A cherished building that served as the centerpiece of the Reader’s Digest headquarters is getting a second life as mixed-income housing in Chappaqua, N.Y.
Wilder Balter Partners and Housing Action Council are developing 64 apartments in the iconic Cupola Building, 38 of which will be affordable housing. Constructed in 1939, the four-story brick building is a familiar sight to travelers making their way through Westchester County by rail or car.
“It was an opportunity to take an iconic building, a beautifully constructed building, that had been unused for a while and turn it into housing,” says William Balter, president of Wilder Balter.
The adaptive reuse of the Cupola Building also benefits the larger community by bringing back a structure that had sat empty for approximately 12 years.
Construction of the development, which is a key component of the redevelopment of what was once the sprawling 114-acre Reader’s Digest campus, is expected to be completed around the end of the year.
Renamed Chappaqua Crossing, the overall site is being transformed with 500,000 square feet of office space and 120,000 square feet of retail anchored by Whole Foods. In addition, another development will feature 91 luxury townhomes.
Chappaqua Crossing Apartments is one of the first pieces of the larger redevelopment. It will provide six apartments for families earning no more than 40% of the area median income (AMI), 22 units at 60% of the AMI, and 10 units at 90% of the AMI, which are also referred to as the workforce housing units required by the town of New Castle in the hamlet of Chappaqua. There are also 25 market-rate apartments.
“The local zoning initially called for 20 affordable apartments, and we had proposed to build them in the top two floors of the four-story building,” says James Wendling, development manager. “However, we worked with the local boards and seller to come up with a better end result for the redevelopment of both the Cupola Building and the entire site. This led to more units available to households at various income levels, as well as a market-rate component, spread throughout the entire building.”
Unlike a new construction apartment project that may have just two or three different layouts, Chappaqua Crossing Apartments has about 55 unique layouts for the 64 apartments, he says.
The affordable apartments are distributed throughout the building, and all residents will share the same common amenities, including a fitness center, a yoga studio, and a social room and a wood-paneled library preserved from the Reader’s Digest days.
In addition to enjoying the area’s abundant open space and walking trails, families will be adjacent to the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center, which will host performances and community programs.
To underwrite the $21.2 million mixed-income project, the development team worked closely with its financial partners, who must carefully evaluate the market risk, says Kathleen Rubin Nash, vice president. In this case, the property’s desirable location and unique nature made a strong argument for the apartments at the different income levels.
The area median income of Westchester County at more than $111,000 is the highest in New York state and among the highest in the nation suggesting that significant demand for an affordable housing alternative exists, and the prime location in the hamlet of Chappaqua with high-quality public schools and proximity to New York City makes it appealing to market-rate renters, creating a unique opportunity to knit together a mixed-income community, say developers.
State and federal 4% low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) raised more than $5.4 million in financing for the project. First Sterling syndicated the LIHTCs, and Citi Community Capital is the construction and permanent lender. The New York State Housing Finance Agency and Westchester County also provided key funding.