Chappaqua Crossing developer turns over auditorium to town

By John Golden

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Wallace Auditorium at Chappaqua Crossing Wallace Auditorium at Chappaqua Crossing

A 400-seat auditorium at the former headquarters of Reader’s Digest will be deeded to the town of New Castle by the developer of the mixed-use Chappaqua Crossing campus and renovated as a public performing arts center.

Summit/Greenfield Partners, the Connecticut joint-venture owners that paid $59 million for the 114-acre Reader’s Digest campus in Chappaqua in 2004, said the 13,000-square-foot Wallace Auditorium opened in 1986, the last building added to the 77-year-old landmark office campus developed by Reader’s Digest founders Dewitt and Lila A. Wallace.

The facility, used as a conference center by the former publishing giant, has been made available to other office tenants on the campus by Summit/Greenfield, which has used part of the building as a Chappaqua Crossing information center.

The auditorium was not included in redevelopment plans for the property approved by town officials after several years of contentious public hearings, delays and state and federal lawsuits brought by the developer against town officials. Rather than demolish the building, the developer offered to donate the auditorium to the town.

The New Castle Town Board voted to lease the building for $1 a year through Dec. 31, 2017, when the town will take title to the property.

Felix Charney, principal of Summit/Greenfield and president of Summit Development LLC in Southport, in March led a ceremonial groundbreaking for the 120,000-square-foot retail component of Chappaqua Crossing, which will include a 40,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market and 40,000-square-foot Life Time Fitness Center expected to open in 2017. Summit/Greenfield also will add 91 market-rate townhomes to be built near the hilltop auditorium and convert the iconic Cupola Building that served as Wallace headquarters into 28 affordable apartments, in addition to leasing 450,000 square feet of existing office space to medical and other tenants.

New Castle Town Supervisor Robert Greenstein in the developer’s announcement said the auditorium will be “an incredible asset for the town.” He cited the economic and cultural benefits that other performing arts centers have brought to neighboring communities such as Pleasantville, home to the Jacob Burns Film Center.

Charney in announcing the property donation said the auditorium’s renovation as a community theater “will be an appropriate use for the facility and will complement everything we are doing at Chappaqua Crossing. We are an important component of the town and we want the residents to feel welcome here. We also respect the many community traditions established by the Wallaces and we are pleased to play a part in continuing them.”

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About the author

John Golden
The Business Journal’s senior writer, John Golden directs news coverage of the county and Hudson Valley region as Westchester bureau chief. He was an award-winning upstate columnist and feature writer before joining the Business Journal in 2007. He is the author of “Northern Drift: Sketches on the New York Frontier,” a collection of his regional journalism.

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