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GGP plans ‘right-sized’ mall to enhance, not compete with, SoNo

NORWALK, Conn. – The brains behind the effort to put a mall in South Norwalk have been shopping their concept around, emphasizing ideas to encourage pedestrians to come in and go out and predicting that they can bring a million people a month to the struggling area.

Imagine, said Doug Adams of General Growth Properties (GGP), if just 5 percent of those people spilled out of the unfortress-like structure and visited the nearby Stepping Stones Museum for Children, the Maritime Aquarium or SoNo.

“That is just me saying 5 percent,” Adams said. “Do I think more than that? Yeah. I think the district is more than interesting enough to attract a meaningful number of people to go wandering outside the doors.”

Don’t think Stamford when you think of the mall that would go into the 95/7 site, at the corner of West Avenue and Interstate 95, said state Rep. Larry Cafero, GGP’s attorney.  Norwalk’s mall would be 700,000 square feet, as opposed to the 800,000 square feet in the Stamford Town Center. It would be designed with store fronts along West Avenue and North Water Street, each with their own point of entry. This is no fortress-like the mall you see in Trumbull, either, he said.

“I hate the word ‘mall’ because it conjures those images. It’s a retail center, but it’s one that is interactive with the rest of the district,” Cafero said.

GGP’s concept, a response to community input, according to Adams, is to exploit and encourage the unique assets of the area, the proximity to the South Norwalk train station and the obvious pedestrian routes. There will be trolley-like buses running around and there might even be a water taxi, they said. Part of the mall’s interior would be designed to encourage customers to visit the nearby attractions and maybe kiosks where local restaurateurs could offer samples. Public plazas along West Avenue would encourage passing pedestrians to stop and look, and the interesting store fronts would draw people to the furthest end, a short distance from Mathews Park.

Again, Adams says he’s spoken to a lot of people. That includes just about every elected official, zoning commissioners and local business people.

“Probably the single thing we heard the most was creating this visibility and transparency of the building. Not this fortress but something you could look into and see out of. So the people who are on the street, or walking or on the highway, will be able to see in and see activity and want to get out. Likewise, the people who are in the building will be able to see out and see the things going on there and will be able to go outside the building,” Adams said, pointing to all the glass depicted in the artist’s rendering of the concept.

It would feature five levels, with one level underground. Parking would be on that level and on the main level, behind the store fronts. Since the 11-acre property is divided by North Water Street, the building would go over the five lanes of road there, providing a connectivity via grand staircases on either side.

The mall’s main entrance would be on North Water Street.

“We would have two or three anchors and we have moved them towards the railroad tracks,” Adams said. “This allows us to create this curved façade which has the smaller retail, usually 75 to 100 small shops, to create transparency along the road.”

But it would be created to fit into the area. The steeple at the neighboring church is 75 feet high. The structures that are currently designed to jut out of the front of the mall – referred to as “jewel boxes” by the architect – are just at that height. The top of the building is planned to be 98 feet, but it’s glass above those box-like structures, so it looks smaller.

The mall would go into the site where a mixed-use development, 95/7, was expected to be built. That would have been 200 feet tall, Cafero said. This plan is part of being “right-sized,” Adams said.

No one is saying what the anchors might be; Cafero said he has learned that would kill the deal. But Adams said GGP deals with just about every retailer in the nation. Use your imagination.

“We see this as an upscale or higher-end department store center, so those are the type of tenants we are building this for and also talking to,” Adams said.

You want to talk money? It’s an OMG.

If, as Cafero expects, the building plans are submitted by the end of the year, construction would likely begin in mid-2015. That would mean $4.7 million in building permit fees to Norwalk for Fiscal Year 15.

Property taxes would come later.

“This is an enterprise zone,” Cafero said. “As such, the real estate property taxes phase in. The first two years there are none. Then it phases in, fully phased in in the seventh year. Even forgetting real estate taxes, from year one, about $700,000 a year just in personal property taxes. At the end of seven years they’ll be paying about $4.5 million a year in real estate property tax. That will be the second largest taxpayer in Norwalk, the first being CL&P. That’s how big this project is. … By 2025 you’re looking a $5.5 million a year.”

Property taxes at present are about $180,000 a year, he said. The state would also gain, he said, with about $21 million a year expected in sales tax and a one-time influx of $33.8 million during construction.

Jobs are also part of the sales pitch. The mall would create a little less than 2,500 permanent jobs, about 2,200 of them based in the mall itself. The minimum salary, with benefits, would be $28,000 a year. The maximum is into six figures.

There would be a job training program as the mall approaches opening to prepare the locals and teach them job skills, Adams said. GGP has done this at its other locations, he said.

About that expected one million people: “That’s from our research across our portfolio and cross referencing it with our consultants in terms of traffic and parking. We think it ranges up to 15 million, but all of our numbers are trying to be conservative,” Adams said.

Mayor Harry Rilling is skeptical of the claim, but open to the idea of a mall in spite of what he said before the election.

“I was, during the campaign, very much against a mall because I was not convinced that that was the highest and best use for that piece of property,” Rilling said. “We need to be extremely diligent and careful in what we put there because it’s going to be there for generations to come. That’s a very, very desirable piece of property.

“Now,having said that, I was against the mall and I’m still not totally convinced that that’s what should be there,” he said, “but I will say that GGP has been very responsive to everything that I have asked for and talked about. They understand my concerns and they understand the concerns of other elected officials and appointed officials. They are doing everything they can to make this move forward in a way that is a proper fit for Norwalk. We still have a ways to go.”

Rilling sounded a note of caution, saying the city’s fragile commercial centers, undergoing their own revivals, must be protected.

“My main concern is the South Norwalk and Wall Street areas. I want to make sure that we don’t have a stand-alone retail outlet in the middle of two inner city areas that are struggling for survival and for an identity, and have a situation where people drive onto 95, get off, do their shopping, get a bite to eat (in the mall) and get back onto 95 and drive home.”

That is not what Adams and Cafero are talking about, they said.

“Part of this retail center is dedicated to selling Norwalk,” Cafero said.

This is not a done deal, he said.

We’re talking to a lot of people because this is a concept,” Cafero said. “It is not a ‘Here it is, take it or leave it.’ We want to hear from people in the community, especially in this community. We are putting a rather big structure and a unique and hopefully beneficial use in here. We want to hear what the people who live near here, work near here have to say about it. Maybe they have some ideas.”

“The bottom line is this: They own the property,” Rilling said. “If they don’t get the changes that they need to the LDA (Land Disposition Agreement) or don’t get an approval to change the LDA, that property could sit another 10 or 15 years and be like it is now. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the reality of the fact, and I think what we have to do is try to work with them and try to get the best fit we can for Norwalk, so what goes there is the best fit for Norwalk and it doesn’t kill South Norwalk and Norwalk but it fits in and we kind of all can live together.

“I will say that when I saw the design I was somewhat pleased,” he said. “It has character, but I am still worried about what it going to happen to South Norwalk and Norwalk. I can’t get my arms around that.”

34 comments

Don't Panic June 12, 2014 at 7:13 am

So a mall like you’d find in West Hollywood. Upscale stores like Westport in Sono. Parking is a nightmare as it is. The mall will provide training for the “job skills needed” to earn $28k per year. We have empty store fronts all over the city and now we are talking about adding more. Has anybody discussed the additional drain on resources? The power grid, water supply, waste disposal? Will Norwalk benefit from these jobs or will we be importing them from other towns? Is glass box construction smart given the increasing frequency and force of storms like hurricanes and snow superstorms? Can we evacuate this area in an emergency? What is the contingency plan if the mall languishes with 40% occupancy for the next 20 years?

anon June 12, 2014 at 8:14 am

@Don’t Panic, and your point is?

What could be built on 95/7 and not tap into power grid, waste disposal, water supply, emergency evacuation plan?

40% occupancy rate, so GGP didn’t review before paying $35 million?

Meanwhile, Norwalk has a 100% vacancy rate at 95/7.

Suzanne June 12, 2014 at 8:15 am

Ditto to “Don’t Panic.” A white elephant waiting to happen AND an opportunity to suck what’s left of the life out of the remaining businesses in SONO and downtown.
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Now I know why some earlier comments here were not pleased at the idea of a mall: this does exactly as feared.
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I would like to know where all of this pedestrian traffic is coming from: surely this developer does not believe their own numbers and are appealing to automobile access primarily.
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This design concept illustration also is clearly appealing to a demographic that is not Norwalk. The consultant brought in to talk about contextualizing a concept to the community and architecture has clearly been ignored.
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Even Stamford recognized the need for pleasant exterior spaces and, yet, this is a gussied-up, internalized structure that is the kind losing so much money across the country.
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Once again, the developer takes the lead and people see dollar signs: Mr. Cafero certainly does and, of course, the developer whose main job is to make money.
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I’m not against making money but I am against further development that does not consider who and what Norwalk is as a diverse community.
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Glass or no, this monolith turns its back on who we are – as a voter I am sure I will get little say in it but as a citizen, I object.

Suzanne June 12, 2014 at 8:31 am

anon – a 21st century development would have plans in place that take into consideration alternative energy resources including self-generation, recycling on site engineering, LEED status for minimal use of wasteful resources requiring excessive shipping/transportation, the dreaded for Norwalk alternative vehicular access as in bicycles transport and public buses, and, yes, every structure would need an emergency evacuation plan. How successful that would be given the amount of glass at the main entry/exit of the structure? I guess all those anticipated thousands of people would be piled out of the one story single entry small shops at street level or, of course this is all just speculation, left in a traffic jam in the parking lot.

Steve M June 12, 2014 at 8:42 am

I guess I’ll keep an “open mind” for now. The negatives are there though:
* Norwalk is made up of largely small businesses, which will almost certainly suffer from the presence of a mall that has it all. When was the last time you went to Stamford Town Center and “spilled out” to a local business. Right, you got back in your car, got back on I-95 and got out of town as quick as you could. There is no benefit to the rest of Norwalk from a mall with easy on-off interstate access. Any smart businessperson knows that you should entice your customers to hunt out what they’re looking for, and pass by impulse items in the process. Just ask Stew!

*If/when this mall fails due to high rents, and unsustainable anchors, we’ll have another tax delinquent, and local stores will have been put out of business. Look at how many big names have come and gone from STC.

* What anchor stores would the developers see as tenants? Sorry, but I just can’t envision, “Bergdorf Goodman- New York- Paris-Hong Kong-Norwalk.

* We already have a mall- It’s called Connecticut Avenue

* Need we discuss the traffic implications? Are the current modifications to Exit 15 access going to accomodate the increased flow of cars? If northbound traffic is viewed as the consumer base, why wouldn’t they have stopped in Stamford on the way?

I do think that with proper planning, forethought, and execution for the long-term, that this can be a good idea, but the premise of “if you build it, they will come”, is outdated. If you build it like every other place people have been, why would they come?

Haley June 12, 2014 at 9:10 am

I don’t believe that mall will enhance established businesses for a minute. Somebody should do a study to see if the Danbury Mall generates traffic to the Scoot-Fanton Museum or the military vehicle museum or the skating rink or musical events at the Ives Center. I believe the answer will be NO. There are shuttered businesses in SoNo — way too many. And do we really need more cars on our already congested roads? I know the design is conceptual, but it’s an eyesore.

LWitherspoon June 12, 2014 at 9:32 am

Candidate Rilling: “very much against a mall”
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Mayor Rilling: “It’s private property … don’t want it to sit vacant … so let’s actively help GGP develop a mall on 95/7.”
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The mother of all flip-flops!

piberman June 12, 2014 at 9:41 am

City officials haven’t learned from the Big Box boondoggle that destroyed many of our local businesses run by local residents, created horrendous traffic congestion, devalued neighboring properties, created low income jobs and provided only modest tax revenues.

Even a child could anticipate the consequences of a downtown mall – truly horrendous traffic congestion, destroying hopes of reviving SoNo and downtown Norwalk and creating even more vacant properties throughout the City.

Mayor Rilling wonders what to do with the “big hole”. Hiring a competent experienced redevelopment specialist would be a starter. The target should be high valued added corporate structures with the high paying jobs that would lift up Norwalk. Not pull it down.

The Mall if built might well become “Rillings Folly”. Surely the Mayor can see the overall picture. Or lets hope so. The lack of enthusiasm speaks for itself. At least from local residents.

Tim D June 12, 2014 at 11:52 am

@Suzanne, @PIberman, @Haley, @LWitherspoon – you guys are so right. What happens when the initial excitement dies down -and that’s inevitable- and the property taxes start to ramp up and the stores begin to struggle, as they assume that increase? Makes me think of the infamous Pathmark/Norwalk Mall with dollar stores and costume rentals. Granted this place looks appealing it’s not what Norwalk needs in that area.

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What about crime? Likely to increase through loitering. You had a woman shot at Stop & Shop buying groceries.

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Mayor Rilling – imagine any number of corporations housed there? With well paid jobs and money to spend. Imagine the office workers visiting – via foot paths – Sono for lunch? Dinners? Quick errands etc etc,. That should be the vision for 95/7. Not a mall that you have already said doesn’t fit the bill.

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Stamford has had a hole in the ground for ages and it hasn’t hurt them yet. Think it through. This is not the right choice.

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NON – how about a poll on who would actually go to that mall? I haven’t been in a mall in ages. TJ Maxx works fine!

Michael McGuire June 12, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Having a regional state-of-the-art retail draw here is good for Norwalk and the region. Clearly this development would increase the Grand List, a good thing, and create lots of jobs, also a good thing. While the jobs may not be the ideal, hi-tech, professional jobs we would all like to see they do provide a sound base to grow upon (more on this below).

To say that 95/7 would not create added interest in the nearby areas (Wall Street and SoNo) by other retailers is simply not the case. Consider that the average rent in 95/7 would be north of $40/SF on average (not considering the anchors). How about all those other retailers that would like to be exposed to that draw element but yet cannot afford $40/SF. The key is marketing- don’t view 95/7 as a stand-alone property, view it as a draw to Norwalk Center. A simple circulator trolley-bus connecting 95/7 to Washington Street and Wall Street creates a unique regional retail destination with very defined shopping areas – upscale (95/7), cool entertainment/dinning (SoNo), and for Wall Street…my thoughts are that Wall Street could become a major draw for home furnishings given the large floorplates that now stand empty (well over 100,000 SF in three locations).

Norwalk already has a very good sub-market that caters to home furnishing and design. Most of these type of tenants could not locate in 95/7 but they sure would like to be nearby. Downtown already has a major draw retailers for home furnishings in Lillian August and the CT Design Center. Capitalize on this – similar retailers like to cluster together.

SoNo could be enhanced by embracing post shopping entertainment. SoNo now has no draw or anchor tenant the drives demand other than the aquarium and bars. Accordingly, SoNo has trouble standing on its own two feet, but SoNo as is would be a great complement to 95/7 and needs that type of anchor. How about Wall Street’s home furnishing retailers driving demand for SoNo’s design studios? Possible.

Finally – Jobs. With a major draw like 95/7 pulling in loads of shoppers with spillover into a revitalized SoNo and Wall Street I believe we will see an influx of professional business into the area. Why, because job creation in the Northeast is largely driven by small business creation. I can’t think of better small business location in Fairfield County than a revitalized SoNo and Wall Street – arguably the coolest places architecturally in Southwestern Fairfield County. Don’t think so – go to YouTube and type in “64 Wall Street, Norwalk” and see what’s happening here.

Did you know that downtown Norwalk, or that area bounded by Rt. 7 to the west, Rt. 1 to the north, the Norwalk River to the east and I-95 to the south has approximately 600,000 SF of office space, that’s roughly equivalent to two (2) Merritt Seven office buildings and its some of the lowest cost office space in Fairfield County. It’s already the “heart and soul” of small business in Fairfield County. With 95/7 the catalyst for a revitalized SoNo and Wall Street what small company would not want to locate in this area?

Norwalk – wake up! Think out-side the box, your time has finally come. Embrace 95/7 as the change agent to capitalize on what is already here. There is no other use for 95/7 that even comes close to making sense.

rburnett June 12, 2014 at 2:00 pm

PBerman: Wake up please – you are so blind that you do not realize GGP OWNS the property. If they do not get a change to the development plans, that hole sits like that for many more years. Would you rather have that? Right now, they have the leverage and you can opine all you want with your rhetoric that as usual, ignores the facts. Of course why would you let facts get in the way.

peter parker June 12, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Well Mr. Mayor, there you go again! This is exactly the type of retail you campaigned against. Now you think it looks good and has possibilities? Will you keep one single promise you made during your campaign? It’s beginning to look like you’ll be a one term Mayor. Many people would love to see revenue producing retail and office space in the city, but it must be planned wisely. We don’t need this monster of a mall it’s a mistake. BJ’s was a bad idea, but this project could almost make a BJ’s look good if that’s possible. There are so many other possibilities. That property should be developed in keeping with the historic persona of this city. You want smart development, take in the view and the cue, it’s what savvy Westport knew how to do.
https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=westport+ct+main+street+picture

srb June 12, 2014 at 2:57 pm

I’d like to see an suburban mall that is well integrated into the neighborhood. Trumbull, Danbury and Stamford aren’t necessarily fair comparisons since they weren’t built to reachout into the neighboring community. Horton Plaza in San Diego was one of the first urban open malls and I think its’ been relatively effective in integrating with other uses, the nearby gaslamp area was built up afterward and has done well, but that is a much denser population than around 95/7. Similarly the metro station shopping areas of montreal are effective. I’d like to see the market research GCP has done since its primarily their dollars involved. Hate to see the area simply become access to and from the highway and undermining local business a la Atlantic City casino

Suzanne June 12, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Mr. McGuire, when I say the words, “change agent” and catalyst, I knew your message was doomed to nineties development hyperbole. Steve above has a good question, “If you build it like every other place people have been, why would they come?” *
There is nothing in this concept drawing to recommend such a structure of such retail space to Norwalk. It may increase the “Grand List”, the particular religion so thoroughly adopted by this Town, and it may create jobs, pointed out by others that those jobs, at least in retail, will be low wage jobs for people who cannot afford to shop there.

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How does this monolith improve Norwalk really with its anchor stores and small shops, surely to be chain stores rather than local businesses? How does it really improve SoNo? Your idea that it will draw business rather than take it away is a pipe dream at best. (Unless you can show clear, factual trends of this occurrence with other developments like it in the Northeast.)

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The structure itself is offensive: the kind of large, self-enclosed building collection that loves to lose money in this country. Where are the communal spaces indoors and out that would engage the public?

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Wake up and smell the automobile fumes – where are all these pedestrians coming from so optimistically predicted by the developer? Certainly not from the surrounding neighborhoods. This development, so visible from I-95, then, isn’t for Norwalk but for the passersby that wants to imbibe in the stores they find everywhere, reinforcing the McDonald’s syndrome.
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While your enthusiasm is evident, I cannot share it. The last thing Norwalk needs is an energy intensive, waste producing, automobile oriented version of the big box dressed up in glass. Think outside the box? How would that be since that is what this development is. It makes no sense.
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The fact there is a developer with deep pockets? GGP may own the property now but didn’t another developer own this important bit of real estate before? Just because GGP may have deeper pockets doesn’t mean Norwalk must sell itself short or out.
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Knowing how the developer is loved here by the City government at all costs to the public, I don’t expect a single consideration will be given to the constituency, the last considered when it comes to development in their town.

Bill June 12, 2014 at 4:14 pm

I love how Rilling says the property is “highly desirable”, and yet in the same sentence mentions that it has languished undeveloped for 10 years. We need this high end mall to fund our schools.

Don't Panic June 12, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Don’t see how it will fund schools when it is scheduled not to pay any taxes for a while.
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And again I ask: What is the plan if the throngs don’t materialize and/or the occupancy rate isn’t what the developers hope for? Will we have a expensive building full of pop up seasonal Halloween shops, tax preparers and fast food joints trying to lure NCC extension services and medical clinics to fill the gap?
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I am curious if the owners of Sono Marketplace have any concerns about this development.

Kevin Di Mauro June 12, 2014 at 5:52 pm

I think this is a fantastic concept that would really put Norwalk CT on the map.
Although I was initially turned off by the term “mall”, the article also mentions the term “jewel-boxes” which in my mind could make little Norwalk CT the Rodeo Drive of New England.

Suzanne June 12, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Please. I know Rodeo Drive very well. Don’t delude yourself and please consider the entire community of Norwalk when considering this development.
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Norwalk is diverse with every demographic represented and this place would be put up in a neighborhood that is unlikely to be able to shop there. It is a shame that anyone would think this same old, same old type of mall development would appeal to all of Norwalk much less make the money for education, our Grand List or anything else, especially considering the tax structure.
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I would advise everyone on this thread that is so pro this glassed in big box to do their research: such malls are losing money all across the country even as the economy seems to be improving. It’s a short ride to Stamford to take advantage of the same (but better designed if this concept is any indication) scenario as well as Danbury. Again, for the number of people who live in Norwalk who could afford to shop there.
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The last thing we need is expensive, Rodeo Drive like stores. No theaters, no grocery, no communal activities as described are included in this design, all elements that were strongly suggested by both the consultant brought into speak and by community members. I noticed that the developer mentioned speaking to everyone BUT the surrounding community.
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“Jewel Boxes”, BTW, is not an uncommon architectural term: they know how to sell a design to an unsuspecting community just like everyone else.

EveT June 12, 2014 at 10:30 pm

@Kevin DiMauro, If you want to see Rodeo Drive in New England, just go over to Westport Main Street or drive a little further to Greenwich Avenue.

Suzanne June 13, 2014 at 12:34 am

“…emphasizing ideas to encourage pedestrians to come in and go out and predicting that they can bring a million people a month to the struggling area.”
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Somebody at GGP please show us the data collected across your existing portfolio and from the consultants you spoke with where the number, one million per month in visitors, to this Mall development area comes from.
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That would put our downsized exclusive Norwalk Mall visitor numbers a bit under the attendance at Disneyland, the second most popular theme park in the country and more than Epcot Center, 3rd most popular theme park in the United States. (2009 data from Themed Entertainment Assn. and AECOM Economics.) This prediction seems more than unlikely.
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Also, have any traffic studies been done that consider the impact of this many people suddenly descending?

pirates make landfall June 13, 2014 at 2:47 am

“No one is saying what the anchors might be; Cafero said he has learned that would kill the deal.” Really? Why is that Larry? A Gucci secret or is it Pravada?

Be very careful Norwalk, that 5 million dollar carrot is going to end up costing Norwalk dearly. It’s without doubt a make or break moment for Norwalk’s future.

“We want to hear from people in the community, especially in this community.” OK, hear this; besides the subliminal “end of the rainbow” grand list, how does a concept like this one serve Norwalk and Norwalkers?

“The minimum salary, with benefits, would be $28,000 a year.” Wanna break that 28g’s down for us?

“The maximum is into six figures.” Say what? Who makes a $100,000 dollars working in a retail facility?

10 stories of glass? What no helicopter pad for those elites dropping in to spend spend spend all that pension fund money gleamed from wall street accounts?

Norwalk, your more than likely being swindled, yet again. Pay attention, this is important.


Check out all the foot traffic at this popular Prada.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULREam7sKOw

EDR June 13, 2014 at 6:44 am

Obviously folks are entitled to their opinions. I am curious what folks want developed there as an alternative? Nothing was even mentioned as an alternative.

Don't Panic June 13, 2014 at 8:25 am

Ahhhh, it was only a matter of time before someone broke out the old “if you don’t like it, then come up with something better” argument.
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The onus is on the people proposing changes to support their case. .
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How about if a major pork product food processor came and proposed an indusrial hog farm for that spot and it was going to bring in twice as many jobs and tax revenue as this mall? Would the people objecting to the smells, pollution, water usage and generally poor fit inthis area be obliged to “come up with a better idea” for you to know that it is a, pardon the pun’ stinker?
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No. There were tons of alternatives proposed for BJs but if you don’t come in waving development money around this city has no interest in proactively planning for and courting the best use for any parcel. We have not tried.

LWitherspoon June 13, 2014 at 9:56 am

@Suzanne
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I share your interest in statistics from other GGP properties in comparable areas. 1 million visitors per month does seem like a big number. Across 30 days it would be about 33,000 visitors per day. Presumably there would be a lot more patrons on weekends and a lot fewer on weekdays. But let’s assume the visits are spread evenly throughout every day of the week. If the mall is open for 12 hours per day and the average visit is 2 hours there would be something like 5500 people inside at any given time.

Suzanne June 13, 2014 at 12:22 pm

L Witherspoon, Thanks for the math. I hadn’t got that far. I did check out the GGP Web site, however, and would like to know the number of visitors in similar urban scenarios and the number of visits they actually receive each month and, as you have broken it down, by month and by day. Each existing Mall developed by GGP, by the way, is practically identical with a bit of architectural tweaking making the Norwalk concept no different than Danbury, Stamford, Waterbury, etc.

Michael McGuire June 13, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Nationally the average vacancy rate for Class A Malls (well located high quality) is 2 percent while Class C Malls (older malls in inferior locations) is 8 percent. Looking geographically the overall vacancy rate for all Malls in the northeast is ~ 2.5 percent. The southern US has the highest overall vacancy rate at ~ 15.5 percent. Healthy retail markets will often have a 5 percent vacancy rate. Stamford Mall is now at full occupancy; Trumbull mall is at 1.2 percent vacancy and Danbury mall is at 1.3 percent vacancy.

I would expect the 95/7 mall to do very well given the very low retail square footage per capita we have here in SW Fairfield County compared to national average. By comparison the south has the highest square footage per capita. Given the very high barriers to entry in the Northeast we don’t have to worry about overbuilding retail.

Furthermore, the people at GGP are smart enough to know that if Norwalk overall benefits from their development GGP will also benefit. Therefore, it’s in GGP’s best interest to make the best mall feasibly possible drawing from the latest thinking. The first mall opened in 1956 in Edina, MN. We’ve had 58 years to fine tune the model and learn what works best.

Based on my 30 + years of experience in this field I strongly believe that if well designed and correctly linked into its surroundings 95/7 will benefit Norwalk as outlined in my earlier comments note above. Our focus should be on those issues.

Suzanne June 13, 2014 at 10:06 pm

Mr. McGuire, where does the Internet and its effect on the changing retail landscape come into your statistics?
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As others have mentioned, how does one live on the great jobs being offered by GGP’s development at $28,000 per year? Have you tried to live on this small income in this part of the world lately? Have you ever?
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The malls that become relics and are retro-fitted must have a “hook” in order to be successful. Just one example of this is mentioned in the article I will attach.
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While you have had a great deal of experience, if I have found your WEB site, in development and real estate (which makes me wonder, I am sorry to say, about your enthusiasm about this particular Mall development), where is the expertise in urban planning, contextualizing a development to an existing community?
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While you may have statistics regarding occupancy rates and the success of GGP’s portfolio, this belies the existence of Norwalk as a widely diverse community. The GGP representative so excited about this concept drawing seems to have talked to everyone but the people who live in the community and who will not be able to shop there.
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In addition, do we really need another Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, Victoria Secret, Panera, Bertucci’s, Macy’s, JC Penneys, all stores which figure large in GGP developments? This is in the best interest of GGP, not Norwalk.
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Just how will this Mall island benefit the rest of the community? It is totally turned inward from the rest of Norwalk which, I guess is the reason for compensatory glass glowing all over the building.
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Retail space cheap for who? The stores I have mentioned? Certainly not local businesses.
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Where are the traffic studies for the extremely optimistic number of monthly visitors quoted above? Why is there an additional trolley service planned when so many cars will already be on the road visiting this place?

While I respect you have 30+ years of experience in your field, you are clearly allied in that experience with GGP and not Norwalk. I am not against profit and I am not against Malls. What I am against is THIS mall in THIS community. It short changes the citizens in every way by offering exactly what GGP is good at but what is not good for Norwalk.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/a-dying-breed-the-american-shopping-mall/ The American Shopping Mall and its Decline 3/3/14 Mentions “the hook” that made one declining Mall successful. (Hint: it is not the stores that have left that everyone has, it is in the appeal to the surrounding community.)

http://www.deadmalls.com/stories.html Don’t let the title of this site turn you off. Check the state of CT and you will find some very literate explanations as to why once thriving malls in CT (as well as the rest of the US) are now “dead.” It didn’t take all that long for these once fabulous places to become vacant.

David June 15, 2014 at 10:10 am

@EDR: Well put. The “get off my lawn” crowd is very vocal in this city. They want to do nothing, go back to the “good old days”. They would prefer to see a hole in the ground over development. Stagnation over progress. A mall will hurt local business? Competition tends to “shake the trees” that way.

srb June 15, 2014 at 10:49 am

Given the enormous subsidies provided for 95/7 this is hardly an even playing field. Between zoning variances, infrastructure improvements and tax abatements Norwalk and the local businesses have an enormous interest in this project. To sell it as if it simply creative destruction is a falsehood. Regardless of what goes in, there is no guarantee that the project will be helpful

Suzanne June 15, 2014 at 12:02 pm

I drove around Norwalk yesterday and even my husband said, “Norwalk is ordinary. Nothing special is what they will get because that is what Norwalk is. Nothing special.” (I am paraphrasing, but you get the idea.) So, same old is what people want and same old is what we will get. Moneyed influence and lousy development is everywhere, very much here. No one wants to think ahead and certainly no one wants to think about the community here and develop wisely. Money talks, people listen, what is inappropriate or not does not matter. A mall for this place is probably the right fit given what Norwalk is: just like every other Walmart/McDonald’s landed community that lost its identity a long time ago. Money is great, $28,000 per year jobs are great, a big glassed in box with glassed in commerce (“jewels” I believe the term used was) at street level for not pedestrians but the many, many cars which will wiz by because of I-95 visibility and great billboard signage. Yay! I will make sure to avoid all of it as is my perhaps self-righteous right. It is hard because I have seen what good and wise development,especially malls, looks like but the ordinary Norwalk has absolutely no interest in it. Development speaks, rabid government listens, let the mall wheel turn to its inevitable, ugly, ordinary conclusion.

Carol June 22, 2014 at 4:26 pm

is anyone familiar with the “GROVE’ in red bank n.j. -great mall as it is outside-not hidden in a jewel box-there are cafe’s with outside dinning,a healthy variety of stores with all price lines–very high,high,medium and low.
every time we are in red bank we go there-
I have not been to the stamford mall or any indoor mall in years and with the crime rate in malls(i know it can happen anyplace) i have no intention of going to this one.
bring on a grove type mall,if a mall is what we are going to end up with.

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