A study commissioned for Chappaqua Crossing developer Summit/Greenfield states that its proposal to add 120,000 square feet of retail space, including a large grocery store, will not harm the existing Chappaqua and Millwood downtown business districts.
The 19-page report, done by HR&A Advisors, Inc., was submitted to the Town of New Castle on Tuesday as part of a revised draft supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) that is needed for the proposal. The new SEIS was submitted - it's a revision on an initial version released in October - in response to a series of questions and comments from town officials about the project.
In its study, HR&A argues retail at Chappaqua Crossing would be different in nature from that of the hamlets. It notes that retail space in the downtown is "rather limited," with most spaces being under 3,000 square feet in size. Summit/Greenfield, meanwhile, wants to add a large grocery store for an anchor of 36,000 to 66,000 square feet. Ancillary retail, which would be a total of 54,000 to 84,000, would be limited to just four stores being able to have less than 5,000 square feet, in addition to larger ones. Out of the four small stores, none of them can have less than 1,500.
HR&A states that space on the site will attract businesses that might not otherwise locate in the hamlets. It also argues that by having a grocery store closer to home, people will be more likely to spend their money locally, including in the hamlets, than if they go out of town for groceries.
Chappaqua Crossing, economically speaking, could support between 220,000 to 295,000 square feet of retail space, HR&A argues, based on shopping patterns in New Castle and in nearby towns.
Currently, the only major grocery store in town is an A&P in Millwood of about 20,000 square feet. Chappaqua has not had a major store since D'Agostino closed in 2011; its storefront will be replaced with a Walgreens.
In its SEIS revision, Summit/Greenfield notes that it had interest from multiple prospective grocery tenants. In its study, HR&A argues that a larger store space is important for grocers who, operating on thin margins, rely on more space to achieve economies of scale. The national average for supermarket space, the study says, is around 45,000 square feet.
Summit/Greenfield's proposal for the former Reader's Digest headquarters calls for reusing the historic cupola building's first two floors for grocery space. An existing building that's immediately to the south of it would get a reconstructed replacement that looks visually similar, and would contain part of the grocery store. Still yet to be determined is what will happen to upper-floor space in the cupola building, although office usage was suggested by the developer as a scenario. Meanwhile, the ancillary retail buildings, possibly including a pharmacy and bank, would be located on the southern part of the site.
Residents and some merchants have been vocally opposed to the proposal, which was submitted in October and modeled after a similar plan that the town board came up with in the first half of 2012 in response to the loss of D'Agostino. Opponents worry that the retail could constitute a third hamlet, one that would compete with and hurt existing shops.
Some residents also have derided the plan as a strip mall and expressed concerns about traffic.
A traffic study submitted as part of the SEIS shows that there would be more activity than what would happen if Summit/Greenfield just develops 111 housing units on the eastern side of the campus, which it got rezoning approval for from the town board in April 2011. The biggest additions of traffic trips - those in and out of the site - would come during afternoon dismissal from Horace Greeley High School, around weekday rush hour and early Saturday afternoon (see a screen shot of a table for numbers). However, Summit/Greenfield states that the overall level of service (LOS) a metric for measuring vehicle travel times, will be similar in either case.
Summit/Greenfield also proposes a series of traffic mitigation items, including turning an access drive south of the complex into a T intersection with Greeley's access road. A traffic light and crosswalk would be added to the new intersection, and the SEIS states that the level of service will be better there. In addition, the intersection for Route 117 and Roaring Brook would get a southbound right-turn lane and a northbound left-turn lane.
The plan requires rezoning from the town board for the southern portion of the 114-acre campus. The zone would be an overlay district of 23.9 acres, which would take up a portion of the existing commercial district that is geared towards office space. Combining the retail and office usage, the proposal has total of 662,000 square feet of commercial space, a reduction from the current 700,000 on the site.
The environmental study also took a glance at possible site alternatives, including keeping the existing windows for the cupola building - they would be replaced with larger ones for the supermarket - along with more site plan integration for the commercial and residential zones. Summit/Greenfield argues that the window arrangement, which would be coupled with making the building more accessible for handicapped people, is better than keeping the existing form. As for site integration, the developer states that zoning, both existing and proposed, does not allow for it.
The retail proposal is the latest chapter in the Chappaqua Crossing saga. Summit/Greenfield, which bought the site in 2004 from Reader's Digest, spent the second half of the 2000s pushing for residential rezoning, with various iterations of a mix of townhouses and condos touted. Its last version for the housing came in 2010, with a proposal for 199 units. The town board only granted rezoning for 111 of the proposed units.
The housing plan was also controversial because residents feared an influx of new kids coming into the Chappaqua school district. In early 2011, the developer filed federal and state lawsuits against the town over how the rezoning review was handled. A settlement, reached in December, resulted in the litigation being suspended. The suits will be dropped if Summit/Greenfield gets various approvals for the retail project from the town board and planning board.
Summit/Greenfield's proposal also has slight changes to the residential part of the site, including a building footprint decrease, shrinking the size of the zone from 30.6 acres to 29.5 and including a loop road.
To read and download the revised SEIS, including the retail market study, click here.