Building communities

For Joanna Simone and the Simone Development Companies, real estate and construction are not just about square footage and dollars. They’re about creating live/work/play environments.

Industrial real estate and construction have been part of the Simone Development Companies since Joanna Simone’s grandfather, Pat, and father, Joe, founded the business in the 1970s. Indeed, that’s where they started, adds the third-generation Simone, a principal of the company, overseeing leasing and property management operations.

“Today, (industrial real estate is) used in a different way, for warehouses, logistics and distribution centers,” Simone adds, referring to the Amazon-ing of America.

And along with health care, it is exploding across the region. “It is out of control,” says Simone, whose company has more than 7 million square feet of industrial, health care, commercial, mixed-use and residential space across the tristate area, including Westchester, Orange and Fairfield counties. “The rents on industrial properties have gone up significantly. The supply can’t keep up with the demand.”

But Simone Development is certainly trying.  The company has more than 50 industrial/flex properties totaling 2 million-plus square feet in such places as Mount Vernon and Stamford. Simone also has an additional 500,000 square feet in development.

Running neck-and-neck with industrial real estate for the title of hottest sector is, unsurprisingly, health care. Recently, Simone Development and Fareri Associates announced 21, 518 square feet of new leases at Purchase Professional Park on Westchester Avenue. The new tenants include Westchester Park Pediatrics; International Research Services, a cosmetic testing company, Schweiger Dermatology Group and Jeremy Brauer M.D., also a dermatologist.

For Simone herself, such leases are about more than square footage. They’re about trends in various sectors. So the Schweiger Dermatology Group leasing 2,510 square feet at 3010 Westchester Ave. represents the move of Manhattan-based practices either to a new permanent home in Westchester or a remote location there. (Simone is also creating a 46,000-square-foot medical building at 3040 Westchester Ave. to go along with the 220,000 square feet of Class A medical and office space at 3000, 3010, 3020 and 3030.)

Another big health care trend is the shift to ambulatory services and office visits instead of hospital stays, Simone says.

“Insurance companies want patients out of hospitals,” Simone says. It’s a sentiment shared by doctors and the patients themselves. Covid-19 underscored this as elective surgeries in hospitals were put on hold to accommodate the flood of severe coronavirus cases. Add to this an aging population and the need for ambulatory care facilities speaks for itself, she says.

One such space is 104 Corporate Park Drive, situated along Westchester Avenue’s “Medical Mile” in Harrison. Simone has transformed the 118,000-square-foot former office building into a custom pediatric ambulatory care facility for Montefiore Medical Center. The Simone portfolio also includes the former Sterling National Bank at 21 Scarsdale Road in Yonkers, which is being developed into a 52,000-square-foot medical building; and the Boyce Thompson Center at 1084, 1086 and 1088 N. Broadway in Yonkers, which puts medical services in a trending mixed-use setting that also embraces retail and restaurants.

Perhaps nowhere is the medical mixed-use approach more apparent than at the Hutchinson Metro Center, a complex of several buildings in the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx that includes 1.4 million square feet of space on 42 acres. The center is the headquarters of Simone Development at 1200 Waters Place, formerly an abandoned mental health facility. Hutchinson Metro also houses a 125-room Residence Inn by Marriott, the first hotel and hotel chain in the Bronx, and the first LA Fitness facility in the borough — both in the Metro Center Atrium. Simone Development is adding 33 acres and 1 million square feet of medical offices and life science space to the site.

“It’s really a live/work/play environment,” Simone says. “It’s the kind of space that can be used to help the community, which is our mission.”

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