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McClutchy ‘needs to’ take over Wall Street Place while Malloy still governor

Gov. Dannel Malloy joins a host of Norwalk officials in 2014 to mark the beginning of demolition for POKO Partners Wall Street Place. (File photo)

Updated, 2:55 p.m.: Reply from Malloy spokesperson; 11:08 a.m.: Copy edit; 10:10 a.m.: Wilms comment added; 6:06 a.m.: Copy edit

NORWALK, Conn. – A developer who has made large campaign donations to Connecticut Democrats said he needs to take over the stalled Wall Street Place Project while Dannel Malloy is still governor, e-mails obtained by NancyOnNorwalk reveal.  City officials say that’s because the state is willing to “increase its investment” in the project.

In a January 9 e-mail to other City officials, Norwalk Redevelopment Agency director Tim Sheehan wrote:

“…as we all know JHM has very strong ties to the Malloy administration and time is ticking on that clock.  While I may disagree with JHM on certain issues, his point that this project needs to be reactivated under this governor, I fully agree with.”

Greenwich developer John H. McClutchy’s initials are JHM.  McClutchy, and his son Todd McClutchy, were selected as the new builders of Wall Street Place Phase I by Citibank after it foreclosed on POKO Partners, the original developer.   McClutchy has been in talks with Norwalk officials about modifying and re-starting the project (See story).

McClutchy donated $165,000 to the CT Central State Democratic Committee by February 2015, according to Jim Cameron. Todd and John McClutchy, Janet McClutchy and JHM Group have donated a total of $32,500 this year, according to Open Secrets.

The original project which stalled and went into foreclosure included $8.64 million in 9% Low Income Housing Tax Credits.  A February e-mail from Sheehan to city officials appears to say that state financial commitments are again required “to make any project workable”:

“Each day we wait the timeline with this Governor and the required state financial commitments to make any project workable on this site is shrinking.  We have to have those commitments in place by the end of August.”
Asked about the comments, Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling responded in an e-mail late Sunday:
“Citibank and JHM have indicated the state is willing to increase its’ investment in the project. Timing is important because a new administration brings new commissioners and potentially different positions. It is in everyone’s interest to secure state funding commitments prior to a change in administration.

“Citibank, JHM, or any other owner of the project property proposing to change the terms of the LDA will have to go before the Council and RDA for approval. Both the City and RDA have been clear that the proposal for an additional $2 million in contributions from Norwalk and a decrease in parking are not acceptable and not something we could recommend at this time.

“The City has issued a default and we are awaiting a revised proposal.”

NancyOnNorwalk contacted Gov. Dannel Malloy’s press office, State Sen. Bob Duff (D-25), and State Reps. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Fred Wilms (R-142) on Sunday for comment regarding the possibility of more state funding for Wall Street Place.

In an e-mail, Malloy’s director of communications Kelly Donnelly referred the enquiry to the Department of Housing, adding: “It’s well known that growing Connecticut’s affordable housing stock has been a top priority of Governor Malloy, demonstrated by the creation of the Department of Housing and his track record of building more affordable housing units during his tenure than the previous three governors combined.”

Wilms replied: “I am against new State funding for the failed POKO project. After 13 years of never-ending failure, we need to finally say that enough is enough. The project needs to be made (for the first time in his history) economically viable. The City can achieve this by lowering the affordable housing requirement plus assigning Yankee Doodle garage spaces for parking.”

The e-mails quoted in this story were obtained by NancyOnNorwalk via a Freedom of Information Act request.  The City of Norwalk and its Redevelopment Agency are stakeholders in the Wall Street Place project via a Land Disposition Agreement which abandoned part of a City street to POKO Partners, the developer, and allowed the project to be built on land that had been a municipal parking lot.

John McClutchy did not respond to a request for comment sent Sunday.  The JHM Group’s website includes a page titled “Unrealized Potential in Distressed Real Estate Markets,” which reads:

“Despite the ever-changing real estate climate, JHM, backed by years of experience, knows how to find and create opportunities, and realize value from unrealized potential. Inevitably, in every market there are developments that have been poorly thought out, located, designed, built, financed and/or operated. JHM’s reputation of finding the value added in spite of these conditions has created a network of real estate and financial professionals that continue to funnel  opportunities to its attention. These properties provide JHM with the opportunity to use its creative skills, knowledge, experience and financial resources to assess opportunities and create value propositions,  to overcome  deficiencies, and position them to attain and realize significant value. JHM and its partners, investors and financiers continue to benefit from its ability to successfully navigate these situations with maximum success.”

11 comments

Fred Wilms July 2, 2018 at 9:22 am

Hi Nancy, thanks for your email. I am against new State funding for the failed POKO project. After 13 years of never-ending failure, we need to finally say that enough is enough. The project needs to be made (for the first time in his history)economically viable. The City can achieve this by lowering the affordable housing requirement plus assigning Yankee Doodle garage spaces for parking.

Bill NIghtingale July 2, 2018 at 9:46 am

Thank you Fred Wilms. This is a crazy waste of taxpayer dollars. Needs to be completely turned over to private development at a market clearing price. The Redevelopment Agency needs to be abolished. No more state funded affordable housing project.

Al Bore July 2, 2018 at 1:15 pm

Fred you don’t sound like a politician to me your thinking with common sense. You sound like a Norwalk taxpayer to me.

jlightfield July 2, 2018 at 1:48 pm

Facts matter, and supporting small businesses matter. The public parking that was leveraged to create this misguided housing development does need to be replaced, and promoting a deal to use Yankee Doodle is the same kind of thinking that got Norwalk into this quagmire.

The City does need to replace the public parking through land acquisition in the area. Call it the job retention and creative act that should have been put forward instead of the developer subsidy “innovation district.” than suggest that the City has embraced. The Wall Street Theater and the Garden Cinema, are the anchor entertainment institutions in the arts district, they need adequate access to patron parking, so let’s see some action on restoring the public parking amenity needed for a thriving and vibrant downtown.

Paul Lanning July 2, 2018 at 8:55 pm

Until such time as the Wall Street Theater is booked, marketed and operated by a professional entertainment company, parking for the theater will be irrelevant.

Jlightfield July 3, 2018 at 8:25 am

@paul lanning, the difference between planning and wishful thinking is the ability of planners to see how market and demographic needs transcend what is currently in place. The Wall Street Theater has a 1000 seat capacity, as a theater. Occupancy is a little north of that. Garden Cinema adds another 500, there are several restaurants adjacent etc. who contribute another 300 seats. Within .5 mile there are roughly 1600 residents, but not necessarilly the target market. You can wish that something else happens with the theater, but capacity suggests that parking amenities are required for success.

Paul Lanning July 3, 2018 at 11:39 am

Jackie—Theater parking won’t matter until there’s a schedule of events that people want to attend. Parking is difficult at FTC and at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, both are places where you have to drive around searching for a space. Yet these venues run at near-capacity because of the attractions they offer. Who has the authority to reach out to promoters who could light up the Wall Street Theater with brand-name entertainment?

Jlightfield July 3, 2018 at 12:08 pm

@paul lanning, both FTC and the Capitol on adjacent to train stations, both have smaller capacity than WST and I’m not sure why you think parking in a suburban business district with no mass transit alternative is a non issue.

Paul Lanning July 3, 2018 at 9:30 pm

The Capitol holds 1800. FTC Warehouse up to 650 unseated, FTC Stage One 200(both rooms operate most nights). Metro North is there, but trains are infrequent at that hour. WST parking would be scrutinized if professional concert promoters were solicited. I don’t understand why this isn’t being done, and think it absurd that $10 mil would be spent to renovate this fine theater without a thought to who/what would fill the seats. The pros know what works and what doesn’t. Present management is accomplishing zippo.

Rick July 4, 2018 at 10:45 am

Its funny how people talk about Wall Street Theater , Garden Cinema several restaurants adjacent . What is the life expectancy of anything in the city once the mall opens with free parking? What about the new malls along Ct ave when will they be introduced? New high rises along Ct ave is a given. planning and wishful thinking wont bring success to Norwalk it never did with the old crowd,

parking in a suburban business district with no mass transit alternative is now the norm . cities now host numbers that say mass transit is in trouble with this trend no way will there be a wall st station it would defy current numbers.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/falling-transit-ridership-poses-an-emergency-for-cities-experts-fear/2018/03/20/ffb67c28-2865-11e8-874b-d517e912f125_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.4d93b336645b

Paul is right the city had its chance to at least head in the right direction , the cheerleaders city hall has now are out of touch with planning at a snails pace , look around the city is changing just like the State under a out of touch political party.

Jim Cameron, for 19 years was a member of the CT Rail Commuter Council.A Canadian who took very little input in his meetings over the years and did a poor job. I have to admit his details on the garage in Stamford was outstanding on this father and son team.

Wilms has reached out where is Duff?

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