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Westchester suburb draws in artsy crowd with social media contest, offering free rent at new high-rise

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Photo credit: Gina Levay

Just outside of New York City, a suburban neighborhood hopes to cultivate a community for creative industries.

Located in Westchester County, New Rochelle is just a quick Metro-North train ride from the Five Boroughs. In 2015, the neighborhood re-zoned the downtown New Rochelle area, and ever since the city has been trying to revitalize the arts community.

“We see ourselves as being able to serve a regional economy and being able to be a place where people that are working in the city can come to New Rochelle to have a community that is in close proximity but has so much to offer,” said Adam Salgado, Commissioner of Development of the City of New Rochelle. “We were looking for innovative ways to market the city and attract younger, sort of hipper, more innovative demographics that would be willing to come here and live here and also create here, and plug them into this whole ecosystem of resources that we’re trying to build out.”

In an effort to support creatives and entrepreneurs, the City of New Rochelle partnered with RXR to host the #NewRoConnects competition on Instagram and Twitter. The winner of the competition would win a year of free rent at One Clinton Park, located at 55 Clinton Place.

“[One Clinton Park is] this amazing building that is being built by RXR, our local master developer. It’s really redefining the New Rochelle skyline and setting a new standard of living in New Rochelle,” said Salgado. “It’s a 20-story high rise that has 352 apartments. 8,000 square feet of landscaped outdoor space, and two terraces. It’s a really beautiful building.”

Photo credit: Gina Levay

Applicants submitted a video highlighting their creative work and how they see themselves growing or developing their businesses in New Rochelle. Additionally, the winner must be able to meet the building’s application criteria.

“We’re kind of looking for the type of person that had a following, that could bring a center of gravity to their application for the free apartment. We want to select those videos that generated the most engagement online. The rules of the contest required that they talk about New Rochelle, how they see New Rochelle as a place for them to be creative,” said Salgado. “Our first pass was the level of engagement that the videos reached. After that, we obviously have the building’s eligibility, the second pass is that the individual meets the qualifications of the building. And then thirdly, we compiled a selection committee to look at how well they reflected their understanding of New Rochelle, or how they see themselves working in New Rochelle, convincing the selection committee that they’re going to be a viable creative force for New Rochelle.”

The winner of the contest will be announced on Oct. 6 at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for One Clinton Park. 

“We’re trying to create and plug in an excited, hungry artist or entrepreneur in the creative space with resources, an apartment and other programs that we have locally and really ignite the passion in a longstanding commitment to the city,” said Salgado.

Salgado says that this contest is not only beneficial to the City of New Rochelle, but to the surrounding communities as well. The contest also aims to amplify what New Rochelle wants to give to creative communities.

“New Rochelle is one of several suburbs that ring the city in this sort of radius. We were looking at what our competition landscape is and how we differentiate ourselves,” said Salgado. “The type of folks we want are looking at certain communities that are within the Five Boroughs at a similar distance or outside, and we really tried to hone in on what those folks would be looking for. We thought this competition, which in itself was a creative exercise, really would sort of amplify this city’s commitment to creativity as innovation.”

Though this contest isn’t over yet, Salgado believes that the city will run similar contests in the future.

“We’re definitely going to be looking at doing these kinds of contests again. We think it’s been great for raising the profile in the city and it’s been a really exciting process,” said Salgado.

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