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Mall proposal undergoing a face lift

 

The new vision for The SoNo Collection. (Courtesy General Growth Partners)

The new vision for The SoNo Collection. (Courtesy General Growth Partners)

NORWALK, Conn. — Haters of the pipe dream set for South Norwalk can perhaps rejoice – General Growth Partners (GGP) has revised its plan for The SoNo Collection’s parking garage.

Also revised is just about every other major feature of the approved plan.

The following is a memo written by GGP Senior Designer Paul Madden to the Zoning Commission:

 

  1. Clerestory Revision -The proposed geometry of the clerestory at the top level of the mall has been modified. The approved design has a curved form. The proposed revision indicates a straight configuration which resolves a shelf condition and brings more light to the interior of the space. The clerestory is not visible from the street level or I-95.
A page from GGP’s plans on file in Norwalk Planning and Zoning.

A page from GGP’s plans on file in Norwalk Planning and Zoning.

A page from GGP’s plans on file in Norwalk Planning and Zoning.

A page from GGP’s plans on file in Norwalk Planning and Zoning.

  1. Skylight Revision -The proposed revision removes the skylight previously located above the court adjacent to Bloomingdales and replaces it with an architectural feature. Given the vast glass wall at the west of this court provides significant natural light to this space, this is an opportunity to reduce project costs without compromising the quality of the interior experience.
  1. South West Plaza -The proposed revision offers an alternate  design  for the plaza.  This design incorporates RDA design review comments regarding pavement patterns, modifies the previously designed interactive fountain to a raised fountain; and introduces a lawn at the center of the plaza inplace of hardscape.  The proposed design revision addresses operational concerns regarding the interactive fountain and eliminates the code requirement for a public restroom adjacent to the plaza, but maintains a water feature as focal point in the plaza. The plaza will continue to accommodate event programming.

 

A page from GGP’s plans on file in Norwalk Planning and Zoning.

A page from GGP’s plans on file in Norwalk Planning and Zoning.

  1. North Water Street/West Ave Monumental Stair Revision -The exterior stair at the northern comer of North Water Street and West Ave bas been modified. This revision creates a stronger comer retail presence by returning the retail storefront around the corner to North Water Street. The shortened stair height reduces the “cliff effect”, and creates better access from the parking lot at level 1 to the street retail, while providing easier access to the mall from the entry core at North Water Street. The proposal moves the southernmost ‘jewel box’ building edge south, allowing for a better retail configuration at the mall levels.
A page from GGP’s plans on file in Norwalk Planning and Zoning.

A page from GGP’s plans on file in Norwalk Planning and Zoning.

A page from GGP’s plans on file in Norwalk Planning and Zoning.

A page from GGP’s plans on file in Norwalk Planning and Zoning.

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  1. North & West Ave Facade Materials -The revision proposes changes to the exterior finish materials at the North and West Facades. The revision is calling for E.I.F.S. at the upper ‘jewel boxes”, with E.I.F.S., glass and a proposed trellis between the Jewel boxes. Brick finish is being proposed at grade adjacent to the tenant storefronts. The proposal has been revised to revert back to the previous approved design along West Avenue of Brick Masonry at the Jewel Boxes separated by glass walls. The North facade is proposed to have a Brick Masonry Jewell Box at the west end of the North Facade; and we are proposing an EIFS material at the center box. The rotated box at the Southern side of North Water Street along West Ave is proposed to be Fiber Cement Panel, which is a replacement of the previously approved terra cotta.

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  1. East Facade Materials – The proposed East Facade materials has been revised to include: Architectural Ground Face CMU to replace the previous architectural precast concrete panel at the east facade base and stair towers; EIFS at the articulated “frame” to replace the precast panels; and the quantity of tube sections “fins” on the east facade has been reduced by 20%.

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  1. North Service Drive Loading Dock -This revision adds a loading dock accessed from the North Service drive north of N. Water Street. This dock is required to provide service to the southeast tenants at mall level three. These tenants had been cut off from service access by the mall corridor leading to the roof terrace.

 

  1. Roof Terrace -We are proposing a modification to the roof terrace. After internal evaluation of the viability of the proposed kiosk, we are removing this element and reducing the size of the terrace accordingly.

 

  1. Third Floor Retail -We are proposing the addition of retail space at mall level three, partially above the Sculpture Garden. We believe the addition of quality retail space has minimal impact to the sculpture garden as we have maintained a two-story space for the majority of that area as originally proposed and as seen from I-95. The sculpture garden plan at Mall level 2, and exterior building curtainwall defining this space remain as previously proposed.

 

The Zoning Commission on Wednesday is considering signage for the mall, a proposal that has been favorably reviewed for the Redevelopment Agency by consultant Steve Cecil of the Cecil Group.

 

12 comments

Diane C2 October 19, 2016 at 9:25 am

Wanna bet zoning commission votes that these are “minor” changes, therefore requiring no public scrutiny or public hearing?

Adolph Neaderland October 19, 2016 at 10:47 am

Likely to be followed by many more “to reduce cost” and increase “selling space”.

A good initial test of Zonings backbone.

Gordon Tully October 19, 2016 at 11:14 am

Mixed bag. All changes appear to reduce cost and quality of exterior material, increase retail space, decrease public amenity and quality of exterior material, and the design change on the east is a downgrade to my eye. But there may be some pluses mixed in – can’t tell without a thorough review of the drawings.

Much more dramatic changes took place earlier that greatly improved the design, and these new changes may be part of a deal to pay for them. These changes seems to me to be on the borderline of what might be termed minor changes. The whole thing is after all a monstrous mistake, and none of the changes make it substantially more monstrous or less of a mistake.

Redevelopment and Cecil are likely doing the best they can to hold up quality that counts against the inevitable pressure to increase profitability and reduce cost. But I think a public review would be in order, if only to get more facts about the various trade-offs involved. For example, EIFS is far less durable as brick, much cheaper, but it has better energy performance.

Rob October 20, 2016 at 11:58 am

Mayor Rilling – Please do not continue to lead from behind. Get in front of this disaster and pull the plug on it now.

Debora October 20, 2016 at 4:13 pm

It’s time for the City to pay attention to the shell game going on here. From the early promises of funding a “circulator” shuttle during the public meetings phase, which turned into a block grant to the city.

This latest round of changes removes the skylight, which was proposed to encourage the City to approve the tunnel over North Water Street. Now that they got their tunnel, they are taking back the skylight.

This latest round of changes reduces the rooftop terrace, something that was floated when we were arguing about controversial things like additional streetlights, a tunnel under West Avenue and generally unhappy about the “public realm” space. These are the quotes lauding the rooftop terrace at the time:

Planned for the roof is an 18,563-square-foot terrace, which is listed as a place for athletic and health events, outdoor movie screenings, concerts, sports, community activities and games.

The two-story sculpture garden now planned for the northern corner of the mall is a “major win” and the rooftop terrace is “terrific,” Steve Cecil of The Cecil Group said.

Now, not only is this space being reduced, but retail is being increased.

And what is not in this article, but was before zoning at a public hearing last night was a plan to put digital signage on the outside of the building using a set of rules originally developed for a hospital.

GGP promoted these signs by suggesting that Norwalk had to change its zoning regulations for the mall to be successful. Times Square may be coming to central Norwalk.

Debora October 20, 2016 at 4:16 pm

Also removed from public realm (a public bathroom)

The proposed design revision addresses operational concerns regarding the interactive fountain and

eliminates the code requirement for a public restroom adjacent to the plaza,

but maintains a water feature as focal point in the plaza. The plaza will continue to accommodate event programming.

Piberman October 20, 2016 at 7:27 pm

Anyone ever hear of a huge Downtown Mall being built just blocks from a billion dollar rail bridge replacement among the most complex in the nation taking 5 to 6 years ? Going to be “real interesting”.
With lots of downtown visitors stuck in traffic looking at the huge cranes. We might all need carry helmets.

Adolph Neaderland October 23, 2016 at 12:28 pm

As details surface, it wouldn’t surprise me if these downgrading change proposals were really intended to -provide the developer with the opportunity to exit the project it the changes are rejected, , blaming the city as the caus.

With malls closing all over the US, and traffic to mall site never really resolved, coupled with the bridge issue, I would not be surprised if the developer had second thoughts,

Since I don’t know the details of the “agreement”, I wonder if the city would have any liability for a “pull out”.

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