Norwalk political notes: GGP hoping for May approval

General Growth Properties (GGP) Senior Designer Paul Madden explains the latest design of The SoNo Collection during a town hall meeting Thursday in City Hall.

General Growth Properties (GGP) Senior Designer Paul Madden explains the latest design of The SoNo Collection during a town hall meeting Thursday in City Hall.

NORWALK, Conn. – Here’s what we have for you in political notes this Monday:

  • Zoning Commission on mall: ‘As many hearings as needed’
  • Historical Commission busy, busy
  • South Norwalk pastor appointed to Ethics Board

Adams: GGP on track to open The SoNo Collection in October 2018

It’s been awfully quiet on the Zoning front for General Growth Properties (GGP) and its application to build a mall in SoNo. If you’ll recall, the announced intention a few months back was to have the Commission hear the application in March and April.

There was a brief discussion in early March, but an April 7th meeting was cancelled, according to GGP Associate Developer Rob Jakubik.

Word came down that the Zoning Commission was holding a public hearing April 27 on the mall application, which seemed strange to NancyOnNorwalk – this is widely viewed as Norwalk’s biggest project ever but it hasn’t gone through numerous Plan Review Committee meetings, as other applications have, before going to a public hearing.

NoN asked Acting Planning and Zoning Director Mike Wrinn if he was confident the mall was getting the level of scrutiny it deserves. He said, in an email:

“As you note, this is a large project, not something that comes around very often, involving many different boards and agencies.

“We have scheduled 2 public hearing meetings exclusively for this project (April 27th and May 4th) and have reserved rooms for additional public hearing meetings as needed.  The full Commission will be the review body for this, given the amount of testimony expected, both from the applicants, consultants (theirs and ours) and the public.  The full Commission will hold as many hearings as needed to fully understand the project and the concerns of the public. At that point, the hearing will be closed.  They will then, again, hold as many meetings as they need to come to a determination on the project and then the Commission will vote on the matter.

“The Commission has been forwarded all of the application, as revised, as it has come in. They will be able to ask any and all questions of the applicant and their consultants in the public forum. I have no doubt that that by the time the hearing is closed, the Commission will have given this project as much scrutiny as any project in the past.

“The revisions are many; some of which are small and others more significant, from exterior design to lane width, to interior layout and directional signage in the parking garage, to the language of the zoning amendment.”

 GGP Senior Planner Doug Adams on Wednesday said that the original hope, way back when, was to get through Zoning by the end of 2015.

“We have been talking that if we can get through the Zoning approvals in May, as expected, that would put us through the state and all appeal periods by August, and we can get in the ground,” Adams said.

That’s right, a groundbreaking in August.

Attorney Larry Cafero has said that malls need to open in April or October; Adams said GGP is on track to open in October, 2018.


Historical Commission rolling along

It’s not enough that the Historical Commission has the Norwalk Museum open in its new location, adjacent to City Hall in the Lockwood House, and that work to make Mill Hill a complete park is progressing.

“We’ve also just been awarded a $650,000 grant for site improvements around the old Barn and Jail on Smith Street at Mill Hill, and that work will start hopefully by fall; next spring at the latest,” Norwalk Historical Commission Chairman David Westmoreland said in an email. “Jail exterior renovations are done, and now we are beginning on the interior, where we are planning two exhibits, opening late 2017 or early 2018, just depending upon construction. The first floor, where the jail cells are, will be ‘Famous Prisoners of Norwalk,’ and the second floor will be an extensive exhibit about the Norwalk Pottery Industry.”

He continued, “At the new Museum, the Council will approve at the next meeting, the contract award to begin rebuilding the exterior ADA access, which will include the construction of a new public garden space in the rear of the building, terrace, basement waterproofing, sidewalks, etc., among other things. Hopefully, we will finish installing the new kitchen and the a/v system for the conference room before the end of the year as well. We plan to rent out the Museum conference room, and the museum space itself, for parties, as well as the Town House for meetings and lectures, in addition to using it all for our own programs. We are also redoing our website and rolling out our new branding and logo.”


The Rev. Henry Floyd appointed to Ethics Board

The Rev. Henry Floyd, founder and pastor of New Jerusalem Baptist Church, was appointed to the Board of Ethics on Tuesday by the Common Council.

This required 11 votes, but no problem – the vote was unanimous.

“I’ve known Rev. Floyd for quite some time. He’s always been a man of integrity, a man of honesty and a man who always has opened doors,” said Councilman Travis Simms (D-District B).

“I know him for his great work in the community. He is an outstanding man and I think he’ll be great on the ethics board,” Councilwoman Faye Bowman (D-District B) said.

Mayor Harry Rilling agreed, calling Floyd, “Just really a great guy and a wonderful addition to the ethics board.”

Council President Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) said the position on the politically balanced board required a Democrat, and Floyd fit the bill. There’s also a Republican needed, he said.

One comment

Rick April 19, 2016 at 12:51 pm

General Growth Properties Inc. paid Chief Executive Officer Sandeep Mathrani $39.2 million in 2015, mostly in a stock award that will vest in 2020.
The $25 million stock award was granted in connection with a new employment agreement Mathrani signed in February 2015, the company disclosed Friday in a proxy statement. His compensation includes a $1.2 million salary, $3 million bonus and another $10 million stock award.
The shopping mall owner made Mathrani its CEO in 2010, hiring him from Vornado Realty Trust, where he had been executive vice president of the New York-based REIT’s retail division for more than eight years. At Vornado, Mathrani managed one of New York’s largest portfolios of retail properties, including the Manhattan Mall and several stores in the Penn Station area. He also oversaw plans to redevelop downtown Boston’s historic Filene’s building, which Vornado would later give up.
General Growth, based in Chicago, was in the midst of exiting bankruptcy at the time his hiring was announced, having won court approval for a restructuring a year and a half after filing the biggest real estate bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Norwalk is so lucky to have such a deal in the pipeline since this article an attempt to take GGP by hostile takeover but where Norwalk never backs a loser we should all count our lucky stars we will have a mall on its way.

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