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Up on the Ridge


When Saks Fifth Avenue gave Ridge Hill the nod last May, a project that was already generating keen interest among prospective tenants quickly cranked up the heat.

The mixed-use project in New York’s Westchester County is scoring a lot of firsts. It is the region’s first major lifestyle center. Comparison studies put it in the top five demographically when pitted against other major suburban malls, with more than a third of the population within two miles of the center reporting household incomes nearing $100,000/year and beyond. The population inside the two-mile perimeter is close to 85,000, but soars to almost a half-million at the five-mile mark, and to 2.1 million within 10 miles of the project.

Developed by Forest City Ratner Cos., a New York subsidiary of Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, Ridge Hill is located off Interstate 87 at the Stew Leonard Drive exit (6A). When completed, it will feature 1.3 million sq. ft. of retail and entertainment, 1,000 residential apartments, 150,000 sq. ft. of office and a 175-room full-service hotel.

Construction is actively under way. “Westchester’s Ridge Hill will open in the spring of 2011,” said Richard Pesin, executive VP and director of retail development group, Forest City Ratner Cos. The project was originally slated to open in 2008, but then the recession took hold.

Still, while some projects stalled and others were scrapped completely, Ridge Hill has persevered. On Aug. 31, Forest City announced it had reached an agreement with a 13-member bank group on a two-year extension and modification of the $557 million construction financing.

The financing, which originally matured in August 2010, will now have an initial maturity of August 2012, with two 12-month extensions available. “Forest City is a long-term player, and banks understand and appreciate that,” said Pesin. “They also understand that Ridge Hill is a project that is long term, a great asset in a great location.”

The extension allows the project to move along at a comfortable pace, and it will allow its momentum to continue to swell. Saks Fifth Avenue’s commitment to join signed tenants Whole Foods Market, L.L. Bean, National Amusements’ Cinema De Lux, The Cheesecake Factory and Sephora, to name some, is accompanied by a Phase 1 increase from an originally planned 1.2 million sq. ft. of retail to more than 1.3 million sq. ft., primarily to accommodate street-level shops.

Phase 2 will include future residential and hotel development.

“This type of open-air regional center with great access is new to the New York metro area,” noted Pesin. “Building a first-class open-air center in this market will be fantastic for the consumer.”

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