YONKERS, N.Y. – Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano asked Ann Silver, Zack Ritchie and the team at Rand Commerical Services to cast a wide net in seeking a buyer for the former city jail. The approach attracted a famous art collector and has changed the landscape of how businesses view commercial property near Yonkers waterfront.
In November, famed art dealer Daniel Wolf and his wife, award-winning architect and artist Maya Lin, announced plans to purchase the 10,000 square foot Yonkers City Jail. Wolf and Lin intend to transform the space into studios and a gallery.
“We had some standard buyers that wanted it for industrial use,’’ said Silver, a member of Rand’s Commercial Services team. “Some wanted it for housing. We reviewed all the inquiries of interest and received multiple offers.”
Yonkers officials, however, wanted to establish a vision for the future. The plan set forth by Wolf and Lin seemed to be the perfect fit.
“The Mayor and his staff saw it as the next phase of the development along the Hudson,’’ Silver said. “This was step one, and they wanted to be careful. Industrial use was the wrong thing and building more apartment rentals didn’t seem like the right answer either. When we got this inquiry from an art collecter and presented the idea, Mayor Spano was quite enthusiastic.”
The jail, which was built in 1926, held prisoners until it closed last year and was put on the market for $2.5 million. Wolf and Lin purchased it for $1 million, and are expected to spend at least that much in renovations. The final decision for the old jail’s new life did not completely surprise Silver.
“We did a little research and there are a number of jails throughout the country that have been abandoned,’’ Silver said. “They became many different things. In doing this research, it got our creative juices flowing. Marketing it to major developers was not the answer. It was too small for big developers, and too big for the small guys. It was apparent that it was perfect for a creative use.”
In a recent New York Times story, Spano said he hopes an influx of artist and technology companies could lead to the city’s resurgence. Also included in the New York Times article was that Spano announced that New York artist David Hammons had purchased a warehouse on the city’s southwest side for an art gallery.
“I think it says a great deal about what Yonkers wants to feel about the city, and that is that Yonkers is on the move,’’ Silver said. “They are delighted to meet with people who have good ideas. When Mr. Wolf said he wanted to meet with Mr. Spano, we didn’t have any trouble arranging the meeting. I think it says a lot about the mayor, his staff and his vision.”
Lin is most widely known as the designer of the National Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington and the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Ala., among others. Wolf is currently based in Manhattan, and is a world renowned art, furniture and photography collector.
As Yonkers tries to move forward, Silver and the RCS team are glad to play a part in bringing New York’s fourth largest city back to prosperity.
“Because we did this transaction, and got time with the Mayor and others in government, we have a familiarity,’’ Silver said. “It’s a connection in a positive way. I know who to call. It’s like telling your child, ‘I can get you the interview, but you have to get the job.’”