Despite contentious debates for more than a decade, construction at Chappaqua Crossing is proceeding ahead in various phases. “Come this summer there will be more people living in that building,” New Castle Town Supervisor Robert Greenstein said in March as he pointed to a section of apartments in the so-called cúpula building–the building topped with four sculptures of Pegasus. Currently there are already 15 families calling the building “home.”
Lower down, other details from the old Reader’s Digest building’s past as a longtime employer of up to 4,000 people have been carefully preserved: well-made windows, fanlike brickwork above them, a rotunda room that used to house receptionists’ desks, irreplaceable interior doors, and a library, formerly used by Reader’s Digest staff, that curves out front and leads to a terrace.
“They’ve really preserved the architecture and a lot of the special interior aspects have been preserved,” Geoffrey Thompson, Summit/Greenfield’s spokesperson for the project, said. Thompson credits builder Bill Balter of Wilder Balter Partners for a special appreciation for preservation. “He recognized right away this was a special building and a special opportunity.” The apartments are a mix of affordable housing, housing intended for town employees, which are somewhat more expensive, and market-rate units.
A Phased Approach
As for the retail component, “the shell is almost done,” Greenstein said. In early spring, April 1 looked like a likely date for a building permit so the ‘buildout,’ or work on the interior, could commence. Then the retail component will be the main focus of effort. Greenstein explained that Department of Environmental Conservation rules prevent working on more than a five-acre area at a time, which is one reason this project is being accomplished in phases instead of all at once.
The townhouses, built by Toll Brothers, will come next. “The construction on the townhouses isn’t even going to start until the retail is done,” he said. “Even if they got their site plan approved tomorrow.”
There’s also office space at Chappaqua Crossing, including the corporate headquarters of Caremount, and Northern Westchester Hospital has medical offices there that are up and running. Other tenants include Digitech. Thompson said 200,000 square feet is already leased and there’s another 300,000 still available.
Building Retail and Improving Roadways
Roadway improvements are scheduled for this summer, and “once roadway improvement is done, they can open retail,” Greenstein said. “The roadway improvements have to be done for Whole Foods to get their CO,” which stands for certificate of occupancy. So far, confirmed tenants include a Whole Foods, a Life Time Fitness (which will include a spa and children’s play area) and Chase Bank, Thompson said at press time, with other businesses expressing interest and in various stages of negotiations.
The retail section of the project, which is located to the southeast of the cupola building, has a varied look to it and all sides of the project have been designed to look equally good, unlike some other retail spaces that prioritize the look of the front of the buildings.
New York State will determine whether or not the work on 117 will be managed by means of a detour. “You’re not going to widen a roadway without some disruption,” Greenstein said.
The changes to 117 will result in a left turning lane for motorists driving north on 117 who seek to make a left onto Roaring Brook Road. This will mean motorists going straight will no longer have to wait until drivers trying to make lefts in front of them find a break in traffic. There will also be a right lane for those traveling south, Thompson said.
Jitney Links Chappaqua Crossing with Downtown
Soon, there’ll be one or two extra ways–besides one’s car–to go between downtown Chappaqua and Chappaqua Crossing. The first will certainly be a jitney. Summit/Greenfield is “required to start a jitney shuttle as soon as the cupola building is occupied,” Greenstein said, recalling that Reader’s Digest once operated a similar service.
The second, a possible walking trail currently called ChapLine, is under consideration by the town board. “The first trail we looked into doing impacted a lot of wetlands,” Greenstein said, explaining that the board is now considering another route, but complexities such as possible easements must be taken into consideration.
The former Wallace Auditorium, also on the former Reader’s Digest property, now the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center, has been up and running since last fall and there are already events scheduled for as far ahead as September.
“The property is going to be a diverse group of activities,” Thompson said. “It’s an overused saying, but ‘live/work/play’ really does apply to this property.”