Kathy Zamechansky has spent nearly half a century working to make the Bronx a better place.
Still going strong, she was recently honored by the Bronx-Manhattan North Association of Realtors and named vice chair of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, an organization she helped found back in 1981.
Founder and president of KZA Realty Group, Zamechansky been a devoted member of not just the real estate industry but the community of the Bronx since moving there 47 years ago.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, she made the move to the Bronx after getting married. Growing up in the Cypress Hills, she was heavily involved in school activities and her community. As she got older, she became involved with the League of Women Voters.
“I’ve always been passionate about community and working in the community,” she said. Zamechansky got even more involved when she volunteered to work for George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign.
She made an impression: after working for McGovern she was asked to work for other politician’s campaigns, including the late Michael DeMarco, a longtime City Councilman and then Supreme Court judge, and Bob Abrams, who was the Bronx borough president at the time and later became the Attorney General of New York State.
Decades later, she still has close ties and works with government officials and community groups, something she says is crucial to getting things done in commercial real estate.
“I work very closely with the borough president’s office,” said Zamechansky of borough president Ruben Diaz, Jr. “I think he’s doing a great job. We’re always looking for something that’s going to be more interesting and create jobs and opportunity. This borough works as one cohesive group of people.”
She praised Bronx-based developers for understanding the needs and wants of the community, and taking the time to go to and listen to community boards when proposing a project.
“I like to work with developers who have an appreciation for the Bronx,” she said. “The Bronx will continuously change. I’ve seen it change, but it’s changed for the better.”
Zamechansky has worked on a number of projects over the years, but her biggest endeavors have involved retail.
She worked on bringing the Triangle Plaza Hub project, an 88,000 s/f mixed-use retail and office facility, to fruition, and will be doing the retail portion of La Central, the massive affordable housing development that will bring nearly 1,000 housing units to the South Bronx.
That project has 18,000 s/f of retail, and just started construction. She and her team are working to bring several tenants to the project as well as a sit-down restaurant.
Zamechansky’s sense of community and working together has extended to forming a partnership with Sarah Jones-Maturo and RM Friedland. Jones’ firm helps KZA Realty with “back office” work, and KZA partners with Jones’ firm on projects in Westchester and the Bronx.
Other projects currently on Zamechansky’s plate are the Tremont Renaissance project, a 12-story mixed-use affordable housing development that will bring 265 units to the Tremont area of the Bronx.
The building will house 40,000 s/f of retail on the ground floor, and Zamechansky is in serious talks with two or three major users for the space.
“That’s a very transformative project,” she said. The site was previously a parking lot and a vacant retail space, and the buildings were in poor condition. “This will be a state of the art building and will have all the amenities you can think of for tenants.”
Zamechansky is working on a project in Mott Haven that she’s tight-lipped about but said it isn’t residential and it will also be transformative.
As a veteran of the Bronx retail scene, she hopes the Bronx will get more attention from national retailers as a stable retail market.
“I think it’s time that the Downtown Bronx area start to be recognized as a major shopping area,” she said. “It’s one of the busiest hubs but we don’t have major retailers.”
She’s working to bring big retailers to the La Central project, and wants local businesses to get a piece of the pie as well.
“There are big retailers in the Bronx that have stayed, and now that things are good, we would like local businesses to get credit as well,” said Zamechansky. “They stayed during tough times, it’s their time now.”
While the future looks bright for the Bronx, Zamechansky will continue to make sure that new developments will help and not harm the community.
“A lot of people are coming in that have no appreciation for the borough. And people are jacking up prices to make them prohibitive, that’s not good for the community,” she said.
“You want to have development and the neighborhoods to get better, but you don’t want to push out people who have worked hard to maintain the community.”