Chappaqua Hamlet Investment Act


The Downtown Chappaqua Infrastructure and Streetscape Project has had an impact on local merchants. While there is broad recognition that the work was critically necessary, and that the end result will be a significant improvement, the ongoing construction work and project delays have been challenging for local businesses and residents alike. To help downtown merchants survive and thrive, Council Member Ivy Pool and Councilman Jeremy Saland have proposed the following plan, called the Chappaqua Hamlet Investment Act (CHIA). We have sent this proposal to our colleagues on the Town Board, and are looking forward to their feedback. We share these ideas here today to demonstrate our commitment to addressing the impact of the construction work, and to elicit community feedback on these ideas.

I. Establish a Façade Improvement Grant Program

A façade improvement grant program is an incentive program to support and encourage property owners and businesses to improve the exterior appearance of their buildings and storefronts. To be eligible for a grant, projects must be on the exterior of the building, and visible from the street and/or public parking lots, and would include such items as:

  • New signage
  • Exterior lighting
  • Painting to highlight the buildings’ historic character
  • Façade repair or reconstruction
  • Cleaning brick masonry and façade
  • New cornices for the roof gables
  • New awnings or canopies
  • Window or door replacement
  • Rear entry improvements

We are proposing to implement this program in two phases: Phase 1 (2019): Awards for small repairs during Downtown construction, Phase 2 (2020): Full program implementation after the adoption of a Form Based Code for the Chappaqua hamlet, which will include new design standards.

The program would be structured as a 50% matching grant from the Town. In Phase 1, we have proposed offering grants of up to $1,000; in Phase 2, we propose providing grants up to $7,500. Projects would be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis with a maximum Town expenditure of $150,000 across both phases. The funding for this program would come from the $1.5m settlement from Summit Greenfield, which was meant for projects that would assist and promote the Chappaqua hamlet.

What are the benefits?

  • This is a legally permissible mechanism to provide direct payments from the Town to eligible merchants/property owners.
  • Research has shown that façade improvements lead to increased retail sales in the years after the improvements were made.
  • The improvements will attract new businesses and shoppers to the Downtown area.
  • Research has shown that property owners are often motivated to make additional improvements (such as to interior spaces or product lines).
  • By reviewing and approving grant proposals, the Town will be able to encourage good design, and to ensure adherence with the standards that will be set forth in the Form Based Code.

II. Create a Vacant Storefront Registry

 Under this proposal, property owners in the commercial business district with vacant storefronts would be required to register them with the town and to display a sign in the storefront window with the landlord’s name and contact information. The Town would use this data to create and maintain a Vacant Storefront Registry, accessible on the Town website and provided on-demand to anyone interested in the space.

We propose charging a nominal annual registration fee of $250, which would be refunded if the property were to be leased within 1 year. Failure to comply would result in a notice of violation and a fine equal to 4x the registration fee.  All revenues received would go towards funding “Discover Chappaqua” (see part IV).

What are the benefits?

  • Research shows that one empty storefront on a block can lead to more vacancies, and bring down the value and appeal of an entire commercial area.
  • Small businesses, in particular, rely on a vibrant commercial corridor to attract customers.
  • To encourage property owners of both retail and residential spaces to lease, develop or sell their properties, rather than allowing them to remain vacant.
  • To provide a list of vacant properties for lease or for sale to potential lessees, particularly local residents who have expressed an interest in such a list.

III. Pass a Local Preference Law

We propose amending the Town Code to allow Town to award a contract to a locally-owned business, if the bid  is no more than 5% higher than the lowest responsible bidder. Local Preference Laws exist today in Suffolk County and the Town of Hempstead (Nassau County). Another variation is to use local preference only to break a tie between two bidders, as is the case in the City of Syracuse.

What are the benefits?

  • When considered among other criteria to determine “best value” in awarding contracts, a Local Preference Law has the potential to assist small, locally-owned businesses and to improve the economic vitality of a municipality.
  • Ensures that local dollars are used to support local business, which will, in turn, grow our local economy.

IV. Expand “Discover Chappaqua”

Discover Chappaqua is a website, to be launched in Fall 2019, with the goal of promoting the Chappaqua hamlet and encouraging residents and visitors to explore and support our beloved hamlet.  We propose expanding this mission by establishing “Discover Chappaqua” as a Town committee charged with developing proposals and establishing a budget for projects to market and promote the Chappaqua Hamlet. The Committee would be responsible for managing:

  • Website and Social Media: Completing the launch of, and creating a plan and budget for ongoing maintenance and support, including cross promotion on social media.
  • Marketing: Media buys to promote special events and encourage local and regional residents to “Discover Chappaqua.”
  • Events: Planning and promoting special events, such as a Lower King Construction Party – an open-air event on Lower King to celebrate when the street is paved. Also the committee would support and/or liase with existing and planned events such as the Memorial Day Parade, Art Around Town, Sidewalk Sale, and Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival, among others.

What are the benefits?

  • To encourage community support for our downtown businesses.
  • To help local businesses and entrepreneurs survive and thrive during construction.

The Bottom Line

There can be no doubt that the construction work has had an impact on Chappaqua property owners and merchants. While we acknowledge that the work was necessary, and that the end result will look great, we also believe the Town should play a more proactive role in helping our business community to bounce back from the impact of the construction and to survive and thrive into the future. We look forward to discussing these proposals with our colleagues on the Town Board, and to hearing your input as well.  Our objective is to refine and strengthen these ideas, as always happens when we collaborate and tackle problems together.