The site of the ballroom that launched a thousand marriages could provide many of those couples a place to live locally for active seniors entering retirement.
The owners of Colonial Terrace, congenial hosts to thousands of weddings, banquets, charitable events and other occasions at the Mansion off Oregon Road for more than 70 years, are selling the property to NRP Group, a major national developer who plans to build a 135-unit active-adult residential rental community to be located on the approximately 8.7-acre parcel.
For many local Peekskill and Cortlandt families, the stretch of Oregon Road starting at Colonial Terrace and bending up the slope to Assumption Cemetery contains the eternal memories of family celebrations, happy times and many years of wonderful lives, as well as a resting place for those family members who have passed.
“Living here my entire life, I’ve come to realize that no matter how comfortable or satisfied we may be with something, change is inevitable,” said Vinnie Vesce Sr., former Peekskill mayor and long-time Master of Ceremonies at the St. Patrick’s Parade dinner.
“Some of that change is good, and some not so good. Near the top of the list of ‘not so good change’ is no longer having the Colonial Terrace as the place to celebrate an important event or milestone. The Colonial Terrace has been a central part of the social and civic scene in the Peekskill/Cortlandt area for as long as I can remember,” Vesce said.
Colonial Terrace started as a family-owned business when Sheila Drogy and Jack Levitz’s parents Lillian and Oscar Levitz opened it as resort hotel in 1945, drawing many visitors from New York City. It soon became a catering and event hall and was continuously operated by the Levitz/Drogy families. Jack Levitz operated Colonial Terrace with Sheila for years and after his retirement, Sheila and her husband Alan Drogy took over as managers.
“Colonial Terrace has not only been a wonderful business serving our communities for over 70 years, but the Levitz/Drogy families have been part of our families,” said Deb Milone, President of the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce.
“They have catered so many special family and community events making all feel like they were part of their family. I thank the Levitz/Drogy family for all the wonderful memories of times we spent at what really was so much more than a catering hall, it was a community gathering place where ‘everyone really did know your name.’
“Best wishes to Alan and Sheila for their long overdue retirement and thanks for their support of the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber. You will be missed,” Milone said.
The NRP Group’s proposal for the active-senior rental apartment project is now before planning and zoning boards in Cortlandt, seeking various approvals, including site development plan, a special permit from the town board, and permits for tree removal and steep slope.
Last year a different developer, Oregon-based Hawthorn Devco, proposed a long-term seniors congregate-care project and spent money for attorneys and other professionals to create plans but withdrew that project when the pandemic struck, backing away from a deal to buy the property from the Drogys.
This new project has been well received so far in the community and by officials.
“The tree removal will change the character of the area and that’s something the planning board will be looking at,” said Chris Kehoe, Cortlandt Deputy Director of Planning. “There’s a little disappointment that a building such as that couldn’t be preserved, but it’s been on the market for a long time and the Drogys really tried to find someone to continue using it as a wedding facility.
“The planning board is going to be looking at the landscaping, parking, architectural treatments of the building, along with traffic. I think we’re going to look at those concerns and see about a traffic signal out there on Oregon Road,” Kehoe said.
The proposed project, named “Overlook Terrace,” would demolish the existing Colonial Terrace structure and accessory buildings. A new, three-story, 135-unit active adult residential rental community would be constructed. Dead and dying evergreen trees near Oregon Road will be removed and replaced.
Overlook Terrace will be age-restricted for active adults age 55 and older (for head of households). The project will contain approximately 96 one-bedroom and 39 two-bedroom units, together with approximately 146 onsite surface parking spaces. It will include amenities such as a community room, fitness space, on-site leasing, communal courtyards and walking paths. Half of the existing land will remain undeveloped.
“We will be fulfilling a significant demand because of a shortage of rental housing here in Northern Westchester for 55-plus adults,” said Myles Monaghan, a senior development associate with The NRP Group, the Cleveland-based developer of the project. “Retirees who want to sell their homes and move into a lower-overhead residence in an idyllic local setting will find this attractive.”
NRP builds luxury, affordable and workplace units. Pricing for Overlook Terrace hasn’t been determined yet, Monaghan said. The project is described as “all affordable units, serving individuals with mixed incomes,” according to the developer.
The Colonial Terrace property was listed at a price of $3.25 million. The property was also offered for sale in 2014 at the same price.
According to the developer, the taxes generated by the proposed project would total approximately $235,700. Approximately $67,000 would go to the town, county and special districts and $168,000 would go to the Lakeland school district.
NRP has developed several similar projects in Ohio and Pennsylvania and has projects in 15 states throughout the nation. It has two other projects in Westchester that are not age restricted, including a 303-unit luxury development of the former IBM headquarters at 1133 Westchester Avenue.
Since its founding in 1994, NRP has developed over 2,600 units of age-restricted senior housing in various communities throughout the US. Since 2011, NRP has developed for all ages more than 15,000 market rate units and more than 8,400 affordable and workforce housing units.
NRP is partnering on the Overlook Terrace project with the St. Katherine Group, a Port Chester-based real estate development company with operations in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Photographs of the Colonial Terrace facility from the current owners will be displayed within common areas of the proposed Overlook Terrace for future residents and guests to view.
While memories will be made in the new senior community, for local residents Colonial Terrace will always hold a prominent place in their hearts.
“Besides attending many weddings and other celebrations for my family and friends at the Colonial Terrace, I had the fortune and honor to be a part of literally hundreds of civic events over the years,” Vesce said.
“A few that stand out include the fundraiser and subsequent ‘Peekskill to Albany’ celebrations when George Pataki ran for and was elected Governor of New York, the 100th Anniversary Dinner of the Chamber of Commerce, the many Peekskill High School Hall of Honor dinners, galas for the Paramount, some earlier galas for Hudson Valley Hospital, and countless St Patrick’s Day Parade Installation Dinners.
“While this historic community venue may no longer be available to us, it will be a very long time before it is ever forgotten,” Vesce said.
“The owners of Colonial Terrace — the Drogy and Levitz families — always made our St. Patrick’s Dinners memorable, from seeking out classic Irish recipes to serving traditional Irish coffee at the end of the night,” said Bill Powers, Chairman Emeritus of the Peekskill St. Patrick’s Committee.
“At the Terrace, we also had the joy of installing Grand Marshals and aides, the honor of listening to Joe Brady on the bagpipes, and the opportunity to commemorate the lives of former Grand Marshals Jack Murphy, Pat Garvey and Jimmy Guinan in a meaningful way. We felt like we were as much a part of their family as they were of ours.”
The Drogy and Levitz families look back on many wonderful memories as they close the chapter on three generations of hosting local residents.
“I’ve lived in this community my entire life,” said Sheila Drogy, “and I appreciate all the people, all the parties and I am grateful for the opportunity of celebrating all of the special events of the individuals and communities. My gratitude can’t be expressed in mere words.”
Jim Roberts is a freelance business reporter based in Peekskill.