Sunday, February 12, 2012

A visit to Ridge Hill: an upscale mall still very much in progress, and "New Urbanist" condos that aren't

So, what's “Westchester’s Ridge Hill", the Forest City Ratner project that's the subject of a corruption trial beginning February 14, really like?

Well, it opened in October, and it's hardly finished, so any observations are preliminary. Still, during a visit to the retail and residential development two Fridays ago, shortly before lunch hour, it was very quiet.

No, we didn't hit the magnet of Whole Foods and, as the signage pictured at left shows, there's room for more stores. But in most places there were more construction workers than shoppers, rendering the omnipresent muzak a bit odd.

Forest City Ratner expects occupancy to hit 70% in time for the official grand opening in April, according to an article, headlined, Yonkers finally starts to draw a crowd, in today's Crain's New York Business. (There's no mention of the federal trial.)

With clear branding--it's not “Yonkers’ Ridge Hill”--the project is trying to appeal to the more affluent segment of Westchester beyond Yonkers.

(Photos copyright Jonathan Barkey)

To  journalist Marek Fuchs, writing 1/30/12 in the Daily Darien, there's an initial pattern of weekend bustle and weekday quiet. That suggests that Ridge Hill it is neither the promised economic booster nor the feared traffic disaster.

And yes, he noted, former project opponents are now shopping at Whole Foods.

The "Brand Opening"

As described in a 10/19/11 press release from Ridge Hill:
“Brand” Opening at Westchester’s Ridge Hill Nears:
October Openings Include: The Cheesecake Factory, Desigual, Gap, H&M, L.L.Bean, Old Navy, Orvis, Sephora, Whole Foods Market, and Yard House
Weekend Celebration – From Thursday, Oct. 20 through Sunday, Oct. 23 – Features Live Entertainment, Disney’s Muppets’ Giveaways and More
Yonkers, NY – October 14, 2011 – Westchester’s Ridge Hill, the New York metropolitan area’s largest mixed-use outdoor shopping center, will celebrate the first in a series of “brand” openings next week, unveiling brands never before seen in the area, coupled with an unrivaled shopping experience.
Located in Yonkers, N.Y., Westchester’s Ridge Hill, which spans more than 81.4 acres and will include 1.3 million square feet at full build-out, will change the shopping habits of tens of thousands of New Yorkers. Best of all, this exceptional destination is conveniently situated just off the New York State Thruway I-87 at Exit 6A, and the Sprain Brook Parkway Tuckahoe Road West Exit, making it easily accessible to New Yorkers and tourists alike.
To commemorate the opening of many exciting restaurants and retailers, Ridge Hill will host a four-day celebration, complete with live music, street performances and interactive characters. The festivities are scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 20 through Sunday, Oct. 23.
Ridge Hill will soon boast delectable food options such as a 50,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market; New York State’s first Yard House, with its award winning selection of over 150 beers on tap and American cuisine; and The Cheesecake Factory, with seating for 295 guests. The complex will also welcome popular national retailers L.L.Bean, H&M, Old Navy, Sephora, Orvis, Gap and Desigual — all slated to open their doors this month, with more new store openings to follow in November and December.

The second wave

An 11/23/11 press release described a second wave of store openings:
Amid phenomenal feedback from the community, Westchester’s Ridge Hill recently added Gap, GapKids, Charming Charlie and Sur La Table – with resident chef Michael Proietti, who appeared on Food Network"s Chopped and Food Network Star – to its retail mix. Brazilian-style steakhouse Texas de Brazil and Guitar Center will be open for business before the year ends.
There is still, however, a lot in process, as the photo at left indicates.

Getting hired

By the way, to get a job at the retail outlets, you don’t have to, as with the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, go through a Community Benefits Agreement partner like BUILD, Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development.

You just go to the City Of Yonkers Office of Workforce Development. Quaint.
On video

A look from the northern end

Condos near the mall

What about the new apartments?  The first of five 12-story condos is up, according to today's article in Crain's New York Business, with 500 units planned..

Westchester Magazine reported last October:
The first residents are now moving into Monarch at Ridge Hill, a 1.3-million-square-foot hilltop complex located just across the way from Stew Leonard’s in Yonkers.  Still under construction, the complex, developed by The Horizon Group, is being completed in four phases, with condominium units available ranging from the mid-$300K to $700K for a one-bedroom to between $500K and $1 million for a two bedroom.
As the promotional text reads:
Steps from your front door is Westchester's Ridge Hill, a neighborhood of shops and restaurants where you'll find everything you want and more within walking distance. It's good to be king.
Well, it's not quite steps in the way most people would think of it, since there's a service road to cross, and the development is otherwise bounded by a highway.

Is Monarch at Ridge Hill at the forefront of the New Urbanist movement, as claimed? It is "New Urbanist" in only the most brazen sense of the term. According to the Congress of the New Urbanism:
We stand for the restoration of existing urban centers and towns within coherent metropolitan regions, the reconfiguration of sprawling suburbs into communities of real neighborhoods and diverse districts, the conservation of natural environments, and the preservation of our built legacy.
That does not describe condos near the mall.

The condos in context

The Monarch slogan: Long Live Excess

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