CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – Longtime New Castle resident and architect Chuck Napoli presented his plan to transform the Hamlet of Chappaqua’s downtown to the Board of Education on Wednesday night and asked for its support in involving the field at Bell Middle School in the development.
Napoli’s concept consists of a shopping market, a state-of-the-art theater, 20 to 40 apartments and a European-style marketplace. The center of the plan — a 389-space parking lot and elevated athletic field — would be built on top of the middle school’s field, which is school district property.
“I’m here tonight to ask the school district for the gift of grass,” said Napoli. “The reuse of Bell field will powerfully return vitality to New Castle in many ways.”
Napoli said the development would benefit downtown through the trade-off of “putting parking on a field that currently isn’t used opens opportunities for the business district.”
In return for leasing its land, the school district would be “gifted” a new state-of-the-art professional-size soccer field, which would sit above the new parking lot.
The Board of Education had many questions about the potential partnership.
“What is the rush for this plan with a new Master Plan for the town currently on the way?” school board member Victoria Tipp asked. “Why is the town paying for a new Master Plan if they’re not going to use that as a set of guidelines? I’m puzzled — but curious at the same time.”
Tipp asked Napoli why he was intent on starting this project as soon as possible, rather than waiting for New Castle’s next Master Plan. He struggled to pinpoint an exact answer but suggested his plan was anything but rushed.
“I’m 70 years old and have been working on this concept since 1985, so I would like to begin as soon as possible” Napoli said. “It is an all-encompassing project that we have a unique opportunity to pursue and pull together right now.”
School board member Jeffrey Mester was intrigued by the plan’s potential.
“I think this is a creative, novel idea for the downtown area,” Mester said. “It gives us a new playable field, more parking and shared revenue. I think we’re getting good value in return for use of the field.”
School board member Karen Visser was less convinced. “The Bell field is one of our most valued assets. I’m not in favor of just handing it over.”
The school board was curious to learn more but was not ready to give Napoli a formal commitment.
“I think the next step would be to put more solid things on paper,” Assistant Superintendent John Chow said.
Mester agreed. "We need a specific plan."