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Has the Platinum Mile lost its luster?

Has the Platinum Mile lost its luster? 
The real estate was worth hundreds of millions and the jobs plentiful on the Platinum Mile.

General Foods, Texaco, IBM, Verizon and other big-name companies drew thousands of employees from across the region to the office parks along Interstate 287.

Now, many of the powerhouses are gone. Vacancy rates are up. Jobs have vanished. And owners say some of the aging buildings are worth far less than they once were.

"It's been pulverized between hundreds of different companies," said Robert P. Weisz, chairman and CEO of the RPW Group real estate firm. "In the past 20 years, there has been a meltdown of the large headquarters."

Some companies, such as Texaco, moved hundreds of workers out of state. Others, including engineering firm Malcom Pirnie and distilled-spirits company Pernod Ricard, moved down the road, still maintaining a Westchester presence.

The next big blow for the Platinum Mile — named almost a half-century ago for its income potential — will come as soon as next January when Starwood relocates 800 jobs to Stamford, Conn.

The move not only will add to the glut of vacant office space, it also highlights a trend experts see as the future of the Platinum Mile: multiple-tenant office buildings, instead of single-occupant headquarters.

"It is very difficult for a large corporation to employ several thousands of people in Westchester because it's very hard to afford housing and the taxes," said Brian J. Carcaterra, principal at Newmark Knight Frank, the leasing agent for Normandy Real Estate Partners.

"I see the trend continuing to be more organic, small growth rather than waiting for a large corporation to fall out of the sky from 30,000 feet."

Yet there could be an upside: sustainability.

"It's much more healthy to have an environment of 10 different tenants than just one," Carcaterra said. "But there's some pain involved in the transition; it could take five to seven years to fill that space."
Thousands of jobs

During a recent employment peak, there were 15,600 jobs on the Platinum Mile in 2005. The number was down more than 25 percent, to 11,500 in 2008, according to the most recent data from the Census Bureau.