Bronx borough president kickstarts $40M redevelopment of Orchard Beach pavilion

Diaz focused on development issues in his 7th State of the Borough address

<em>Orchard Beach Pavilion (inset: Ruben Diaz Jr.)</em>
Orchard Beach Pavilion (inset: Ruben Diaz Jr.)

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. on Thursday launched efforts to redevelop the colossal Orchard Beach pavilion in Pelham Bay Park, the latest in a string of new development projects proposed in the booming borough.

During his seventh state of the borough address, Diaz announced that he would dedicate $10 million of his own capital funding to bring  “first-rate concessions, performance space and the ability to host top-notch events” to the pavilion.

“We need to create jobs and rebuild Orchard Beach’s historic pavilion as the economic engine it once was and could be again,” he told an audience at Cardinal Hayes High School.

The City Department of Parks has been studying a possible revamp of the entire beach, and early estimates of the pavilion portion of the
redevelopment put the cost at roughly $40 million, James Rausse, director of capital programs for the borough, told The Real Deal after
the speech. The entire project will cost an estimated $150 to $200 million.

The idea is to possibly bring more event space, concessions (there is currently one stand) and retail to the landmarked pavilion.

“We want it to be like a Jones Beach destination,” Rausse said.

Development and housing dominated much of Diaz’s speech. He said the Bronx saw more that $2 billion in development last year, the largest
sum in the borough’s history, an increase over the $1.2 billion in development in 2014.

The development boom has largely been driven by land costs that hover around a modest $50 per foot (compared to over $600 a foot in Manhattan), a robust transit network and a wealth of available development sites. Major Manhattan players such as The Chetrit Group and Somerset Partners have gotten in on the action, with controversial plans for several luxury towers along the Mott Haven waterfront.

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“There was a time when developers turned away from us,” he said. “That is changing.”

Diaz rehashed a report he released earlier this month that estimated that building a platform at the Concourse Yards would spur two million
square feet in new development.

He also mentioned the conversion of the former General Post Office into a landmark building Dubbed Bronx Post Place — which will feature a rooftop restaurant, a food and retail market and office space. Youngwoo & Associates purchased the
building in 2014 for $19 million.

The borough president railed Bill de Blasio’s proposed zoning changes, calling it an inefficient avenue for bringing more affordable housing
to the city. More than 50,000 people applied for 25 units of affordable housing at Bedford Park Manor, a 122-unit rental spurred by the rezoning of Webster Avenue in 2009.

Diaz also called on the city to mandate apartments in new housing projects for working people living in city shelters. Diaz didn’t outline the specifics of this requirement, other than that individuals with income, like recipients of rental assistance programs, would be eligible.

“Reality is all of New York City needs to do its part to solve the homeless epidemic,” he said. “This is a call to conscience. NIMBYism must give way to compassion.”

For its November 2015 cover story, The Real Deal chronicled the wave of development in the Bronx, where land prices are roughly $50 per foot and 8,000 new residential units hit the market in 2015.