4.05.05 Westchester County Business Journal

C.J. Follini, managing member of North Street Community L.L.C., outside the main building of the former St. Agnes Hospital property in White Plains. The developer wants to transform the 23-acre campus into a senior housing development. 2 nonprofits considered among suitors for St. Agnes site.

By ALEX PHILIPPIDIS ??
The new owner of the former St. Agnes Hospital said it is considering two New York City nonprofit groups and several for-profit groups to provide health-care services at the new senior-citizen housing development it is planning for the White Plains property.

North Street Community L.L.C. said it has had talks with Beth Abraham Health Services and The Jewish Home and Hospital Lifecare System - as well as several for-profit operators the owner declined to name, other than to call them “national companies with tremendous resources.” ?The outcome of those talks will determine what types of senior housing and how many units to include along with an as-yet-undetermined number of homes for independent seniors, said C.J. Follini, managing member of North Street Community.?

“The operator we partner with will be one that is very experienced, with a sterling reputation. We’re all trying to figure out now what makes sense for the property,” Follini said in an interview. ?A commercial real estate broker with experience marketing senior housing sites said for-profit senior-housing operators like Sunrise Senior Living have overcome the senior housing glut of a few years ago by shifting from owning to operating senior complexes, thus emerging as formidable challengers to nonprofits.

Whatever operator it chooses, the broker said, North Street Community’s best hope of success is to attract seniors with a variety of health-care and assistance needs, or “continuing-care retirement community. (CCRC)” “A CCRC sounds like a natural for that property. If you do senior housing, you need housing for unassisted seniors age 55 and older that can age in place,” said Ron Reid, principal broker of American Properties, a real estate brokerage and consultancy in White Plains. ?

Follini said his group has yet to decide if it’s feasible to offer all types of senior housing and services: “Senior housing is going to be a part of the plan. The question is, how much of the other services - assisted living, Alzheimer’s care - are we going to be able to offer?” ?

’UNMET NEED’?

Beth Abraham and Jewish Home and Hospital confirmed their interest in operating at St. Agnes, saying the county’s graying population was growing faster than could be served through their existing Westchester programs and facilities. By 2010, one of every five Westchester residents is expected to be 65 years old or older. ?

“While we would have to do a specific market analysis, we believe there is still an unmet need in Westchester for services to senior citizens,” said Carla E. Herman, a senior vice president with The Jewish Home and Hospital Lifecare System. ?

Jewish Home and Hospital operates the Sarah Neuman Center for Healthcare and Rehabilitation in Mamaroneck, and serves as health-care manager of The Woodlands, a 175-unit senior housing development that celebrated its grand opening in January. ?

Beth Abraham said any operations it carries out at the St. Agnes site would not affect the adult day-care program it runs at its Weinberg Center, 335 Old Tarrytown Road in Greenburgh. ?

“They’ve been talking to us, and we’ve been talking to them about doing some sort of health care and residential housing,” said Michael Bialek, vice president of real estate for Bronx-based Beth Abraham. ?

Beth Abraham had considered bidding for the St. Agnes property but changed its mind. An investor group led by Follini and Alfred Caiola won the Dec. 14 auction with the winning bid of $21.4 million, outlasting a trio of developers led by Joseph Simone’s Simone Development Cos. of New Rochelle. ?The Simone-led venture holds a significant role in the future of the St. Agnes property because it is in contract to buy a ground lease for one building within the hospital campus - the 85,000-square-foot 311 North St. - from its owner, New York Medical College. ?

North Street Community is a few weeks away from presenting initial redevelopment concepts to Mayor Joseph Delfino and city officials, Follini said. Soon after, the developer will meet with Common Council members and civic groups in hopes of building support - and avoiding the two-decade-long wrangle over development at a neighboring property, that of New York-Presbyterian Hospital. ?

“We’re going to go on a listening tour and hear about what’s important to all the groups, our neighbors,” Follini said, borrowing the phrase used by Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton for her initial round of campaigning. “We’re not going to rush into anything.” ?

Detailed plans may not emerge, he said, until at least fall and possibly later. ?A neighborhood leader said he welcomes a dialogue with the developer. ?“We don’t want to see the community and the area changed into something opposite to the nature of a residential community,” said Marc Pollitzer, president of the North Street Civic Association. ?

While hammering out its development plan, North Street Community has already begun generating quick income from St. Agnes by renting it out to TV and movie producers seeking hospital settings. Scenes have been shot in the former hospital for “One Last Thing...“, an HDnet film in which “Sex in the City” star Cynthia Nixon plays the mother of a terminally ill son. ?

The developer has also worked to retain one tenant, the Children’s Rehabilitation Center - whose roster of volunteers includes the wives of Follini and Caiola’s cousin Benny Caiola. A new lease should be completed soon, Follini said. ?

Follini said North Street Community has spent the past two months assembling a team of consultants to help shape its project. ?The team includes two Westchester-based consultants. Nanette Bourne of AKRF Inc. in White Plains will oversee the project’s passage through environmental reviews, while city-based lawyer Paul Bergins will present the developer’s case to local boards. ?

A city resident and adjunct professor at Pace Law School, Steven L. Kass of the New York City law firm Carter Ledyard & Milburn L.L.P., is North Street’s environmental attorney, while Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects, which restored the terra cotta facade of the Woolworth Building in lower Manhattan, will oversee planning and design.