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Groups Look To Transform Westchester County

PURCHASE, N.Y. – Several local groups came together Tuesday night at the PepsiCo World Headquarters in Purchase and revealed their plans to transform Westchester County into a hotspot for young professionals to live and work.

The Westchester County Association Young Professionals Group is teaming up with The BLUEPRINT for Westchester initiative and Project for Public Spaces (PPS) on the plan, which focuses on designing communities that are more attractive to"a young diverse workforce."

Several notable residents of Westchester attended “Work. Live. Play. Westchester!” including Mayors Ron Belmont and Thomas Roach of Harrison and White Plains, respectively, plus members of the zoning and planning boards of various communities.

Meg Walker, vice-president of PPS, Rob Lane, an architect for PPS, and Kevin McCarthy, a member of CB Richard Ellis and a founder of the Young Professionals Group, each gave presentations.

“We need to create places where young people really want to live and play as well as work,” said Walker, who added that many young professionals who grew up in Westchester are now living in Brooklyn, Austin or North Carolina because it is more affordable and entertaining.

PPS hopes to bring townhouses and apartments that cost $1,500 to $2,800 a month with desirable amenities such as a fitness center, parking and security to Westchester.  Young professionals need to be within walking distance of public space, retail, dining, mass transit and entertainment, said McCarthy.  The housing would cater to those from 23 to 35-years-old make between $50 thousand and $150 thousand. They usually work in finance, hospitality, insurance, banking, higher education, teaching, medicine or are policemen or firefighters.

Walker and Lane urged the mayors and members of the planning and zoning boards to transform various areas in Westchester through a plan called “placemaking.” It is an approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces.”

PPS has a 37-year history of placemaking in all 50 U.S. states, 42 countries and 3,000 communities. Walker described placemaking as “turning a neighborhood, town or city from a place you can’t wait to get through to one you never want to leave.”

Lane said that it could begin lightly, quickly and cheaply in areas such as the Port Chester train station and the surrounding area around SUNY Purchase. The changes would include comfort amenities, public art, interim public spaces and light development. PPS would also work on transforming the current industrial districts and office parks throughout Westchester.

PPS considers the placemaking “essential for economic development” in Westchester in addition to a perfect solution for businesses and young workers. Businesses want to be where the talent is, said Walker, while young talent want to live in “cool and affordable places.” “This is stuff I don’t have to be persuaded on,” said Roach. “We’re all willing to work together, it’s exciting. We have projects right now that are in the planning phase that will be like this. We’re voting on Monday for on the rezoning, so we’re really ahead of it.”

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