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New Castle Looks for a Vision to Revitalize North Greeley, Chappaqua

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New Castle officials continue to discuss ways to help North Greeley Avenue, as photographed last summer.
New Castle officials continue to discuss ways to help North Greeley Avenue, as photographed last summer.

A vision for Chappaqua’s North Greeley Avenue and downtown should be well-articulated to the public to help New Castle officials enliven that portion of the hamlet, the town and planning boards largely agreed last week.

Members of both boards kicked off a long-awaited joint discussion last Tuesday evening to brainstorm strategies the town can employ to attract the type of development that could revitalize the strip and be accepted by the public.

Planning Board Chairman Robert Kirkwood said while the 2017 update of the town’s Comprehensive Plan contains much information that remains relevant and highlights the town’s goals, including a greater mix of restaurants, retail shopping and housing, a clear vision has been elusive.

“I believe it’s a family-centric community and people will really do anything for the kids and intergenerational and that was really the thing here,” Kirkwood said. “So what is it that we want to bring here that’s consistent with why people come to this town?”

North Greeley Avenue had attracted the attention of the previous Town Board during the failed Form-Based Code debates as well as the current board in the search for ways to bring vitality to the street. Its two single largest properties are currently vacant, including the former Rite Aid building.

In the first two months of the year, the new board has raised the possibility of considering an overlay zone to achieve some of its goals, among other potential changes.

Supervisor Lisa Katz said she believes most residents and merchants would like to see more retail while also incorporating housing as well.

The lack of a centerpiece attraction is likely what’s preventing downtown Chappaqua from becoming a destination, she said.

“I always thought the way you’re really going to get people here and you’re going to say, ‘We need to go to downtown so we can do this and while we’re there we’re going to go eat,’” Katz said. “We’re going to need an anchor, but that anchor is eventually going to be developed on town land, and for that is something where we, I believe, need to do big charettes and really come up with a visioning for what we want.”

Councilman Chris Hildenbrand said although North Greeley Avenue needs help, there is a unique opportunity if the town can take advantage of the momentum built through the public’s involvement during the past two years over the Form-Based Code.

“We all talked to so many residents,” Hildenbrand said. “North Greeley is an eyesore was just basically a common theme. That to me is bifurcated from the vision for the rest of the town, the town-owned property.”

While revitalizing North Greeley Avenue is important, the Town Board should be careful about not putting too much emphasis on that street, which is maybe two to three blocks long, to carry the burden of improvements for the hamlet, said Planning Board member Tom Curley.

He suggested the Town Board figure out what would be acceptable building heights, retail, housing and affordable housing to see and put that in the context of how it fits into the entire hamlet and town.

“I think it’s building out more of the fabric of the neighborhood, retail, the town residential, more of the fabric of the town itself rather than the golden opportunity place,” Curley said. “I think that that’s reasonably the only thing you can expect out of North Greeley given the nature of the properties and the landowners and all that.”

Planning Board member Eldad Gothelf said he knows many families that visit the neighboring communities of Pleasantville, Armonk and Mount Kisco and spend plenty of money. While constrained for space for parking, Gothelf said he is a proponent of multifamily housing, which should be part of the solution.

Councilwoman Victoria Tipp said having an anchor, whether it be cultural or recreational, is the likely magnet that’s missing in town.

“The most challenging aspect of this is how to elicit that shared vision and how do we do that without taking too much time in the process while bifurcating what goes on with North Greeley, with coalescing that shared vision and how to bring that process about,” Tipp said. “So I’m viewing this meeting as the first step.”

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