Chuck Napoli’s Call for Collaboration with a Blueprint for
Transforming Downtown Chappaqua into a Destination Town
Article and Photos By Steve Cassanelli
The Bell Area Plan isn’t so much a story about the proposed development in downtown Chappaqua itself. It is rather more about the process being used to generate support for its approval. Many challenges remain before Chappaqua architect/developer Chuck Napoli’s vision can be transformed into a reality for this town. Following a long ranging interview with Napoli, the details of the plan were delineated but I also came to understand Napoli’s stance that participation and collaboration are the most critical factors now. While the plan may be his brainchild, for its ultimate success, Napoli insisted on the critical need to incorporate everyone’s wants and needs into its design.
The Bell Area Plan derives its name from the adjacent Robert E. Bell Middle School on Senter Street. The overall objective of the plan is to enhance the vibrancy of the central part of Chappaqua (South Greeley Avenue and King Street). The Bell Area Plan consists of an entertainment anchor (possibly a Performing Arts Center, a movie theater or a restaurant/nightclub) and commercial, retail and residential buildings parallel to the buildings along South Greeley Avenue, from One South Greeley Avenue down to the Bank of America.
These buildings would be situated in what is now the parking lot behind these buildings. In addition, it would also include a parking lot on what is now the Bell School’s football/soccer field. The parking lot would have a roof over it, and on this roof would be an artificial turf (or possibly natural grass) field.
The many parts of this project need to be coordinated by multiple parties in order for this plan to become a reality. Napoli cited the need for a builder to do all of the groundwork and construction. It just so happens, Napoli’s partner, Mark Giordano, happens to be a builder. Financing is necessary to pay for the project. Napoli currently estimates the figure at around $15 million. He said the financing for this project will be raised privately and will not come out of the taxpayers’ pockets. Said Napoli: “The job of raising these funds is in the very capable hands of Lester Himel.” Marketing/demographic studies also have to be done to estimate the impact this plan will have on its immediate surrounding environment. “The eloquent and scholarly Tom Curley is assisting in this aspect,” notes Napoli.
“The surrounding business/store owners need to unanimously agree to lease their property behind their stores to the developer. The School Board needs to agree to donate the football/soccer field in order to have a place to put the parking lot. In return, they will get a new, state-of-the-art field above it to replace the soggy, almost unusable, field they currently have. Last of all, the Town Board needs to agree to amend the current zoning laws.”
“This is going to pay huge dividends on the back end because the business/store owners, the school board and the town board will already have had a chance to voice their concerns and any objections that they may have. By giving everyone a chance to have a say from the beginning, it makes it far less likely that there will be any issues on the back end when the plan comes up for approval, because they’ll already have been addressed.”
Like a conductor leading an orchestra, Napoli is very much the mastermind who coordinated all of the individual pieces of the project and is the driving force that has gotten the entire process to the point at which it now stands. He has meticulously and painstakingly pieced everything together with precision and, from what I can tell, amazing foresight. His doggedness appears to have brought the project to the point where conception is on the precipice of reality. In conclusion, a lot of time and hard work has gone into this project to date. I asked Napoli how the project can proceed from the idea stage to the construction phase. What has to happen next? He described the process as fluid and changing all the time. Even as I’m writing this article, weekly meetings with any and all interested parties have commenced at Town Hall where ideas have been discussed, and will continue to be discussed. “All that will alter the final landscape of this project depends on the needs, wants and ideas of the community,” said Napoli.
But in the end, we’re still talking about a row of buildings that will house retail, commercial and residential tenants, some type of entertainment facility as the anchor and a new parking lot with a field above it. However, the mix of different types of tenants and the types of retail stores is still open for discussion and debate. In order to move this project along to the reality phase, three things need to happen. First of all, the developer needs to gain the approval of all of the landowners involved. That includes the School Board and all of the business owners whose property he plans to build on. Then the project needs to be approved by the town, with all of the appropriate zoning amendments.
Last of all, Napoli needs to secure the financing for the project. Each of these pieces is interdependent on the other, because without one, the other two are meaningless. No one knows how all of this is going to turn out, but I can tell you one thing: I walked away from this very impressed with Mr. Napoli and with how he has proceeded to date.
Originally from White Plains, Steve Cassanelli, MBA, is a Lake Carmel resident with over 10 years experience as a corporate financial analyst.