New Castle's Planning Board appears open to the idea of local architect Chuck Napoli's Hamlet Revitalization Plan for downtown Chappaqua, based on reactions to a Tuesday presentation that he made.
Napoli's proposal includes filling in the current parking lot behind Chappaqua's South Greeley Avenue with a European-style market with several vendors, new retail and a performing arts theater. It would be built in exchange for adding replacement parking on space currently occupied to the east by an athletic field for Robert E. Bell Middle School, which in turn would be capped with a turf field that will rise to an elevation at the same level as the school's Senter Street entrance.
“It's very innovative for this area,” Planning Board Chair Richard Brownell said about the market concept.
Board members did not raise any objections but they did ask a series of technical questions such as for drainage in the parking area (Napoli replied that structure piles will be used) and if traffic studies have been done (Napoli told Patch that a review that includes trip counts hasn't been done, but that parking requirements have been looked at).
Napoli argues that the proposal “could add to the hamlet business district," and would address several needs for downtown, including new field space, more parking.
Napoli, who has been proposing some form of his idea since the 1980s, began a new pitch during the summer and has presented it to the New Castle Town Board and the Chappaqua school board's facilities committee, both of whom kept open minds about the idea. A presentation of the project to the full school board may be forthcoming, he confirmed.
The square footage for the multi-story structures, Napoli told various media outlets, would involve 16,770 for new retail, 31,000 for the market, 33,000 for upper-floor housing and 7,000 square feet for the theater, the later of which would have about 360 seats and be capable of hosting Broadway-style events. The amount of parking spaces would increase by more than 200, to 389.
The new buildings would be east of the existing row of shops along South Greeley Avenue, run parallel to them and be separated by a walkway that is wide enough to take delivery vehicles and fire trucks, Napoli explained.
Parking would continue to go in and out of the current South Greeley entrance, while Napoli would like to add a 1-way ancillary road between the current sites of the town's Community and King Street Restaurant and Bar, although the direction for it has not been determined.
Napoli, who would be the developer, plans to keep oversight of the property once it's built, even deciding which tenants are allowed to move in.
In order for the project to move forward, Napoli will need to secure leases from both the school district and landlords whose properties overlap with the site; the town does not own the current parking lot, according to parcel records, but rather it has a series of land deals for it.
So far, Napoli said property owners he has talked with have been receptive, although he said he has not been able to get in touch with the owner of the Bank of America building.
The project will not come cheap. Napoli told the Planning Board that it will cost $40 million and be funded through a mix of bank financing and investors.
However, Napoli explained that prospective investors have concern about the potential impact of the retail and grocery space proposal for Chappaqua Crossing, which has drawn the ire of people in the community who feel that the site would have harmful competition with the existing Chappaqua and Millwood business communities.
Since Napoli has not submitted a formal petition to the town, the exact nature of its review is not clear yet. While Napoli told the board that he would need area variances for zoning, Town Planner Sabrina Charney Hull told Patch that the zoning issue is premature. It is not clear how much review the proposal would entail, either, such as whether an environmental impact statement would be needed.