Jeremiah Tower's plan for converting New Rochelle Armory goes bust
Celebrity chef Jeremiah Tower and his team have bailed from a $26 million proposal to turn the rundown New Rochelle Armory into a food lover's fantasy, city officials said Thursday.
The nonprofit organization Good Profit, which was given the city's blessing last year to embark on a historic renovation of the old armory, did not meet a Thursday night deadline to submit the documentation needed to proceed with the project.
"As of close of business today, we did not receive a check or signed letter of agreement from Good Profit and as a result of the direction provided by City Council, the city's agreement with Good Profit has ended," according to a statement issued to Newsday by City Manager Charles B. Strome III.
Strome added that the city "will determine at a later date how to move forward" on bringing life back to the Armory, which is at the heart of the city's redevelopment of the 20-acre Echo Bay area.
Michael Blakeney of Bedford, who heads the group that had enlisted Tower's help, did not return repeated calls for comment.
In September 2012, the foodie project had been chosen by a majority vote of the City Council that knocked out the only other bidder, a veterans group led by former Assemb. Ron Tocci. At the time, Tocci called the elimination of his proposal for a veterans-run performing arts center "a total slap in the face to veterans" and a "railroad job."
Tocci said Thursday that he plans to approach his investors now "and see what we can come up with" as he awaits word on how city officials will proceed.
"At this stage of the game, it will be interesting to see if they will award us the opportunity as the second bidder to prove ourselves and prove our plan is superior, or make us jump through the hoops by putting the Armory out to bid again," Tocci said.
Good Profit's proposal featured a historic renovation of the deteriorating building into two restaurants, a market and performing arts space along with creating a park that provided access to the waterfront. In a concession to Tocci's group, it also promised to include a help center for veterans.
There was even talk of Tower relocating from Mexico. During the 1970s, Tower was the chef at Alice Water's famed Berkeley-based Chez Panisse restaurant, which pioneered the farm-to-table fresh food movement and helped create a California-style cuisine that made both of their reputations as well as those of Wolfgang Puck and Jonathan Waxman.
Councilman Jared Rice, a Democrat, who had voted in favor of the Good Profit project, said he is "disappointed" by the latest turn of events.
Rice said he would be looking "for guidance" from the city's newly appointed development commissioner, Luiz Aragon, who previously was the planning commissioner for Sullivan County.