Massive downtown transformation continues
White Plains continues its transformation into a bustling center for downtown living, entertainment and fine dining, building on well-established assets that include a wide choice of shopping opportunities, leafy neighborhoods and plenty of indoor and outdoor recreation.
About 2,000 new apartments and condominiums are bringing a stream of well-to-do residents to the downtown.
At the center of that development is the City Center, with its 15 movie screens, performing arts center, restaurants, a bookstore and other retailers.
This concentration of more people with more money to spend has, in turn, stimulated the launch of more voguish restaurants, pubs, cafes and stores.
Nightlife now flourishes along Mamaroneck Avenue and East Post Road, which only a few years ago lay deserted at the end of the workday.
Now revelers of all ages can sample a selection of spots that include Gryphon's or the James Joyce. Blue, a Manhattan-esque restaurant on nearby Church Street, and the chains of Legal Sea Foods and Zanaro's in the City Center each have lively bar scenes.
A renovated downtown fountain plaza at Mamaroneck Avenue and Main Street, with its dazzling sound and light show, has proved a major attraction in good weather for residents and visitors. For bad weather and book lovers, Barnes & Noble provides a comfortable setting in which to browse the new bestsellers, or meet friends for a cafe au lait at the bookshop's cafe.
The buzz of activity is encouraging many of the 200,000 people who come to work in the city's vast office, medical and retail sector to stay on into the evening or return on weekends. Visitors from as far as Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut increasingly are viewing White Plains as an entertainment alternative to the more congested and expensive Manhattan.
The seat of Westchester County government since 1778, White Plains retains its status as the base for court facilities and other government offices.
Shopping, long one of the city's attractions, continues to draw people from across the tri-state area via the excellent web of interstate roads and the conveniently located Metro-North Railroad station.
To keep pace with the revitalization, the Galleria mall has undergone a makeover that opens up its fortress-like structure to the street. The building's facade has been brightened with colorful new signs, a glazed wall finish and better lighting. The Galleria also added its first sit-down restaurant, the 10,000-square-foot Todai Japanese seafood buffet.
The new Fortunoff complex opposite The Westchester mall also has expanded dining opportunities in the city with the addition of a Morton's steakhouse, the Cheesecake Factory and a Whole Foods Market.
At the same time, White Plains is working to maintain its hometown feel. The city has enhanced its downtown open-air market, maintains its annual soap-box derby and expanded its schedule of parades, holiday celebrations and street fairs designed to celebrate the city's cultural and ethnic diversity.
The city now offers kayaking lessons at its new Liberty Park off Lake Street, and the traditional swimming at Saxon Woods.
While the renaissance continues to enlarge the active hub of the city, White Plains continues to add to its stock of open space. Liberty Park and several parcels adjacent to a hiking trail known as the Greenway are the latest additions.

By SUSAN ELAN
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: October 30, 2005)
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