In 2006, Starwood Capital Group purchased the 15-acre site of the former United Hospital in Port Chester, New York with an eye toward building a multi-family housing development.
Met with opposition from the community, early efforts to redevelop the property experienced starts and stops until 2013, when the Village rezoned the site as a “Planned Mixed-Use District.” In 2015, Starwood unveiled a new vision by renowned design and planning consultants Street-Works Development, and tapped Marino to win over Port Chester residents, elected officials, business owners and community leaders.
As a first step, Marino offered strategic tactical adjustments to the redevelopment approach, reflecting a stronger commitment to the community and to holdover residential tenants that remained on the site. We then developed a comprehensive advocacy campaign intended to grow, identify and activate support on behalf of the proposed plan. This included creating the theme and brand “Something New for Port Chester” to appeal to local pride, while highlighting the lack of progress at Port Chester’s largest development site and renewed opportunity this plan represented.
In addition to strategic media outreach, Marino designed and implemented extensive issue-based advertising and direct mail programs; coordinated a stakeholder engagement program that included the collection of thousands of petition signatures and signage in dozens of storefront windows; solicited endorsements and supportive testimony from leading civic associations, business owners and village residents; and developed a project advocacy website and email database that allowed for regular email updates to supporters – all while continuing to provide strategic counsel on the proposal itself.
The campaign quickly succeeded in generating awareness and support for the development plan. Roughly 12 months after beginning the assignment, Marino commissioned a scientific poll of Port Chester voters that found 73% awareness of the project with respondents overwhelmingly supporting the plan by a better-than 2-1 margin. The about-face in public sentiment our counsel and outreach helped bring about became clear when a representative of the holdover tenants – a leading voice of opposition, initially – delivered a forceful testimony in support of the project at a public hearing.
Having confirmed our campaign was working, we intensified our efforts throughout the review process, continuously highlighting the widespread public support that existed for the project and encouraging village residents to demand a vote on the project. In a public hearing, Port Chester’s mayor noted he and the Board of Trustees were hearing our message and that the campaign was working – a rare acknowledgement by an elected official. On March 6, 2017, the Board voted unanimously to approve the proposed rezoning, allowing this historic redevelopment to move forward marking the start of an exciting new chapter for Port Chester.