L to E: To hamlet or not to hamlet? There’s no question: Chappaqua Xing will damage the hamlet

Monday, December 1, 2014
by Chuck Napoli

If anyone has any doubts about whether Chappaqua Crossing will challenge the viability of downtown Chappaqua, rest assured: it will.  It’s exactly the kind of place the first AKRF study told us “would more directly compete with the function of the hamlet centers.”

I guess that was before AKRF took the position, in its second study, that since the Chappaqua hamlet didn’t have any anchor that other stores could be drawn to, to form a critical mass of retail, there was nothing here in the hamlet worth hurting, therefore “no harm.”  And since the zoning—with its “no personal services”—won’t allow Chappaqua Crossing to compete with the “personal services” industry of the hamlet—the nail and hair salons and dry cleaners – again, “no harm.”

Oh, and thanks, AKRF, for the advice that “regardless of what happens at Chappaqua Crossing” we really ought to get the hamlet an anchor and some critical mass rather than remain a personal-services center.

But a “lifestyle center” (that’s how Summit Greenfield is marketing it now) sitting at Chappaqua Crossing is going to deprive the hamlet of its ability to develop—just as AKRF concluded in its first study.

Yes, now it’s called a “lifestyle center”

Summit Greenfield will promote Chappaqua Crossing at the Javits Center’s International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) next week as a “lifestyle center”—“an upscale, rentable 120,000 SF outdoor shopping, dining and fitness experience scheduled to open Q4 of 2015,” “a “master-planned project - 300,000 SF of office (existing) & up to 200 housing units.”  See the complete brochure by clicking HERE.

A shopping center by any other name . . .

The definition of a shopping center is standard: “a group of commercial establishments planned, developed, and managed as a unit related to the trade area it serves.” (Urban Land Institute).  So far, we’ve heard Chappaqua Crossing called:

• A Strip Center
• A Power Center
• A Main Street Center
• A Town Center
• A Traditional Neighborhood Design
• A hybrid Neighborhood Center
• A Community Shopping Center

And now a “Lifestyle Center”

A lifestyle center is a shopping center or mixed-used commercial development that combines the traditional retail functions of a shopping mall with leisure amenities oriented towards upscale consumers.

In its report

Ten Principles for Rethinking the Mall

, the Urban Land Institute suggests that to be successful, Lifestyle Centers “seek to integrate, to the extent possible, other community anchors such as cultural facilities, civic buildings, municipal parks, office concentrations. Integration can increase the market draw, expand the trade area, and create a more compelling destination for the mall site as well as for the larger district. But it’s important to ensure that onsite and off-site uses create synergy—are complementary—and don’t cannibalize each other… [emphasis is mine].”

Remember that AKRF’s first competitive analysis, in July 2013, compared the plans termed “Shopping Center” and “Town Center” and decided that it was the “town center” (also-known-as “lifestyle center”) that Summit Greenfield was proposing that does the cannibalizing.  From AKRF’s first study:

Shopping Center versus Town Center [a/k/a “Lifestyle Center] Layout. dIn terms of retail layout, both layouts would introduce a grocery store use and several larger-format retail stores, the uses within those stores would be similar, and as described above there would be some retail overlap with either layout. However, from a competitive standpoint the “town center” layout would have greater overlap in the manner in which it functions in the community. The town center layout would compete for residents’ leisure time, as it would provide open space and other amenities that would draw users to the space and promote lingering. While this “place making” has its advantages from urban design and neighborhood character perspectives, it would more directly compete with the function of the hamlet centers, rather than providing a complement to Chappaqua’s walkable downtown and neighborhood-scale retailing through its larger space and more auto-oriented shopping. Consumers use both “types” of retail experiences but presently the Town is limited to only its hamlets.

That limitation, by the way, was purposeful. It’s still in the Master Plan, which explicitly directed that retail activity be limited to the two existing hamlet centers.  It’s also still the preference of Westchester County: more development where development is already, in our downtowns—especially in downtowns with a train station.

But, incredibly, the Town Board is now considering whether to approve a third hamlet—a fake town center or “lifestyle center”—that will directly compete with our hamlets. 

As Andrew Blum wrote in “The Mall Goes Undercover—It now looks like a city street,” Slate.com, April 6, 2005,

“…lifestyle centers do all the things that urban planners have promoted for years as ways of counteracting sprawl: squeeze more into less space, combine a mix of activities, and employ a fine-grained street grid to create a public realm—a ‘sidewalk ballet,’ in Jane Jacobs’ alluring phrase. The irony is almost too perfect: Malls are now being designed to resemble the downtown commercial districts they replaced”....

—or, as in New Castle, will replace . . .

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