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Milligan presses his points in the press as Norwalk works with Citibank

The view of Wall Street Place from Jason Milligan’s “Phase II” parking lot on June 1.

NORWALK, Conn. — Citibank is exploring options on how to move forward with Wall Street Place Phase I, Assistant to the Mayor Laoise King said Wednesday.

Norwalk officials met Wednesday with Citibank and Citibank’s chosen developer to get an update, King said, identifying John and Todd McClutchy as Citibank’s preferred developer.

Developer Jason Milligan, whose purchase of the neighboring “Phase II” properties is being challenged in court by Norwalk, was not in the meeting. Milligan continued his campaign to turn the tide by suggesting to NancyOnNorwalk that the city “stop flailing around;” while Norwalk officials say Phase I cannot proceed without the Phase II properties in hand, Milligan said he’s willing to consider “renting them parking on a long term basis, and many other scenarios.”

Norwalk elected officials refuse to communicate directly with Milligan and have requested that he go through Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola and/or Redevelopment Agency Attorney Marc Grenier, so that “there should be just one line of communication,” according to a press release.

Phase II property is needed for Phase I to be in Zoning compliance, as some of the parking required for Phase I was moved to Phase II, when both properties were owned by POKO Partners.

POKO’s Richard Olson sold Milligan the Phase II properties in defiance of the Land Disposition Agreement (LDA), which mandates that the Redevelopment Agency have approval over any sale, city officials say, explaining their request for an injunction and $5 million in damages, a “pre-judgment remedy.”

The lawsuit asks the court to “direct the defendants not to sell, convey, mortgage, pledge, lease, exchange, transfer, assign, git, donate, encumber, hypothecate, diminish the use of and/or otherwise dispose of any or all of the subject property without the prior written consent” of the Redevelopment Agency, pursuant to the LDA.

The properties were transferred on May 31, according to records in the Town Clerk’s office.

The lawsuit asks the court “for an attachment” on the properties to secure the sum of $5 million.

Milligan said he has not yet been served papers in the lawsuit.

King said, late Wednesday, that the city and the Redevelopment Agency met with Citibank and the McClutchys to find out Citibank’s intentions regarding Phase I, which it owns after foreclosing on POKO Partners.

The development has been stalled for two years. While many suspect that the building is deteriorating as it sits in a partially built state, wrapped in Tyvek, Norwalk Chief Building Official Bill Ireland said Tuesday that he toured the building four months ago and the “condition was not bad at all.”

“A few pieces of plywood had to be replaced nothing structural,” he wrote in an email.

Negotiations with Citibank have continued for months, in defiance of hopeful statements issued by Mayor Harry Rilling and Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan shortly after the debacle began.

Rilling in August 2016 said “it may be slow,” but, “We hope to get that back moving forward very soon,” and Sheehan in August 2016 said, “The discussions I have had with Citibank, I am very confident that the project will be completed.”

In February, Sheehan said he was still confident that construction would resume. Sheehan did not reply to a recent email asking if he’s still confident.

King said Wednesday that if Citibank decides to move forward it will have to bring a proposal to the Redevelopment Agency and the City for approval. Citibank will have to get approval for any changes to the LDA and will need approval for their developer.

“This is the same process Milligan or any developer of Phase 2 needs to do and is the process which was ignored by Olsen {sic} when he sold to Milligan – hence the lawsuit,” King wrote.

John McClutchy of Darien is a millionaire real estate developer, owner of the JHM Group, according to the Connecticut Post. Todd McClutchy of Greenwich, a real estate developer, is his son.  LinkedIn shows that the son is JHM Vice President.

The pair unsuccessfully sought to redevelop the Stamford train station, the Post reports.

NancyOnNorwalk contacted JHM in February but did not get a return phone call.

“Just to be clear – there is no ‘preferred developer’ at this point,” King wrote. “The only developer that has approval for either Phase 1 or Phase 2 is POKO as determined back when this project originated over a decade ago. Before any new preferred developer is allowed, RDA approval must be obtained.”

“Hmm,” Milligan wrote late Wednesday. “Poko no longer owns Phase I or Phase II. Citibank owns Phase I and is in default of the LDA for various reasons. They will need Redevelopment approval to do anything.”

King said the City sent Citibank a default letter on June 1.

Milligan wrote:

“I am the owner of Phase II. Olson politely requested that Redevelopment Agency consider me to replace him. I am willing to seek Redevelopment Approval for any changes to the LDA. I am willing to seek and get RDA approval before I build any proposed development

 “Can someone at the city please explain why one party is being treated completely differently than the other? I am willing to follow the exact process that they are asking Citibank to follow. Let’s be consistent.”

 

Milligan said he’s had numerous conversations with Citibank representatives and the McClutchys, who he called “very reasonable and open-minded people.”

“I am willing to collaborate with them. I would consider selling them some of the property that I own if they offered to buy it. I would consider renting them parking on a long term basis, and many other scenarios,” he wrote.

Milligan said last week that he owns 20 properties in the Wall Street area. He has a contract on the two Fairfield County bank buildings on Wall Street, pending Zoning approval to amend the regulations to allow him to build apartments there, without the usually required amenities and parking.

“Goal number 1 for the area is to complete phase I. I would also like the Fairfield County Bank buildings to be competed in a similar time frame, and there may be areas to collaborate to make that happen,” Milligan wrote.

Not only does he own the five parcels that were part of Phase II, but he’s negotiating on buying “a few other” nearby properties, he said. Two of his properties directly abut the “white Tyvek building under contract” and, “Most solutions for Phase I, and for Wall st in general will require my input and cooperation. I want to cooperate. I am very eager to move things along,” he wrote.

Milligan has clashed with Coppola in the past. He wrote:

“Mario Coppola and many others readily admit that the LDA is outdated. It has been amended numerous times and it will need to be changed significantly again for a viable project to be completed there. Almost all of the Norwalk LDA agreements have undergone significant changes over the years. This situation is no different. Mario Coppola is very good at turning everything he touches into a legal battle. In this instance litigation is not what is called for.

“Why doesn’t the city stop flailing around? Everyone take a deep breath. Pause any litigation. Litigation should be the last resort when everything else has failed not the thing you lead with. Mario can focus on the other numerous lawsuits that he and the city are involved … let the intelligent land use experts that the City has on its payroll work on this. Tim Sheehan and Steve Kleppin are very well educated and intelligent people. They should be allowed to do their job!

“Some discussions are already taking place. Let the dialogue continue and somehow get Mario to step aside for a little while to open dialogue with myself and the City. He can stay warm in the bullpen in case he is needed.​”

21 comments

Niz June 21, 2018 at 8:32 am

Omg what a fiasco! I hear The Greek restaurant on Isaac St., is or has sued the city over the matter. As it has caused them to lose business. Not a good look when property / businesses owners are suing they’re own city! I wonder how long will this go on?

Lisa Brinton Thomson June 21, 2018 at 8:36 am

Nancy, A copy of the lawsuit and perhaps a copy of the POKO LDA would be great!

Also, a quick google search of City Hall’s new preferred POKO developer indicates that he and his family are major campaign contributors to Connecticut State Democrats.

https://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/pacgave2.php?cycle=2008%2Fgeog.php%3Fcycle&cmte=C00167320

Pay to play is crippling the state and will kill Norwalk too! Taxpayers and residential homeowners can’t afford it!!!!!

Tom Keegan June 21, 2018 at 8:57 am

I agree with you Lisa Brinton Thomson……. Follow the money!
(from an article in the Ct Post 2/28/15)
Ten days before the state Department of Transportation announced its preferred developers for the massive rebuilding of the Stamford Transportation Center, developer John H. McClutchy Jr., wrote a $10,000 check to a little-known federal account of the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee.

That same day his wife, Janet D. McClutchy, wrote the committee a $10,000 check. Their son, Todd McClutchy, of Greenwich, a real estate developer who works for his father, also contributed $10,000 on July 1, 2013.

The next week Todd and John McClutchy were invited into a special closed-door meeting of the governor’s Stamford Advisory Committee to discuss the $500-million state Department of Transportation project.

Jason M. June 21, 2018 at 9:44 am

In a legal dispute, one party is initially presumed to be correct and gets the benefit of the doubt (Me), while the other side bears the burden of proof (Mario).
The LDA specifically accounts for what has happened and very specifically sets forth what the City’s remedies are. And while one of the remedies is a general damages claim, I’m not sure how the City can quantify what its damages are to the satisfaction of the Court such that the Court would be inclined to grant an attachment on the “Redeveloper Properties.” The complainant (City) has the burden to prove its damages to the level of some evidentiary standard – not sure if that is “probable cause” or “preponderance of the evidence” for what they are seeking. But either way, it seems to me that any claim of damages is purely speculative.
How can the City establish any damages when I am willing to develop the property in a substantially similar way that the LDA calls for or in a new way that the city may now desire? I am also open to selling or leasing parts of the property to facilitate completion of Phase I. It would be one thing if I intended to put the properties to a selfish use that offered no benefit to the City or its residents. But I’m not!
Further, under the LDA, if there is a transfer without prior approval, the City has the right to cancel its obligations under the LDA. One of those obligations is to provide $4MM worth of incentives/assistance/benefits. Given that the City is no longer required to provide those, I’m at a loss for how they substantiate any damages claim so as to justify an attachment.

There are several glaring questions:
Why is the City suing anyone when all parties are willing to talk?
What is the goal of the lawsuit, besides the vague “protecting the rights of the city”…

Waste of our tax dollars!

Any and all communication has been demanded to go through Mario Coppola who is part-time. Only 20 hours per week…

We have many very smart full-time employees that work at town hall, and we have several retirees on the council that are very capable. It is foolish to be slowed down by a part-timer with an ax to grind when there are so many other better choices to help solve this.

Lisa Brinton Thomson June 21, 2018 at 9:47 am

Until you get the money out of politics…this will continue to happen.

I know I came in second 🙂 …but as a ‘regular if not vocal resident’ with approximately $25K, I was able run a city wide mayoral campaign 1) with lawn-signs, 2) open a campaign office, 3) host a website (early) highlighting residents’ issues (which my opponents copied) 4) push out direct mail pieces, etc. etc… all the things needed to run a campaign. I did not pay volunteers. With the exception of a few (my mother included) 98% of my money came from regular Norwalk residents. Contrast that against our mayor who raised six times that – largely from outside the city.

At some stage, Norwalk residents need to take their city government back or be forced out their homes due to 1) repeated poor land use decisions resulting in a stagnating grand list, 2) poor enforcement of ordinances and 3) a growing BOE budget. These three interrelated issues have been festering for a decade and must be addressed and not via press releasees, anonymous leaks or fake reorganizations.

Mike McGuire June 21, 2018 at 10:02 am

Wow! leave for a week and look what happens. As a long time Wall Street stakeholder this new turn of events is very troubling.

The current city plan for Wall Street is not a good plan. I challenge Redevelopment to produce credible evidence to support this flawed plan.

To pursue a law suit, even if justified, is the wrong path. It sends the wrong message of “ only the selected thrive”. Keep it simple – build a train station, leave Milligan alone, and make the necessary zone changes to unlock this area’s potential.

carol June 21, 2018 at 10:31 am

taxpayers need to rally,this is so out of hand and between preferred people and lawsuits our taxes will go up and up.
time to stop paying taxes until the people are heard.
wall street.the bridge etc. no one cares about the little people anymore.

Al Bore June 21, 2018 at 12:00 pm

I’m tired of all the talking heads, they talk and yet these people all get re-elected, watch Duff get re-elected. We need to clean house in city government but the problem is there are more non tax payers living in Norwalk than home owning tax payers. What a shame Norwalk is being ruined one apartment building after another. We had a chance to change things with Lisa and we blew it, one thing for sure what is happening now does not work and her idea’s would have been worth trying. City hall needs an overhaul from the mayor to the council and the P&Z. Clean this messy house NOW!!

Ernie DesRochers June 21, 2018 at 3:45 pm

Nancy – Any luck on getting the court case link? I think several folks here would be interested in getting the facts aobut the claims in the lawsuit filed by the City of NOrwalk.

Where is Citibank on all of this? Seems to me their only issue should be the 40 parking spaces that are needed for the Phase I parcel to make compy with zoning. They do not have an interest in any of the other phases so it should only be about the paring. There are numerous ways to achieve that including a long term lease from either Mr. Milligan or the Parking Authority in the Yankee Doodle garage. Or is there a bigger issue here that is not being discussed?

The City should be sitting all of the parties down to work this out rather than adopting the nuclear option of a lawsuit? This has long term delay written all over it and the folks who suffer big time are the nearby property owners who have invested in the area and we Norwalk tax payers.

Bill NIghtingale June 21, 2018 at 4:32 pm

Until the Redevelopment Agency is taken out of it there will be long term delays. RDA must be abolished.

Patrick Cooper June 21, 2018 at 5:39 pm

@Lisa Brinton Thomson is absolutely 100% correct. Read her comments – again.

Let me paint a different scenario. What if this was a republican mayor, and a 14-1 republican majority on the council – and the land use agencies, commissions, and boards were all staffed and chaired by their hand-picked cronies. And they did this. Seriously, the town might riot.

But the democrats do it, and there is ….. silence.

That – Norwalk – is hypocrisy. Let that sink in. You need to own that. You have been “played” by a party system where the guys pretending to wear the white hats are only doing so to keep their faces in the shadows. Time to sniff the smelling salts – and deal with that realization.

Norwalk taxpayer, I have seen thine enemy – and it is you.

The present-day media spin cycle is – whip up another controversial story that people all focus on for 3 days – create false narratives using incendiary language, trigger phrases, and tribal mythology so people become enormously divided – emotionally – without legitimate debate or reason: there is never advocacy for a meritocracy of ideas/solutions. No – it’s either blue, or red: pick one or your dead.

In less than 60 days, you will be inundated with messaging, Facebook “shares”, quasi “news” (really opinion) telling you – we need a blue wave to solve all that ails us. Really? There is an old saying – ALL politics is local. Let me remind you – look once – long and hard – without prejudice at who’s picking your pocket right here in Norwalk. Sorry to tell you – it’s the “guys in the white hats” – not the White House.

Ron Morris June 21, 2018 at 7:28 pm

Mike McGuire
With all due respect a train station is not the answer to everything. Actually building a new train station would be a complete and total waste of tax dollars.

Holden Caulfield June 22, 2018 at 12:50 pm

Why can’t the City just offer a free bus shuttle from Wall Street to an existing train station? Who really thinks people will board a train at Wall Street only to transfer to another train in Norwalk on their way to New York? That will add so much time to an already long commute. This isn’t 1955.

The state needs to rethink how it can get residents into Manhattan more quickly and efficiently. It needs an actual high speed commuter rail that doesn’t hug the coastline. Young folks with decent paying jobs in NYC are not going to move farther than Stamford nowadays. Until CT can entice large employers to return, frankly, the only way to jumpstart growth is by opening up the exurbs by providing much faster commute times into New York City.

Rick June 22, 2018 at 1:26 pm

Mike this new rail tard and other stress points on the Danbury line exist a train station simply may not be GGP plans. No where has the yard new sidings bridge work (washinton st) has never been fully understood.

Is Norwalk making any money on hosting dual yards and if GGP wanted a station what would prevent them from getting one just like Wall st?

Seems all the work that will go into taking care of the new yard just like 95 comes from within the city not the State.

Now take the marine units all what seven boats what money does the state give Norwalk for those when coverage is from Stamford to Bridgeport?

Why make Wall st a hub wen a small city around the new mall will be the new focus?

The mall is not done messing with the city investors are watching whats going on I doubt if this wall st deal has made anyone convinced the city is ready for a mall.

Even the financial news on Norwalk has changed its tone instead of talking great strides in the economy,its more on who is moving out and what sq footage is opening at places like the Merritt complexes. Ct ave is planning ask Stantec its where they are planning Norwalks future around the mall .I cant fathom the mall hasnt hired them by now. They have the numbers they have the RDA eating ot of their hand. Stantec class crap is for the birds.

Wall st area has plenty of real estate for sale non of it is pending on a rail platform or can boast a turnaround on value in the areas, one lot has a long term tenant and still cant be moved even tho it shows profit.One Boston broker cant wait to get out of Norwalk.

Its one thing for a city to argue and fight development its another to fight the taxpayers, its not normal for a city to do this. Does it help bring new blood new business?

The city has shot itself in the foot and for that gets what they deserve, Now with elections near the idiots who voted this all in will be told 1 more term we will make it right.

Norwalk still has those who went to city hall and fought for the mall still believe this mall is going to save Norwalk.

It may save Norwalk but not as a traditional mall, they dont work and this one is a blank canvas that still have stores dropping out. Who knows what Stantec city hall and the RDA has planned next, only way they get what they want is to tell the public whats planned. There is no city input anymore its a free for all.

This thing with Jason is personal the city hates him, and for that your old guard is siding with Harry,Tim,Duff, ann others who have made a mess out of the city. This so obvious court is next, takes it out of the news away from the voter until afetr the election.

City now has residents that are just passing thru , they could care less what happens to ths city hasn’t done anything for them.

Mike McGuire June 22, 2018 at 2:00 pm

@holden caulfield- there are already 3 buses operating between Wall st and SoNo train station. Overwhelming evidence that people don’t invest around a bus stop. But they do around a train station.

How about the 1700 new housing units within walking distance? Don’t you think computers would rather walk than drive to train parking lot for $80 month plus a 2 year wait to get the permit.

Wall st is the heart and soul of all business in lower Fairfield county. Small business growth is essential for economic revival. Millennial don’t want to work in “train” isolated locations. Business needs millennialist for their tech skills and that will only increase.

No train station = anemic growth. New small business will look elsewhere and the value (grand list) of all the new apartments will be lower as will every other property in the downtown.

For everything I stated above I can provide clear market based support for.

The mayor states POKO tyvek project is essential for the area to flourish. I think the Norwalk taxpayer has the right to know why it will make the area flourish. I am not attacking the mayor on this. Only his shortsighted and incentive based world view advisors at Redevelopment.

Another Opinion June 22, 2018 at 2:27 pm

@Rick – I think your prior post regarding this matter says it best, “This was expected some contractor or builder was probably promised a slice of pie and Jason took it from the window still hot. ”

Somewhat ironic how Mario is hard at work on this along with defending private property owners against a zoning application in a nearby town while at the same time giving the bird to residential homeowners fighting institutional elder care applications and on residential city streets. One has to wonder.

Fact check June 22, 2018 at 7:34 pm

To All- Two facts (and feel free to call fact check).

1) Only 150 people use the Merritt 7 station on a daily basis (from MTA). As such, a train station at Wall Street would be a huge failure.

2) The City is not aligned with Citibank. Citibank now owns Phase 1. this leaves the City no choice but to deal with them whether they want to or not. Doug Hempstead is even on the record saying so in a council meeting last year. Citibank would like JHM/McClutchey to take over. That is because Citibank has completed multiple affordable housing projects with them over the years (Google it) and most recently a large project in Darien. Citibank thinks McClutchey is their best chance to save their equity and proceed. As such the City has no choice (at the moment) but to deal with them. It has nothing to do with politics or anything else but some executives at Citibank trying to save face internally.

Feel free to fact check these truths.

Micheal McGuire June 24, 2018 at 8:29 am

@fact check – seems interesting that the state wants to invest over $20 million in that station. You should research why that is to “get the facts right”. But here are several key points you can start with.

1 – New housing going into Merrit 7 within walking distance to the station, but still less than the number of units within walking distance to a Wall Street Station.

2 – the state recognizes that proximity to a train station is vital in attracting business. Did you know that Wall Street neighborhood is the 3rd largest CBD in Fairfield County, that it’s has more office space and apartment units than SoNo or Danbury? I bet not.

3- how about that businesses recognize (particularly small business) that they need to locate into areas attractive to millennials. And that millennials prefer urban areas with historic downtowns.

4- businesses and investors invest around tangible municipal infrastructure like train stations. They don’t invest around bus stops which are intangible contracts that can be easily removed.

5 – rents are much higher around train stations, that creates higher property values which create a larger grand list, which create more tax dollars, all driven by demand. Follow the market.

Facts on their own can be misleading. Facts coupled with background support, sound reasoning and vision are compelling.

So what’s your support, reasoning and vision for a failure at Wall Street?

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