The new owner of Chappaqua Crossing is seeking relief from several site plan approval conditions to help him lease the complex’s vacant commercial space and build a clubhouse rather than preserve an 1850s farmhouse .
Representatives of an entity called HPV IV Chappaqua LLC, which includes Heitman, a property management company that now owns the center’s 120,000 square foot retail business, and Toll Brothers, which is building the 91 townhouses on the property , appealed to the New Castle Town Council to relax a handful of the project’s 157 conditions. The demands were first made in an April 21 letter to city council.
Heitman asks the city to eliminate the 7,500 square foot cap for take-out dining establishments at the center to help fill some of the vacancies, to waive the 25% limit on a business’ floor space for the sale of liquor so that he could rent space from a liquor store and allow dumpsters to be stored outdoors rather than indoors.
Meanwhile, Toll Brothers hopes to convince city officials that building a new clubhouse for future owners of 91 units, but using the existing facade of the more than 167-year-old Thomas V. Wright House, near the entrance to Route 117, would be beneficial because Toll could use the money he saved to renovate the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center.
Felix Charney, founder of Summit Development, which built the commercial component and adapted the cupola into more than 60 apartments, said pandemic-related market conditions are at the heart of demands for vacant commercial space. The plan was to lease three spaces to restaurants, but only one is occupied — Sweetgreen, a fast-casual eatery specializing in salads and bowls that opened earlier this spring.
Traditional sit-down restaurants were originally planned for Chappaqua Crossing, said Charney, who Heitman asked to speak on his behalf, although once Summit Development sells its offices at the center, he will no longer be in the game.
“Ultimately, the conditions that are being imposed on us now, we will have to live with, but I think there is now an opportunity based on a bit of hindsight, based on a bit of logic and more specifically when we enter into retail, based on some of the changes the world has seen through COVID, that are worth revisiting,” Charney said.
Since the start of the pandemic, it has been difficult to rent spaces in part due to retail and restaurant uncertainties, but restrictions have also helped, he said. Heitman is asking the owner of a liquor store if he can get the zoning code changed to remove the 25% floor area limit, Charney added.
Allowing take-out restaurants would help rent the spaces. However, under current regulations, Chappaqua Crossing would not be able to accommodate two other businesses like Sweetgreen, which is approximately 3,000 square feet, due to the restriction.
“The mall is running out of energy and some of that energy was driven by food service and we failed to do that,” he said.
Supervisor Lisa Katz said she fears that if the 7,500 square foot cap is removed, there could be an unlimited number of takeout establishments. She and councilor Victoria Tipp wondered if it would be premature to make this change before the townhouses were occupied.
“So, I think, that would really change the dynamic of renting,” Katz said. “Now you’ll have a built-in audience of people who live here but also go to the performing arts center and want to eat afterwards.”
Charney said it could be another three years before the residences are filled. All establishments would have seating but could be closer to Chopt or Chipotle than a white-tablecloth restaurant, he said.
Councilman Christian Hildenbrand mentioned that the city has recently seen two sit-down restaurants open in recent weeks, a Mediterranean steakhouse near Walgreen’s and Italian restaurant Basso 56 on lower King Street.
Summit development project manager David Walsh said the requirement for an indoor dumpster is also proving to be a barrier to attracting restaurants. He said it was also wrong that the city could leave its dumpster outside while forcing businesses to find a place for it inside.
“So it’s hypocrisy to be able to put a dumpster 50 feet from a house, when we want to put a dumpster hundreds of feet from any residence,” Walsh said.
Meanwhile, Toll Brothers wants relief from having to adapt the lower level of the Wright house into a clubhouse. Charney, who said he supports and appreciates historic preservation, mentioned that Toll Brothers rejects any notion that the building is historic.
The building is not in good condition and its interior should be rebuilt from the inside, he said. Charney told The Examiner it was estimated that $850,000 could be saved and redeployed to improve the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center, which would benefit the entire community while residents would get a clubhouse.
The plan would be to put the facade on a new pavilion.
“If we build it new and build it right, make it look like this, it will survive for a long time to everyone’s benefit and the dollars that would otherwise have been used, then we can use it to fix the auditorium,” said Charney.
Town historian Gray Williams countered that the developer had retained one of the area’s most respected architects linked to the preservation of ancient structures, Stephen Tilly, who concluded that it would not be as expensive to save and adapt the first floor for a clubhouse.
In 2019, the city and Toll Brothers reached an agreement that it would preserve as much of the house as possible, but it appears the developer is looking to back down. Williams called it “a unique building” that has changed little since it was built.
“They never wanted it,” Williams said. “They prefer to say it would be expensive. I saw the plans. I don’t think that’s really entirely true. I think they should submit a budget to prove it and measure it against the cost of building something else. »
Katz said the council would refer retail-related items to the planning council and tentatively scheduled a tour of the Wright home for next week.