Long-awaited comments on Chappaqua Crossing traffic, store-size, competitive effects, revenue

Tuesday, October 21, 2014
by Christine Yeres

With the public hearing one week away, a raft of new documents related to the Chappaqua Crossing application for retail zoning has appeared on the town’s website over the last couple of weeks.  Planning Board comments are in, recommending that “adaptive reuse of the existing buildings remain a primary feature of any preliminary development concept plan for retail development.”  Michael Galante says his traffic analysis is still valid.  And the authors of the AKRF report assert that a reduced Chappaqua Crossing will be more harmful to the hamlet than a full 120,000-square-foot version.

In short, AKRF advises against cutting back on the proposed 120,000-square-feet of retail at Chappaqua Crossing, arguing that to reduce it would hobble its ability to procure high-end retailers and place it in a more ordinary category that would be more directly in competition with the existing hamlet’s concentration of personal services.  Here’s how AKRF describes the condition:

“Although the Whole Foods would likely draw customers from a wider trade area regardless of its complementary retail uses, the smaller format shopping center would likely be less successful in creating the critical mass of retail offerings that would make the location desirable to consumers and prospective retail tenants. Instead of offering higher-end destination retail uses, Chappaqua Crossing would likely be tenanted with the exact types of convenience-oriented stores that predominate in Chappaqua.”

“As compared to the 2013 Retail PDCP,” say AKRF authors, “the 2014 Revised Retail PDCP presents a retail layout and anchor store (Whole Foods) that would likely introduce a greater number of smaller stores that are both national chain operators and independent businesses, most of which would sell goods and services at mid- to high-end price points.  In this respect, there would be greater potential for retail overlap with certain retail categories within the Hamlet as compared to the 2013 Retail PDCP with an A&P anchor, which would be more attractive to larger-format national chain stores typically found in a ‘power center’ with a lower overall price point.”

Moreover, AKRF asserts, the 20-minute drive-time catchment area of Chappaqua Crossing and the 1-square-mile catchment area of the Chappaqua Hamlet “indicate that both the Hamlet’s downtown and Chappaqua Crossing can co-exist as viable retail nodes” because Chappaqua Crossing would more directly compete with or “cannibalize” other “existing retail concentrations and larger-format stores located outside of the Hamlet trade areas.”

AKRF attributes this seeming paradox—a big operation at Chappaqua Crossing even with more small stores will cause less injury to the hamlet—to the fact that “Town capture rates for almost all categories” [—“with the exception of Health & Personal Care stores”—] are low,” and so concludes that despite the inclusion of smaller stores along with Whole Foods, Chappaqua Crossing “would have greater product overlap with larger retail centers outside of Town” than with the downtown Hamlet. And as in its first report, AKRF proposes that people from both the office and residential uses at Chappaqua Crossing—and even the consumer traffic drawn to Whole Foods from outside Chappaqua—“could cross-shop” in the hamlet, if encouraged by appropriate “way-finding” signage at Chappaqua Crossing.

Advice for the hamlet

In another part of its report, AKRF explains that the hamlet will not be harmed by Chappaqua Crossing because the hamlet has no singular anchor that draws customers on which other retailers in the hamlet are dependent for consumer traffic, saying:

“If one store was responsible for drawing a substantial share of shopper traffic to the Hamlet, and that store was to be displaced, then the retail dynamic could change in a way that jeopardizes the viability of all retailers dependent on that consumer traffic.”

On the other hand, AKRF “does not advocate this condition as a recommended retail strategy for downtown Chappaqua” and advises “that the Town explore ways to attract greater consumer interest in the downtown through complementary retail anchor(s), more destination retail uses, and/or additional residential/worker populations. The positioning of such in the Hamlet would improve shopper traffic and retail vitality irrespective of Chappaqua Crossing.” 

AKRF vouches for the Town Board’s deep interest in revitalizing the hamlet and assures readers that both now and in future surely “Chappaqua’s downtown would remain more convenient to many trade area [the one square mile, as opposed to Chappaqua Crossing’s 20-minute drive-time] customers” and “would continue to serve an important function of providing ready access to day-to-day needs and in providing specialized products and services not commonly found in larger-format or comparatively-sized national chain stores.”

For more advice from AKRF on revitalizing the downtown, click HERE.

Traffic re-re-redux: No change necessary

Michael Galante has submitted his re-considered traffic report, and stands by his original study, especially, he says, that 25,000 square feet of the 120,000 square feet of proposed retail development is earmarked for a gym, which the engineering handbook says brings less traffic than retail. [Supervisor Greenstein has stated his strong interest in bringing a gym to town-owned town hall property, so it’s unclear whether there will be a gym at all at Chappaqua Crossing.] 

Traffic problems are made neither better nor worse, says Galante, by the alterations between last year’s plan and the current one which proposes 120,000 square feet of retail newly-constructed.

Trading spaces

Following up on the offer by Summit Greenfield to decommission as much existing first-level office space as it is allowed to construct in new footprint, the Planning Board asks in its comments to be shown “equivalency between parking demand for basement office space versus parking for retail use” and recommends a “parking accumulation study” that takes into account all the disparate—or “mixed”—uses intended for the property—because the parts will likely be sold to different developers each of whom will naturally press for his or her own parking needs.  But Galante’s traffic study doesn’t take into account either the decommissioning of existing space in an amount equivalent to the construction of the new, or parking specifically.

Traffic not better, not worse

According to Galante, changes to the application—120,000 square feet of new-building, increase in number of smaller stores and Whole Foods as a grocer—

“will neither exacerbate nor improve the adverse traffic impacts projected of the four previously identified unsignalized intersections within the Study Area.  Generally, these impacts are an increase in vehicle delay exiting a side road approach to a major roadway.  The four intersections are the following:

1. South Greeley Avenue at Quaker Street (north leg);
2. Bedford Road at Eastern Site Access Drive [Annandale];
3. Roaring Brook Road at Southern Access Drive [the high school]; and
4. Bedford Road at Whippoorwill Road.

Only a substantial reduction in retail density or major roadway improvements (not contemplated or proposed by the Applicant) could mitigate…”

By way of conclusion Galante says in his report, “It is our opinion that the proposed Mitigation Plan presented by the Applicant will accommodate proposed changes to the overall Site Plan, as currently presented by the Applicant.”

Revenues from Chappaqua Crossing

According to AKRF, “the higher the rents, the greater the tax revenue.  It would therefore be in the Town’s best interest, from a tax revenue perspective, for the developer to lease-up the project with tenants that can support the highest possible rent levels.”  Whole Foods is the draw for “wealthier shoppers,” and as for ancillary tenants, says AKRF, smaller stores tend to sell higher-value, higher-margin goods than do larger retailers, which results in higher sales per square foot figures” and, it follows, higher rents.

Where else has this proposed model worked?

When AKRF produced its initial report, it was not certain who the anchor grocer would be.  Now, in response to the Planning Board’s request to “Show us where has this model worked”—knowing that Whole Foods has signed a lease contingent on the success of the zoning change, AKRF offers two case studies:  Kings Crossing in Fairfield, Connecticut and Milford Marketplace in Milford, Connecticut. 

Both shopping centers, explains AKRF, are anchored by Whole Foods and were “selected based on their comparable sizes, demographics (both have trade areas with large numbers of high-income households), and their location within close proximity to major traffic arteries.” 

While there may be similarities, each forms part of an intensive extended retail corridor—Kings Crossing (developed by Summit Greenfield) is on Grassmere Avenue, 0.5 miles from I-95; Milford Marketplace is on the Boston Post Road.

To view the entire 67-page AKRF report, click HERE.

For excerpts from the report’s first 12 pages, the “Executive Summary,” click HERE.

For a rundown of the latest documents—including the proposed rezoning-for-retail amendment—added to the town’s website under “Land Use Applications” for Chappaqua Crossing, click HERE.

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