PB has a latest look at Chappaqua Crossing “Main Street” of retail and residential
March 21, 2014
by Christine Yeres
Last Tuesday night Planning Board members viewed the latest re-work of the Chappaqua Crossing site plan that architect and PB member Tom Curley has labored over with the developer. The re-design is focused along lines of “traditional neighborhood design,” with the retail and residential arranged along the Bedford Road entryway to the cupola building. This plan will likely replace last year’s submission from Summit Greenfield, and, in Supervisor Rob Greenstein’s words to the League of Women Voters earlier that day, “Now that it’s not a strip mall anymore, everyone previously involved in this process pretty much acknowledges that it was a strip mall before.”
See Greenstein’s remarks of Tuesday morning at the League of Women Voters’ “Conversation with the Supervisor” by clicking HERE. Greenstein described the Chappaqua Crossing application for a grocery and retail as so close being approved by the previous Town Board that the current Board has little to do but try to make it less “big box,” make sure that a gym takes up 30,0000 square feet of “retail,” and shore up the downtown hamlet by developing the town hall property. Chappaqua Crossing will figure in the Master Plan review by asking residents what types of retail—besides the grocery—they might like to see there.
See also Tom Curley shows PB latest drawings of “new neighborhood” at Chappaqua Crossing, NCNOW.org, 2/10/14, for the last iteration of the plan. The residential portion was still in progress at the time.
According to Curley, Summit Greenfield will very likely submit this latest plan to the Town Board for review, and the Town Board will then pass it to the Planning Board for site plan approval.
The “Main Street” of a new neighborhood
Entering at Bedford Road, two apartment buildings on the right—these would be the 51 condos, 20 of them affordable, in the already-approved residential plan—act as a gateway to the residential townhouses (60 of them, taxed “fee simple”), now stretching north, around the Wallace Auditorium—no longer to be demolished. The apartment buildings will “really help the retailers and help create a ‘Main Street’ feel there,” said Curley.
One of the main differences, Curley pointed out, is the disappearance of a retail building at the corner of the grocery’s parking lot. The grocery is positioned on the far side of that lot, with its back to Roaring Brook Road. Nothing impedes the view of it from the “Main Street.”
Although Curley felt, he said, that a building on that corner “would have special success and identity” at the crossroads with the apartment buildings, Summit Greenfield’s “prime grocery tenant” felt strongly that it needs a certain number of dedicated parking spaces. A retail building on that corner would not only take parking spaces with its footprint, but for its own needed parking. Shoppers would, however, be free to park in the grocery’s lot and “cross shop” elsewhere—“that’s what you want,” observed PB Chair Bob Kirkwood, “in a walking district you want people to park one time.”
Still 120,000 square feet of retail, but other retail buildings are smaller in footprint
The retail building footprints on the right [north] side of the Main Street are no longer of a size that a “junior anchor” would want, said Curley. “The retailing strategy has changed from junior anchor to allow for either a junior anchor or for the spaces to be divided for smaller stores.” Retail building footprints in the plan range from 7,500 square feet to 25,000 square feet (a two-story gym). The anchor grocery shows as 40,000 square feet, with a 10,000 square foot building attached to its west side; two buildings—an 18,000 square foot and a 15,500 square foot—are positioned on the far side of the Main Street, facing the grocery parking lot.
“The Crossroads” has one corner empty
But we were still concerned about that one “missing tooth,” said Curley, “that one missing corner. We don’t just want there to be just parking lot there. So the idea is that we would ask that the applicant actually put in a little pocket park there, with a statute or a fountain.”
“Now the actual size and configuration—that’s when we get the site plan application to work with them,” said Curley. When the plan returns to the Planning Board for comment, “there might be something we can do there. The important thing to remember about this is that this looks very detailed and finite but it’s also a Preliminary Development Concept Plan. There’s still room to move things slightly, especially for the public realm type things such as the streets, sidewalks and parks.”
“The applicant is completely on board and understands that that’s a legitimate function that the Planning Board has,” said Curley, “and he’s open within his parameters to work with us on it.”
Residential will be constructed by another “development partner”
Town Planner Sabrina Charney noted that although the Wallace Auditorium will remain rather than be demolished, the residential “is still not cemented in its final form,” although it’s “closer to what the Planning Board wanted—there are more actual front doors to the units and parking is behind.”
“There will eventually be a residential development partner,” said Curley, “who will come on board when [Summit Greenfield] it’s time to cut loose on the residential who will have their own idea about unit size and type. But that partner—whoever it will be—he or she will use this plan as a starting point, which gives the Town Board and Planning Board real leverage when that happens.”
Steps the Town Board still must take to approve the plan
Although at the end of last year the Town Board issued “Findings” based on the environmental review of the project, it stopped short of approving the required change of zoning and did not send Summit Greenfield’s last-minute change in site plan to the Planning Board. “The Town Board still must still go through a process of amending the legislation that was proposed,” explained Sabrina Charney, “of looking at the Preliminary Development Concept Design. It still needs to approve those things and a lot of the concepts of ‘traditional neighborhood design’ that this Planning Board has proposed I’m working with the Town Board and its attorneys trying to bring into the legislation. So when we do have a separate residential developer of that property he will be beholden to the schematic, at least in theory, that has been set forth here.”
“These are fundamentally good ideas,” said PB member Richard Brownell. “We still have a long row to hoe on this thing.”
Curley reiterates: Traffic and other impacts are still issues
“I say this every time,” said Curley, “but it bears repeating: we still have the responsibility to review the environmental impact statement on this. And to give a findings statement—either positive or negative, an up or down vote. The work going on here is not intended to subvert that process or that decision. I still think there is a legitimate question out there that is going to be put before the Planning Board when site plan application comes back to us. We need to then open up the EIS and give our own ‘Findings’ statement about the impact of traffic and all the other things we’re talking about. This work is done in the context of ‘If it’s a go decision that we have the best plan in place so that we’re happy with the consequences of the go-decision’.”
More free-standing retail than in the original plan
“It’s certainly looking far, far different—and far better—than it looked in previous incarnations,” said PB member Sheila Crespi. ” But I just wanted to raise an issue about the existing buildings. We now have 120,000 square feet of free-standing retail, whereas originally about 40,000 square feet of that was to be swapped out with the cupola building. The other issue is what’s going to happen with that [cupola] building? Whether it’s office or town hall, that’s going to have additional traffic impacts and implications that have never been looked at yet.”
“No, that’s been calculated already in the environmental impact statement,” said Curley.
“But aren’t there 40,000 extra square feet more in play here now?” asked Crespi.
Summit Greenfield would make office space “go dark” to maintain parking and development calculations
“No, the applicant has committed to maintaining the square footage allotments for office versus retail,” said Sabrina Charney, “so it means he will make certain portions of his existing buildings ‘go dark,’ take them out of service, there will not be any use of them.”
“There are actually portions of the buildings that—I don’t want to say that ‘the applicant doesn’t know what to do with’” said Curley, “—but that are less valuable and would make a good swap for retail and as a consequence, he has represented that he would close those portions—take them off the books and never be tenanted to keep the parking numbers and the development numbers.”
“They are subject,” said Sabrina Charney, “to the parking analysis that was done for the site—the grandfathered number that was determined by the building inspector—so [the developer] is trying to stay within those limits.”
So, asked Crespi, if there is 120,000 square feet of freestanding retail—and no swapping out 40,000 of office in exchange for it—“does that mean that potentially 40,000 square feet of office space ‘goes dark’ in order to maintain traffic and parking?”
“Right,” said Curley, ”—or is demolished.”
“It goes to the traffic count more than to the square footage,” observed Brownell, “because [the cupola building that would have been part of the retail total] was multi-story.”
“The applicant is demolishing the 100 building [between the cupola building and Roaring Brook Road],” noted Sabrina Charney, and using it for stormwater management.
“And that has another advantage,” said Brownell, “in that at the entrance, as you’re coming up here, you’re not hit by a building visually. So you can actually do something more to shape the view coming up so it softens it.”
Chappaqua Crossing plan is structured to become something else again
“These things have a life to them,” said Curley, “and it might happen that one day this corner [the “missing-tooth” corner], for example, might become a prime development site. In other words, the infrastructure is sort of set up so that it can be built on to enrich the structure that’s already here. Not that we want to propose that now, but there could be an even better future for the site as a consequence of the structure that’s in place. And the developer will be delighted and happy to sit down with all of us when we get to site plan application,” said Curley, “to make it better for the town. And he realizes that if it’s better for the town it’s essentially better for him, too.”
“Great job, Sabrina and Thomas,” said Brownell.
Photos of the site plan are below.
In the following video, the PB discussion of the site plan for Chappaqua Crossing begins at the 44-minute mark and runs for about 20 minutes:
Close in of the Main Street between Bedford Road and cupola building.