Press Release from Summit Development: Chappaqua Crossing retail zoning is approved

10 Years after Purchase of Former Reader’s Digest Campus,
Zoning to Permit Mixed-Use Is in Place

Whole Foods Market to Anchor Retail Component

December 19, 2014
by Geoff Thompson, Thompson & Bender

CHAPPAQUA, NY (December 19, 2014)—Just four days short of the 10th anniversary of the purchase of the former Reader’s Digest campus in Chappaqua by Summit /Greenfield Partners, the New Castle Town Board voted to adopt new zoning that will allow for construction of a retail component – including a Whole Foods Market, retail shops, restaurants and a fitness facilities – on a portion of the site, now called Chappaqua Crossing.

The approval follows a decade of often contentious debate that included more than 100 public hearings and meetings that cleared the way to allow the first new uses on the 120-acre property. The Town had previously approved 111 units of housing including 20 affordable.

At a special meeting, the Town Board voted 4-1 to approve the retail zoning amendment applicable to Chappaqua Crossing and to amend the town’s Master Plan to accommodate the new zoning. The Board also passed resolutions that a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the retail zone was not needed and to amend the previous adopted Findings Statement.

In January the Board will vote on two remaining items:  revising the Town’s zoning map to apply the Retail Overlay to the site and to approve the Preliminary Development Concept Plan, which establishes the specific layout of the retail buildings. Plans will then be submitted to the New Castle Planning Board for site plan and subdivision approvals in early 2015.

Summit/Greenfield closed on the purchase of the property on December 22, 2004, and submitted its first plans for re-use of the property in 2005. The details of the last night’s approval were hammered out over the last several months and following the latest round of public hearings dealing with various aspects of the plan.  Reader’s Digest had first come to the site in 1939 and eventually expanded to nearly 700,000 square feet of office space where at one time some 7,000 workers were employed.

The last Reader’s Digest employees vacated the iconic site in 2009. About 150,000 square feet of the building is currently leased by a mix of tenants including Northern Westchester Hospital and Mount Kisco Medical Group. Chappaqua Crossing is the largest commercial taxpaying property in a town in which only 3 percent of the tax base is commercial.

The new retail component was developed in response to a 2012 proposal by the prior Town Board to add “retail” as a permitted use within the site’s B-RO-20 zoning. The parameters of the retail zone including the types and sizes of the specific retail and related uses that would be acceptable were specified by that 2012 draft local law. Summit/Greenfield then responded with a plan that was consistent with those parameters which included having a supermarket. The current Town Board and the Planning Board made modifications to the uses which are reflected in the approved plan and include a gym.

In addition to bringing new uses to the property, the Chappaqua Crossing proposal includes in excess of $17 million in additional benefits to the Town. As part of the project, Summit/Greenfield will:

• Provide $1.5 million to be used by the Town at its sole discretion to study and implement improvements to the Town’s existing business hamlets, improve or create trail and recreation uses or otherwise undertake initiatives to reduce any perceived impacts associated with the development of Chappaqua Crossing.

• Invest an estimated $3 million in roadway and traffic improvements at the Roaring Brook Road intersections with Route 117 (Bedford Road) and the entrance to the Horace Greeley High School.

• Invest up to $600,000 in improvements to the High School entrance driveway consistent with a 2013 plan developed for the Chappaqua Central School District.

• Demolish three existing houses owned by S/G on Roaring Brook Road to expand the open space buffer and place conservation on the three lots plus a vacant lot that constitute Chappaqua Crossing’s frontage on Roaring Brook Road between Route 117 and the south entrance to Chappaqua Crossing. The properties have a combined value of over $3 million.

• Enclose the loading area of the supermarket to provide additional screening for neighbors at an estimated cost of $200,000.

• Reduce the amount of existing office space by 162,000 square feet (approximately 20%) and limit the amount of space available for lease or use at any time to 500,000 square feet. The resulting loss of capitalized income is approximately $6 million.

• Retain the Wallace Auditorium for future donation to either the Town of its designee for public use. The auditorium was built in 1990 and has an estimated value of $2 million.

• Pay the Town a recreation fee of $100,000.

• Provide a free jitney service between Chappaqua Crossing and the Chappaqua hamlet and MetroNorth train station for not less than two years after residential construction is completed. Estimated annual cost: $100,000.

• Reimburse up to $100,000 in consulting and attorney fees incurred by the Town in its review of the project during 2014-15 and reimburse up to $100,000 in consulting and attorney fees incurred during the Planning Board’s site plan review.

Felix Charney, President of Summit Development, said that the ownership team was pleased to have finally reached this important milestone. “It’s been a long, costly and often painful process and there’s more to be done, but this vote will allow us to move forward together submit the site plans and accelerate the leasing. We appreciate the efforts of Supervisor Rob Greenstein the Town Board and the prior town boards to finally bring the environmental and zoning review to a conclusion and we look forward to continuing to work with the town to create what we are confident will be a genuine asset to the town and its residents.”

In voting in favor of the retail zoning, Town Supervisor Rob Greenstein said:  “I believe we are building a better New Castle by our decision, one that provides more for the community, while maintaining those assets and values that drew us to this Town. Councilman Adam Brodsky added that “the status quo – vacant, obsolete office space and a hole in our commercial tax base – is not the best choice for our town.”

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