When a Transit Agency Becomes a Suburban Developer

John Surico for CityLab writes:

The big magnet to the Westchester County town is its Metro-North Railroad commuter rail station, which provides a 45-minute connection to midtown Manhattan. Although Harrison has had a steady population increase since 2010, Belmont is thinking about the future: namely, a younger generation that prefers the bustle of urban life to the quiet of suburbia. The community needs more to make them stick around, he believes. “What I’m trying to do is attract Millennials, so eventually they want to buy here in Harrison,” he said.

That is what inspired Harrison’s Halstead Avenue project, a $76.8 million mixed-use real estate development built in collaboration between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which oversees the Metro-North, and developer AvalonBay Communities. It is the first time ever that the Metro-North will sell a parcel of its land for transit-oriented development (TOD); in this case: 143 apartments, 27,000 square feet of retail space, two pedestrian plazas, and a 598-space parking garage, most of which is reserved for the public and commuters.

That is kind of mind-blowing. Metro-North/MTA is selling a parcel of land to a real-estate development company at the benefit of Harrison residents. Harrison, for residents outside of New York, is a Long Island Sound shore-town in Westchester just north of New York City.

Essentially, the Transit Authority has taken on additional duties as a real-estate developer. The soon-to-be built apartments however convenient to the residents, are likely to be mostly luxury apartment units. Only seven of the apartments are earmarked for affordable status. I’m sure this will be fantastic in the long-run but, I have the feeling that only reason this is really kicking off, is because it ensures the certainty of Harrison’s nearby real estate valuations as impending tumultuous financial times loom. The lack of affordable housing aside, it’s interesting to see the MTA dipping their toes into real-estate development. Not sure that is the best idea, but it is literally a slide taken directly from the MTA’s latest plan to maximize use of commuter rail capacity.

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