A prominent red-brick architectural relic from Yonkers’ industrial past that has fallen into partial ruin and became a many-walled gallery for graffiti artists while standing vacant for nearly two decades will be restored and expanded in a $35 million, 85,000-square-foot mixed-use redevelopment project by Simone Development Cos.
The Yonkers City Council at its March 10 meeting unanimously approved the $4.25 million sale of the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research property at 1086 N. Broadway to a realty acquisition arm of the Bronx-based developer, formerly headquartered in New Rochelle. The developer’s planned 20-month construction project will restore the original character of the 52,000-square-foot, Georgian Revival building on the six-acre property that adjoins the South Westchester Executive Park.
A spokesman for Simone said the building’s upper floor will be leased for business and medical uses with the front and rear grade levels housing medical offices, retail stores, banks and restaurants. Simone plans to add a two-story, 18,000-square-foot building to the south end of the 1930-era building. A glass greenhouse structure, evoking the rows of shattered greenhouses that will be razed on the site, will connect the addition to the main building and house an information gallery honoring the Boyce Thompson legacy.
The developer also plans to add a two-level, 15,000-square-foot freestanding building of glass and aluminum construction at the corner of Executive Drive and Executive Boulevard on the north end of the property for additional office, medical and retail tenants. The sprawling complex for many years housed a nonprofit horticultural research center built by William Boyce Thompson, an international financier whose former country estate, Alder Manor, stands across North Broadway from the plant site. The philanthropic financier’s 35,000-square-foot Italian Renaissance Revival mansion is being restored by Manhattan developer Lela Goren, founder and president of The Goren Group LLC, who last May paid $5.5 million for the nearly six-acre property listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Boyce Thompson created the plant research institute to help assure an adequate food supply for America’s anticipated population boom, according to a history of the property on Rob Yasinsac’s “Hudson Valley Ruins” website. The developer’s spokesman said the research center moved to Cornell University in the 1970s.
Simone’s redevelopment project would end several years of failed efforts by Yonkers city officials to sell the property to a private developer for preservation and commercial use. The City Council in 2007 approved a sale contract for the property with Eastchester developer Ted Weinberg after the city issued a request for proposals for the site the previous year. The project stalled in part over disagreements about preserving the existing structure.
In 2012, the city’s newly elected Mayor Mike Spano and the Yonkers Industrial Development Agency sought to revive Weinberg’s proposed $21.4 million project with a financial incentives package. But city officials later that year issued a new RFP for the Boyce Thompson project, claiming Weinberg failed to fulfill terms of his purchase contract.
The city received several responses from interested developers and selected Simone Development, which last summer signed a letter of intent for the redevelopment. Joseph Simone, president of Simone Development Cos., in a statement said his company is “very excited by the changing business character in Yonkers with merging technology and biotech companies bringing new ideas and people to the city. It is our desire to make the Boyce Thompson Center a place which attracts a diversity of new and traditional businesses working together to further economic growth in the city.”
The Boyce Thompson site is near St. John’s Riverside Hospital’s Andrus Pavilion on North Broadway, which Simone said makes the developer’s planned center an excellent location for physician practices and ambulatory outpatient services. Spano in a statement said the redevelopment of the Boyce Thompson building, “which has long stood as an eyesore in the heart of Yonkers’ corporate center, will bring new jobs and revenues to our city and help solidify Yonkers’ place as Westchester’s retail and business destination.” A longtime owner and manager of commercial office and retail properties in Yonkers and Westchester County, Simone Development also recently bought 1034 N. Broadway, a two-story building with 11 retail and business tenants near the Boyce Thompson property and St. John’s Riverside Hospital.