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Wall Street group seeks input on POKO

Wall Street Place, in October.

NORWALK, Conn. – A newly formed group of Wall Street stakeholders is pushing for information on the project colloquially known in Norwalk as “POKO.”

The Wall Street Neighborhood Association, with more than 50 members, in an email last week to Mayor Harry Rilling asked to be “included in any planning for the future development of the POKO site” and said it was “concerned about the current lack of transparency and inclusion in any decision making that has had, and will have a significant impact on us directly, and to the Norwalk taxpayers overall.”

The email was signed by Michael McGuire and forwarded to NancyOnNorwalk by a third party.

Rilling, in a Saturday email to NancyOnNorwalk, said that, “Due to the fact the City is in negotiations on this property, I have referred Mr. McGuire’s e-mail to Mr.{Corporation Counsel Mario} Coppola.”

“POKO” is the partially built Wall Street Place development, a derelict since construction stalled in August 2016. Citibank has since foreclosed on the developer, POKO Partners, and negotiations continue in hopes of restarting construction, with a confidentiality agreement in place for all parties who are involved.

Sources said recently that the work has not resumed because the project’s numbers do not add up.

The new association is populated by commercial property owners, residential property owners, business owners and residential tenants, McGuire said in Wednesday’s introductory email to Rilling.

“We decided to get organized a couple of weeks ago and the response has been terrific. Our first official meeting was this past Tuesday.  I’m not the president or the chair, that would be Nancy McGuire at this point in time,” McGuire wrote to NoN on Thursday.

McGuire asked Rilling that the group be “fully included in any planning and decision making for this site.”

McGuire said to NoN that he knows nothing about what’s going on with POKO, and, “neither do the other 50+ people and that’s the problem.  This is a taxpayer funded deal as part of the tri-party agreement in the LDA but we, the taxpayers, don’t seem to have much say in what’s going on with this because we don’t know what’s happening.”

He wrote:

“Some very basic issues should be discussed such as  – is having a 40% affordable project feasible or even necessary in today’s marketplace when we already exceed the 10% as a City?  Are we, as a City, bound by a broken contract?  What would it cost the City to sever the links to the tax credits? Is severing these links a possibility?  How long would it take? Etc. etc.”

“By way of fact the LDA calls for 20% of the units created in phases I, II and III of the development to be deed restricted affordable,” Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan said in a January email.

McGuire’s email continued:

 “Everyone here just wants to know what’s going on, to be included and contribute.  Our membership brings unique and very strong skill sets to the table which could only help the City in planning the best outcome for the POKO project and the City overall.

 “Also, anyone can join us and help be part of making Wall Street a better place.”

22 comments

Wondering April 2, 2018 at 7:53 am

…what happened to the Wall St. Task Force appointed by the Mayor in his last term, chaired by Jackie Lightfield? Wasn’t there also a SoNo Task force with former Mayor Bill Collins serving as chair?

Milly April 2, 2018 at 8:26 am

A frame for a building is considered partially built? Turn it back to a parking lot and it will benefit that whole area more than another apartment building ever will. An it will eliminate the talk of Norwalk needing a 5th railroad station!

Ed April 2, 2018 at 9:02 am

Raze the building. Replace it with a modestly sized two level parking garage. That’ll help the businesses in the area.

Donna Smirniotopoulos April 2, 2018 at 9:36 am

Rilling can’t comment on this because it’s in negotiations. Can he comment on the commission appointments he made along the way, then, and the commissions that continued to support this juggernaut? Include RDA, Planning and Zoning. This should be easy for Rilling since so many commissioners are retreads.

Wall St Stakeholder April 2, 2018 at 11:24 am

Wow! Here we go again.
“Due to the fact the City is in negotiations on this property, I have referred Mr. McGuire’s e-mail to Mr.{Unelected Mayor Mario} Coppola.”
At what point do the Wall st stakeholders, ie tax payers, ie Norwalk citizens get a say? Once the new bad deal is made in a back room?

This Poko project has been one secretive back room deal after another. Where is the $5 Million that the state put into this project? Follow that money and I bet we get some answers.

This project was a bad deal for Norwalk from the beginning and it continues to be. The previous owner and now the bank have not and cannot live up to the LDA agreement that was made. Forget that the building is ugly and oversized for the area. It also has NO parking. It makes the parking problem even worse in the Wall St area.
Step 1 is to put the current owner in default of the original agreement!! Then a proper, open discussion can take place.

Where is the Norwalk Common Council? What do they know about the new negotiations? They are supposed to be the people looking out for Norwalk.

Let’s get some anwers from the common council, Senator Duff, and our governor…Duff was cutting ribbons for Poko. Wonder if he is in the back room with the bank and the new developer?

Rick April 2, 2018 at 12:31 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAiI_Vbt5V8

transparency and inclusion in any decision not going to happen

Get use to it , don’t like it take your business family and pets and get out was the message we got in South Norwalk.

I’m with Milly and many more that have lived here their whole lives to be told too bad its what the Rat pack decides.

Great coverage Nancy you ought to be a magician you already earned your detectives badge.

Does wall st have a theme song? looking at the police log it should be

99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer.
Take one down and pass it around, 98 bottles of beer on the wall.

98 bottles of beer on the wall, 98 bottles of beer.
Take one down and pass it around, 97 bottles of beer on the wall.

97 bottles of beer on the wall, 97 bottles of beer.
Take one down and pass it around, 96 bottles of beer on the wall.

A lot of cars get towed and ticketed on a daily basis the cities parking garage must be full all the time. I cant imagine having a business and having my customers targeted on a daily basis.

Has the The Wall Street Neighborhood Association talked about the crime? Parking? the towing?

The mall will fix a lot of that, free parking and plenty of crime.

Jason Milligan April 2, 2018 at 12:38 pm

Wall Street Neighborhood Association should focus its immediate attention on Poko. What would we like to see incorporated in the Poko project if it can be resurrected?

Parking! Some for the public.
Less retail space? Who possibly will rent it? Wall st has plenty of available retail and Waypointe’s next phase and the Mall are not built yet.

As part of renegotiation get rid of the excessive low income component. Allow Poko to remove the 1 story section behind FC Bank so that the old parking lot could be put back, and it would probably be possible to go down 1 level with parking, since parking was planned for the basement, just with a ridiculous vending machine style.

Citibank likely needs to take a haircut. The state will likely lose some money. The city will likely get less low income apartments, but if everyone gives a little bit then then the project could attract a reputable developer to takeover. Then the city/area gets a viable project that everyone can live with.

Jlightfield April 2, 2018 at 1:55 pm

Interesting, a neighborhood association devoid of people who live in the neighborhood is what exactly? A soapbox on endless wash, rinse and repeat cycle? I for one am tired of the lot any of complaints generated by a handful of people who have never lifted a finger to a) pass legislation to improve the area b) spent anytime beautifying the area and c) bringing solutions to the table that are a result of community engagement. Soapbox politics isn’t going to change anything.

Donna Smirniotopoulos April 2, 2018 at 2:41 pm

@jlightfield, though many of these stakeholders may not reside in Norwalk, they operate businesses in the area and ought to be the kind of valued stakeholders the mayor should be listening to. They do pay taxes like the rest of us. They just don’t get to vote because they go home to sleep somewhere else. Maybe they had to leave Norwalk because their property taxes were too high. Who knows? In any case, far be it for me to deny a legitimate stakeholder a voice in the disposition of Wall Street Place. Whatever this group has or has not done in the past is should NOT exclude them from having access to information, especially if their businesses may be affected.

Michael McGuire April 2, 2018 at 3:03 pm

Jackie,

Not sure what/who you are referring to. Most of the folks on this Wall Street Neighborhood Association list own property or businesses in the Wall Street area. We have strong support from the Norwalk Green Neighborhood Association – most of whom are residents.

We recognize that City Hall can’t do it all so we are organizing to help out. Lots of interested folks bringing lots of energy and ideas.

Everyone willing to bring a positive contribution is welcome.

Lisa Brinton Thomson April 2, 2018 at 6:25 pm

Non Disclosure Agreement???
That’s irrelevant to having new members join your team Mr. Mayor. Why don’t you engage smart, qualified and impacted commercial real estate people to help you solve Citicorp’s and Norwalk’s POKO problem? Surely, Citicorp would welcome anybody in Norwalk with energy, ideas , qualifications and interest to resolve this! That’s what I would do 🙂
Correct if I’m wrong, but aren’t taxpayers and the city the same thing? , but aren’t taxpayers and the city the same thing?

Andrew April 2, 2018 at 6:42 pm

Just wondering how legal it is for anything that involves this city to be confidential every time it costs the taxpayers money.

Sid Welker April 2, 2018 at 7:30 pm

Everyone hold your horses. If Jackie gets involved it will be taken care of. The title on her business card says so. What was that title again Ms. Lightfield?

Archie Stanton April 2, 2018 at 7:57 pm

@Jlightfield It seems rather questionable to chastise and talk down to legitimate property owners who have been saddled with the Duleep disaster and now the Poko fiasco for wanting to try and make it right -or at least be heard. A quick check of the Tax Collector records shows you own a Volvo. only.

Donna Smirniotopoulos April 2, 2018 at 8:04 pm

@Andrew, welcome to Norwalk, where your tax dollars are the #3 concern. Number 1 is getting re-elected. #2 is favors for developers (see #1 above). And Somewhere towards the bottom is your need to know and that whole transparency thing, which is really just so annoying that most of the time they don’t even bother with it.

Rick April 2, 2018 at 10:47 pm

Bridge the gap between Wall Street and SoNo. The SoNo Collection will build upon the City’s revitalization efforts along West Avenue to help stitch together Wall Street and SoNo. Co-marketing and co-branding with local businesses will encourage visitors to explore the entire West Avenue Corridor from SoNo to the Head up their ar$e Wall St .

Limit of the project area that can be used as restaurants to 6% of the Gross Leasable Area (GLA). GGP intends to connect with and complement the existing restaurant and entertainment businesses in SoNo

Think about it Brookfield wont stick by this nor will anyone who buys the mall the city didn’t keep its promise.

Wall st was saved tonight first shooting of the season was in South Norwalk ,

Donna Smirniotopoulos April 3, 2018 at 1:18 am

@Rick, I heard the first shooting of the season was at city hall—figurative of course. Stantec gave Spinnaker a totally expected shot in the arm in favor of their TOD proposal for East Norwalk. Who knew those good folk from East Norwalk told Stantec they all wanted an 80% residential overlay with 189 units at the platform only East Norwalk train station? Could have sworn at my Stantec meeting we were told the POCD isn’t done yet.

Rick April 3, 2018 at 2:27 am

Stantec was a poor choice, they grew up with Brookfield they both own each others stock.

Mall Vacancies have reached a six year high as Sectors Slump Deepens by Peter Grant its a good read

A retail Earthquake shaking up the the job market all Norwalk wants to do is vote in puppets.

The only thing Ill have left in Norwalk is a relative buried St Paul’s On the Green. The only place city hall and Spinnaker cant build over.( Capt Sears)

Its time to write an obit for Norwalk its the only thing left to do before city hall turns off the lights.

Jlightfield April 3, 2018 at 8:16 am

@archiestanton a quick search of Nancy’s archive here will reveal who is legit and who Is not. Whose GOP campaign are YOU working for?

Rick April 3, 2018 at 1:16 pm

@Jlightfield you are so right when it comes to Nancy’s archives

On Sept. 9, 2011, then-Mayor Richard Moccia, state Sen. Bob Duff and Emil Albanese, then-chairman of the Redevelopment Authority, joined POKO Partners CEO Ken Olson to celebrate the application for demolition of buildings on Wall Street, swinging shiny shovels over the concrete sidewalk. “This is the end of the beginning,” Moccia said.

“The POKO firm has invested $15 million of its own funds in purchasing the key properties on Wall Street,” Rilling said. “It is irresponsible to say ‘pull the plug’ on such a massive private investment in an area of Norwalk that remained without a plan, without an investor and without a vision for decades prior to 2005. Any candidate or incumbent who turns his back today on $15 million worth of private investment in an urban downtown project is plainly foolish. We need the jobs and tax revenue generated by this project. ‘Pulling the plug’ would set back Wall Street’s redevelopment by 10 years.”

Duff got it moving again, Rilling said. Issues with the Department of Health have been resolved and “We should be in the building full steam ahead on Monday,” Olson said.

Rilling said he was having a meeting Thursday with Mike DiScala, who is behind the Head of the Harbor project planned for Smith Street. Also expected at the meeting were Planning and Zoning Director Mike Greene, RDA Executive Director Tim Sheehan and Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola.

“We’re moving forward with that project,” Rilling said. “All it takes is for people to sit down and say ‘Hey, look, get moving.’ We made some changes that nobody was even talking about. But we made some changes, all conforming uses, and we’re getting things moving.”

Hempstead asked Sheehan to check with the Department of Public Works to see if the city could meet its obligation to get the infrastructure improvements done in time if the extension were granted, given that utility companies have fewer workers than they did in 2007, and other factors.

Councilwoman Shannon O’Toole-Giandurco (R-District D) asked where the $4.4 million would come from. Sheehan said a bond issuance for $4.4 million had already been authorized by a previous council.

Torrano asked Sheehan to look into possible expiration dates on the tax credits. “The project is very dependent upon all of these pieces falling into place to make it happen. So if one of those plates stop spinning the rest of it is stuck in the mud,” she said.

“I think there’s been a level of miscommunication or misunderstanding with regard to what he is seeking,” Sheehan said at Tuesday’s RDA meeting. “There are some that are indicating that it’s going to be 10 years before there is any development. Even the developer is indicating that they are only seeking two years, and when you are talking about a project that’s in excess of 100 units of multi-family housing, that time frame from a construction standpoint — from staff perspective — that seemed reasonable, the two-year window.”

Sheehan added that to his list of things to do.

ripped from Nancy archive hope you don’t mind

Thank you Mr Sheehan from all those kids waiting to play hoop , waiting to run in the open field of Ryan park, it amazes us all the work you do for our city.

I asked you about the Hazardous waste you trucked out of Day st on a Sunday at 5 in the morning asked about the trucks you said they must of been licensed with a smile, I checked with the DEEP they were shocked you told them dirt was needed to be trucked in I feel you were not talking fact’ The pictures and video was sent to the DEEP from that morning.I estimated over 500 yards of dirt was removed I hope it was clean for Trinitys sake as well.

This is what happens to cities who lie

The City of Ansonia has agreed to pay $19,125 in penalties to settle allegations that it improperly regulated and handled toxic chemicals, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

A private company, Connecticut Oil Recyling Services, agreed to pay $32,397 to resolve the Toxics Substance Control Act violations.

“These actions demonstrate the importance that all parties involved with PCB waste take great care to ensure that every step in the handling and disposal process is done consistent with federal regulation,” said Alexandra Dunn, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.

EPA said Ansonia failed to properly prepare a hazardous waste manifest when, on Aug. 2, 2016, it offered about 500 gallons of waste oil containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to Connecticut Oil for transport from a city transfer station to an off-site facility for storage or disposal.

Like a good Irishman Ive sent info on the the EPA I trust they will look into your dirt and ask you about it later.Im sure the city didn’t do anything wrong .

No wonder Wall st wants a seat at the table who in this city does anyone trust?

Archie Stanton April 12, 2018 at 7:54 am

@Jlightfield Far be it from the truth. In fact my previous posts indicate that my involvement is not much more than the occasional consumer. I peruse, if you will, rarely engaging.

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