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Proposed mall will be fully vetted before getting the green light

Managing Director at NorthMarq Capital

Managing Director at NorthMarq Capital

Ernie DesRochers is a former chairman of the Norwalk Zoning Commission and managing Director at NorthMarq Capital.

To the Editor:

Much progress has been made recently on the 95/7 regional mall development proposed by GGP for the Reed Putnam parcel along West Avenue in Norwalk.

The Ad-Hoc Committee, composed of members of the Common Council, the Redevelopment Agency, and Planning Commission who were tasked with evaluating the existing Land Disposition Agreement (LDA), has recommended changes to the LDA to the permitted uses and square footage that will allow for the proposed Concept Master Site Plan to move forward. Also, Nordstrom, a leading national fashion specialty retailer, recently committed to be one of two retail anchors for the center. What a great addition to the Norwalk business community and to the City as a whole!

While these are two important developments, they are only initial steps towards the full review, evaluation and approval of the GGP Mall. Ahead for the developer remains final approval of the amendment to the Land Disposition Agreement, modifications to the Urban Renewal Plan, a full review and evaluation by the Redevelopment Agency, including a required design review by a third-party reviewer, changes to the Building Zone Regulations of the City of Norwalk, and full Site Plan and Coastal Area Management approvals.

In addition to these, the GGP mall development will also require approvals from various other agencies including the Norwalk Department of Code Enforcement, Fire Department, Department of Public Works, Water Pollution Control Authority, and Health Department, State of Connecticut, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Office of the State Traffic Commission, just to name a few.

My experience as former Zoning Commission chairman is there will be several significant reports and studies required for these approvals. They are done as part of the overall process as an application makes its way through final approval. Reports are commissioned and reviewed once detailed plans are finalized by the developer and submitted as part of the application process. That has yet to occur. Reports will include a full traffic study, engineering and storm water management reports, and a coastal area management evaluation, just to name a few.

Rest assured, this development parcel, as with all large parcels that are proposed for development in Norwalk, will undergo a thorough vetting process to ensure that any and all issues are properly addressed.

As a taxpayer and supporter of the GGP proposal, I want to thank all of the Ad-Hoc Committee members for their efforts to date. I am also pleased that this proposal has large bi-partisan support and look forward to seeing the mall approved and built. A development like this certainly will help make Norwalk CT the destination for Fairfield County!

Ernie DesRochers

 

5 comments

John Hamlin March 11, 2015 at 7:15 am

The Norwalk way: why build this year what we could build in a decade or two? How long will 95/7 remain an open blighted field?

Bill March 11, 2015 at 1:00 pm

Bob Duff, where is our tax money from the state for this mall?

We are all looking at you on this.

Rod Lopez-Fabrega March 12, 2015 at 9:41 pm

It’s coming:

“Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) joined Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Norwalk’s legislative delegation today to announce that nearly $2 million is heading Norwalk’s way to support improvements to the Maritime Aquarium. The funding will be in the form of a state grant and is expected to be approved during a special meeting of the State Bond Commission on Tuesday, March 17.”

Mike Mushak March 15, 2015 at 10:10 am

Excellent letter. I agree with all the points made. I will join my friend Ernie DesRochers and thank the Ad-Hoc Committee for their intelligent deliberations and decision.

Malls are not dying that are in good locations and are well-managed. In fact, they are thriving. People all over the world and in all cultures love to shop, always have, always will, and some anthropologists even think the urge to shop is coded in our genes from the time we were swinging in trees and inspecting fruit for ripeness before picking it. We have a deep primal need for tactile sensation and social contact, which no website will ever provide.

I was lucky enough to go on a Caribbean cruise once, and after docking in port on St Thomas, I hopped in a taxi with friends and headed for a remote palm-shaded beach over the mountains, while most of the the ship’s passengers were disembarking to go shopping in the crowded town. I didn’t understand it but I respected it.

Shopping is entertainment and a social activity and a favorite pastime for many folks, and retail keeps entire economies afloat and children fed all around the world. It is far from “dying”.

There have been some comments made by a very small number of concerned citizens, describing the city and state officials on both sides of the aisle who have endorsed this project as not caring about traffic impacts. Nothing could be further from the truth. These are not uncaring individuals who made these endorsements, as their long records of dedicated public service clearly indicate.

As Mr. DesRochers explained, detailed traffic studies will be done. The developer needs to protect this large investment by making sure their tenants and customers are not stuck in gridlock, and is prepared to spend millions as they have said publicly to make sure gridlock is avoided.
In the end, we all know a very large project of some type will get built here, which will generate traffic.

Peak hours for retail mostly fall outside traditional “rush hours” when most local folks are commuting on the roads back and forth to work, and the surrounding streets were designed for heavy traffic from the very beginning.

We need to scrutinze this project carefully for sure, but so far all the positives, including 2,800 jobs, far outweigh the negatives including increased traffic which any kind of development will bring here.

And don’t forget about all those primal urges!

diane c2 March 15, 2015 at 2:13 pm

How’s this as a start for “fully vetting”? The Planning Committee and Redevelopment Agency (who met on Saturdays) plan a public forum on the joint recommendation, yet don’t publish the joint recommendation document. Then they schedule the forum without publicizing that they will be hearing public comment (it is buried in city website if you click enough times to get to the agenda).Presumably, they will present the recommendation and several minutes after they conclude, will invite public comment. Seriously? We are to digest, research and formulate comments in under 5 minutes? Can we even ask questions? Is it an open dialogue with Q&A or a 2-3 time limit comment period?

Then, without another joint committee meeting scheduled to actually discuss and research resident/taxpayer comments, they already plan a meeting 3 nights later to vote to advance the item to the full council. So they are just going through the motions of a public comment period.

This you call fully vetting? Never mind vetting a mall down the road – how about vetting whether we taxpayers want the LDA changed in the first place? How about that?

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