggles, so, part of our deal, we hope that we can make a substantial tax payment when the project happens.”

Normoyle said Excelsior is dealing with all of the facts in an attempt to come up with a feasible project “as soon as possible.”

“Given the importance to the city,” he said, “this project is being called out as a ‘priority project of the City of Newburgh.’”

“When we go for public funding, which is essential to make this happen, we can say that we’ve been working in partnership with the City of Newburgh.”

A couple of other key items, he said, are that Excelsior is seeking a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) that would be part of any deal with the city, Normoyle said. “That agreement says that within six months of execution of the agreement we will come back with a proposal for the project.

“Once we know what we’re doing with the financing, we can come in with a PILOT,” he said.

“The goal here is to pay substantial real estate taxes from day it opens.”

He said his company stands to pay a substantial acquisition fee for the land that is owned by the city, that will be based on a market-rate at the time of the acquisition.

“The other key piece, the substantive piece, is there are milestones of timing which is what we would like to be bound to, as well as certain actions that the city needs to take that you will be bound to.”

He said he wants the project to “start immediately.”

An agreement is necessary before the developer can get studies done on the property.

“We have to do an environmental study just to evaluate whether there are any environmental conditions… we need to do a survey,” he said. “We need to do a geotech survey; we need to do market testing.

“Once we have this agreement signed, we will move forward, basically spend money to take care of other essential studies that will help guide our development.”

Once the agreement is signed, Excelsior can make requests of the various funding agencies, he said.

“We cannot formally file anything until we have standing.”

Normoyle said that is an agreement is signed by Oct. 10, he could start action on the 11th. He said that once all the papers are signed, site work could begin by Oct. 31.

Mayor Judy Kennedy said she wanted more specifics before she would agree to sign off on the project.

Normoyle countered by saying that the developer wanted “help” of some kind on parking requirements.

“We don’t want to burden the project with a parking structure if it isn’t needed,” he said.

Corporation Counsel Kelson said that the City staff is working on zoning and usage wording, one that would suit both the project and the City Council.

Later in Thursday night’s work session, the City Council expressed concerns that its Public Safety building is in very poor condition and needs to be replaced.

Fire Chief Michael Vatter had recommended earlier in the year, before the council moved toward an agreement with Excelsior, that the mid-Broadway site be developed as a new Public Safety building with housing constructed in as many as six-stories above a fire station. In this scenario, the city could have sold the land on which the current Public Safety building sits as a location for a hotel overlooking the Hudson River.

“I can still contact my friend (who has done similar projects),” Vatter said.

The Excelsior project would preclude that, however.

By ALLAN GAUL
agaul@tcnewspapers.com

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