News Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.
The new operator of the Chappaqua Crossing retail component has revised its request to double the allowable square footage leased to carry-out food establishments so it can start filling some of the complex’s empty commercial spaces.
Amy Krass, senior vice president asset management at Heitman, the Chicago-based real estate management investment firm that bought the property last winter, said the company would like the flexibility to increase the 7,500-square-foot limit on carry-out food businesses at Chappaqua Crossing to as much as 15,000 square feet.
The challenging leasing environment for restaurants, which has been made more problematic since the start of the pandemic, has prompted the company to look to New Castle officials to ease several of the conditions at the former Reader’s Digest site. While Heitman originally asked the Town Board to waive the carry-out requirement, it has now changed that request so that the two remaining vacant spaces that had been earmarked for restaurants can also potentially be “fast casual” operations, without unlimited expansion of that use throughout the retail spaces.
In April, Sweetgreen’s opened in one of those three storefronts.
“We’d like to have the ability to say to 10 prospective tenants we have the right to lease to you as another quick-service restaurant without going through an extensive process,” said Krass, who traveled to New Castle to meet the Town Board in person at its June 28 work session. “This will give us the flexibility to do so.”
Heitman also hopes to receive the go-ahead to waive the 25 percent limit on a business’s floor area for the sale of alcoholic beverages. Felix Charney, the principal at Summit Development, which sold Chappaqua Crossing’s commercial operation to Heitman, said the company has a liquor store lined up to move into another vacancy and needs that requirement to be lifted as well.
The company also hopes to be allowed to store trash dumpsters outside rather than inside. However, the Town Board told Krass and Charney that that request is a site plan issue and under the purview of the Planning Board.
Supervisor Lisa Katz said one reason the town had hoped for a couple of sit-down restaurants at Chappaqua Crossing was the eventual construction and opening of the 91 townhomes. Those residents are also more likely to have the disposable income to support a restaurant.
“There is a captive audience of people that will want to eat at a restaurant there,” Katz said. “From a marketing perspective, that’s pretty strong.”
However, it may still be a few years before Toll Brothers completes construction on the residences and sees those units filled.
Krass said the company looks to find establishments that fit well with the property, not necessarily a tenant that will pay the highest rent. Examples of some types of fast casual eateries that could be considered are Chipotle, Chopt or Oath Pizza, not traditional fast food.
“There’s a lot of interest, don’t get me wrong, but not unlike other properties that I work on and other properties across the U.S that we have, we want to show prospective tenants we can work with them on an expedient basis and get them into the store quickly,” Krass said.
Charney said the pandemic altered the restaurant landscape where operators are looking for management deals where they shed much of the risk to come into a space. However, restaurant operators want to see a certain level of foot traffic before making an investment.
By configuring a space for use by a carry-out fast casual operation, it would not be difficult to convert it to a full-service restaurant should market conditions change, Krass said.
Councilman Jeremy Saland said he has more concerns about the lifting of the restrictions with the alcoholic retail space than whether there are a couple more carry-out establishments.
“I have a bigger issue with the liquor store because that could mean greater competition potentially to what we have in the hamlet,” Saland said.
The board is referring the matter to get feedback from the Planning Board and then will schedule a public hearing on the square footage issue regarding carry-out restaurants.
Town officials are also planning a tour of the Thomas V. Wright House at Chappaqua Crossing. The board must decide whether to allow Toll Brothers’ request to build a new clubhouse but using the house’s existing façade or to preserve and restore the 167-year-old structure.