Two years ago, when his company was looking for an office property in Westchester County, Matthew Kiamie said all it took was a tour of Acadia Realty Trust’s airy headquarters at 411 Theodore Fremd Ave. in Rye to know he had found his building.
Kiamie, vice president and chief operating officer of Manhattan real estate firm Windsor Management Corp., said the building’s look and feel made it a natural fit for his company’s entrance into the Westchester market.
“I toured a lot of different buildings over the years and when I first came into this one here and saw the Acadia space, with the polished concrete floors, open ceilings and the sunlight coming in through the windows, it really felt like a New York City property for us,” said Kiamie.
Kiamie described being instantly attracted to the potential of the building’s 14-foot ceiling heights and eight-foot windows. It provided the loft industrial-style product he said is more common in Manhattan
About $25 million later, Kiamie’s Windsor Management became new owners of the three-story, 119,000-square-foot office building in fall 2016. It marked the first purchase in Westchester County for Windsor, which owns seven high-rise commercial office buildings in lower midtown Manhattan, along with a 164,000-square-foot building in Shelton, Connecticut.
Beyond his interest in the building’s lofty potential, it also didn’t hurt that offices at 411 Theodore Fremd were 100-percent occupied at the time of purchase, with 25 different tenants.
“That shows how the previous owner was able to make improvements to the building here,” Kiamie said. “Not only the occupancy level, but the location was a driving factor. Rye is a very affluent area both for businesses and residents.”
Built in 1982, the 411 Theodore Fremd building had already undergone some extensive renovations from the previous ownership, Baywater TN 411 Theodore Fremd LLC. That long name represents a joint venture between Baywater Properties of Darien, True North Management Group of White Plains and WillKen Investments of Rye.
WillKen is an affiliate company of the building’s prior owner, Rye-based Willett Companies LLC. The company teamed up with Baywater and True North on a $10.8 million deal to purchase the building in 2012.
David Genovese, CEO and founder of Baywater, said the property had lost major tenants in New York Life Insurance Company and Lake Group Media and was struggling to replace them at the time the new ownership took over.
“We were able to acquire the property at a significant discount to the price previously paid, which allowed us to renovate the lobbies, hallways and the cafeteria, as well as the exterior of the building,” Genovese said. The company hired Fairfield County firm Eric Rains Landscape Architecture LLC to lead the renovations.
By 2015, the new ownership and leasing adviser Jones Lang LaSalle had the building fully leased after purchasing it at 55 percent.
The biggest fish reeled in during that time was Acadia. The publicly traded real estate investment trust operates mostly large retail centers, including Cortlandt Town Center and Bedford Green Shopping Center in Westchester.
The company worked with Manhattan firm TPG Architecture LLP to renovate and move into a 30,000-square-foot space at 411 Theodore Fremd in August 2015. Acadia actually downsized slightly in its move there from
Acadia’s renovated open-concept design features a mix of sitting and standing desks, small rooms for private phone calls, a small yoga and fitness room and a kitchen with its own dining booths. Little touches such as meeting rooms branded for the cities Acadia operates in and a gumball-dispensing gas pump add life to the space.
Despite its Rye location, the office gives off an urban feel, as Kiamie described it.
“It had that very similar, loft-style installation with the concrete, open ceilings and the exposed Q-decking, steel and ductwork,” he said.
Kiamie said his goal is to “continue along the path of the previous owner” while providing additional capital improvements over the next several years. A team from CBRE of Michael McCall, Brian Carcaterra and Kellene Callahan is handling leasing. The building has also been rebranded as Kiamie 411.
Genovese said the ownership group had close connections with many of the companies in the building, and wanted to make sure it found the right firm to take over the building.
“They are hands-on, responsive, high-integrity owners who will own the building for a long time,” Genovese said of Windsor and the Kiamie family.
The building does have some space either available or soon to be open, with suites ranging from 828 square feet to around 6,000 square feet.
Windsor retained Bridgeport architect firm Antinozzi Associates LP to oversee a number of major capital improvements that include new exterior and interior signage and upgraded building entrances and façades.
The building has a lawn space close to the size of a football field where the ownership plans to add a mix of seating, event space and recreational amenities.
“The plans are under development for it now,” Kiamie said, “but it’s an underutilized section of the property that we really think will provide a big impact for the tenant as a collaborative space to go outside on nice days.”
The building has managed to find tenants in an environment where several suburban office buildings have been torn down and converted to other uses. CBRE’s McCall said three main factors make it attractive to companies.
First, there’s access to transit: it’s about 1.5 miles to the Harrison train station, with a shuttle available. The building’s loft style offices also offer a different kind of product for Westchester. Third, he said the building has had sustained quality ownership.
“So when you check the box on all three of those, it’s a safe bet for a tenant,” McCall said.
He added that the building has amenities rare for its size, including a fitness center, cafeteria and private shuttle to the train.
Kiamie said his company could eye more buildings in the county, but that it was too early for specifics. He described Windsor as traditionally a long-term holder of its properties.
“Being a family business, we treat these properties personally,” said Kiamie. “We get to know our tenants, along with the business professionals in the community.”