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Norwalk Hospital looks to build senior living, medical offices on West Avenue ‘cornerstone’

Western Connecticut Health Network has developed a plan for the YMCA property on Norwalk’s West Avenue.

Updated, 6:39 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. — The old Norwalk YMCA building would be knocked down and a “Center for Healthy Living” constructed in its place, under a plan presented by Western Connecticut Health Network to Common Council members Thursday.

The new building’s first floor would feature medical offices, and the upper three stories would consist of apartments for senior citizens, according to WCHN Vice President Morris Gross.

“We are so out of space, particularly the way the world is going in healthcare,” Gross said Thursday.  Norwalk Hospital has 600 full time salaried doctors and very little outpatient space; he gets phone calls every day from medical practices begging for space to use, he added.

“I see more people visiting downtown, more money to be spent,” Gross said.

“We are very excited about it,” Norwalk Director of Community Development Planning Tami Strauss said to members of the Council Planning Committee. “It’s appropriate to what we are envisioning to the Wall Street Redevelopment Plan.”

Video by Harold Cobin at end of story

The 254,000-square foot mixed-use project includes 154,000 square feet of medical offices, 72,600 square feet of senior living, including assisted living and memory care, and a 17,000-square foot wellness center, along with shared parking and a lobby, according to a summary document.

“Norwalk Hospital will be the sole tenant for the medical office component of the project consisting of quality clinical space for multi-specialty practices and additional variety of medical services, including without limitation, radiology, pediatrics, pulmonary, obstetrics, cardiology and primary care,” the document states.

The project would include 1,090 parking spaces. Drivers who are traveling south on West Avenue would be able to turn into the facility, but those going north would not, with the major ingress and egress situated on Maple Street, Attorney Albert Vasco said.

WCHN is in the process of obtaining two pieces of property from the state and two from the city, at 340 and 350 West Ave., Vasco said.  The property transfers would create a 2.92-acre site for development, according to a summary document which states that WCHN is looking to buy the land by Sept. 1.  The envisioned purchases would be a fully taxable transaction, the document states.

Maplewood Healthcare would act as the project’s master developer.  Maplewood Senior Living, which operates a facility on Strawberry Hill Avenue, would offer 72 senior apartments “and other complimentary senior living uses.”

Gregory Smith of Maplewood Senior Living said the new senior housing would create 80 jobs. His colleague Christopher Smith said the development’s medical practices and apartments would create an “intergenerational” environment in what “would be the flagship for the hospital… the cornerstone anchor for that area.”

The site plan for 370 West Ave.

Norwalk Hospital is a 125-year-old institution, and “this is for the hospital and for Western Connecticut, a transformation time for them,” Christopher Smith said. “It’s part of their re-branding their identity in who they are, what they want to deliver to the community. It’s an opportunity for them to not only do that for the patients and be pretty accessible medical services, it’s also an opportunity for them to put a stake in the ground and protect their turf.”

Some of the first floor space could potentially be leased to a “third party operator who understands health, not a straight fitness center or if it was it would be much higher end,” he said.

WCHN is not seeking tax incentives or breaks for the development, Gross told Minority Leader Doug Hempstead (R-District D).

Majority Leader John Igneri (D-District E) noted that there are many empty medical offices in Stamford.  Gross insisted there’s demand in Norwalk.

“There’s not enough space to see the patients unless they see them in the middle of the night,” Gross said. “…We are sure. I am the one who gets the pressure, every day with the calls.”

It’s a good concept, Igneri said.  “You obviously are going to need more space. So, we the city, Planning Committee and Redevelopment, should be looking at filling their need down the road.”

The Baby Boom generation is aging and services are needed, Gregory Smith said.

“If you look the demographics of seniors in Connecticut, specifically Western Connecticut, the population is growing almost at five times what the general population is growing at,” he said. “We have a migration of individuals that are millenials and some older adults that are leaving the state. But our seniors aren’t leaving the state and they will need more health care, and they will need access to it.”

Norwalk Hospital purchased the YMCA at 370 West Ave. in 2012; the late Frank Zullo in 2016 said the building was in disrepair and the YMCA could not maintain it. The Y’s resources dwindled as satellite YMCAs in surrounding communities became independent, he explained.  The building was decayed, with “the small pool held up by 2x4s” in the basement, he added.

Concept art presented by Western Connecticut Health Network.

18 comments

Jlightfield August 3, 2018 at 7:51 am

Whoa, is that a 5/6 story building proposed on the city owned parking lot? Does the Common Council know that the city owns that land?

Rem August 3, 2018 at 8:44 am

What a bizarre and unimaginative layout for this potentially compelling concept. I hope it provides enough room for all parties. It doesn’t reflect growing trends with ride sharing (drop-off) either. And it’s certainly a missed opportunity not to have something over the parking garage in terms of more medical/ or biotech labs above it. It would mean more jobs and tax revenue for the city. I read sometime ago about how biotech is growing in the CT river valley; it’s not as if Norwalk can’t partake in those opportunities either…

SMRS August 3, 2018 at 9:09 am

More tearing down of good architecture to put up crappy, unimaginative buildings (sustainability practices anyone?). Will make for a nice complement to the neighboring mall.

Jlightfield August 3, 2018 at 9:43 am

@susanwallerstein yes, that was for a lease, assuming the parking would remain the use and be available to the public. However I would think the City would have to sell the land in order for a building to be built on it.

Diane Lauricella August 3, 2018 at 10:12 am

Parking lot “adoption” was one of the special deals made in the Moccia era and one of the many legacies Mr. Zullo left behind that no one wants to acknowledge. Suggest obtaining a copy of that deal, know exactly the language of the deal and which Council members approved of it.

Should be item on agenda of next Council Land Use and Building Management meeting!

This could be a great teachable moment for our City to make this fair to the taxpayers. The City may want to use this land. Western CT Health Network has $$$.

Piberman August 3, 2018 at 11:06 am

Be interesting to see the City tax consequences of this project. Silly question.

A City without a YMCA for its increasing lower income and younger population makes a statement.

enough August 3, 2018 at 12:02 pm

So lets tear down another historical building. The last of the history left on west ave will come crashing down.

Susan Wallerstein August 4, 2018 at 7:00 am

“They are not seeking tax incentives or breaks for the development.” Of course not, hospitals already have special tax exempt status.

Michael Foley August 4, 2018 at 7:52 am

I certain hope the city sell’s the parking lot and does not give it away ! Im told the appraised value is around $500,00

Missy Conrad August 4, 2018 at 10:10 pm

I remember when single young men without much $ could live at the Y. There is not enough affordable housing for this group. And, the Carver Center & so many others used the YMCA. Our children learned to swim there. Within the property is that beautiful mansion on the corner being carelessly allowed to decay. A mix of architecture makes a place interesting. All the new building cannot obliterate Everything of our past. Patsy Brescia, who is such a part of the Lockwood-Mathews Museum & is also a real estate agent, should champion that wonderful old house on the corner of Maple Street & proudly fronting West Avenue. A hospital mentality can be sterile & be too ready to discard, for hygiene & speed. Save that remaining fine, old West Avenue Mansion!!

John williams August 4, 2018 at 11:00 pm

They had better either move the victorian house on the corner of maple and west ave or keep it there. We will not accept another piece of our history to be lost.

Rick August 4, 2018 at 11:39 pm

YMCA building would be knocked down

This has to be the case the owners let the building go, don’t be surprised if you hear its been condemned and needs to come down regardless of what the plans are.

The roof is gone been leaking left intentionally that way for the wrecking ball I bet.

If that is the case looks like our environmental officer Tom should be telling the city soon its a tear
down for health reasons . It should have signs posted kids are probably having a filed day inside.

Why was it so hard to tell the city the building is dangerous the way it sits vacant.

Whats taking the city so long to order it taken down? This puts our first responders at risk. Its only going to cost the city money.

the city, Planning Committee and Redevelopment, should be licking their chops figuring on how to screw the taxpayer and makes sure everyone is taking care of unless your name is Jason.

Lisa H August 5, 2018 at 5:20 pm

I’d like to know where all of you were when the Y was struggling and trying to raise capital to keep the doors open? If you think that a decision was made in haste to close the Y, you are wrong. Many of us who were on the Y Board of Directors, and especially the Trustees (ask Patsy Brescia the hours that she and others spent trying to obtain funding for many, many years), opened our own pocketbooks. The community did not. As for the ‘resident rooms’ at the Y back in the late 70’s (I worked at the front desk after school and evenings), I can assure you that it was scary at night. The police were called on a regular basis. It wasn’t a nice rooming house in the late 70’s as referred to above. I remember it quite differently. I was there many nights until closing with one of the Y Staff. The building I had been falling apart for many years and is beyond repair. Again, where were all of you when we were running campaigns to raise money to keep the Y open and afloat. Finally, a big shoutout to Carl and Ray Cooke who worked tirelessly until the end to try and save the Y.

Rick August 6, 2018 at 4:49 pm

Kids broke in or just let themselves in? 12 and the Hour reported large crowd caught at the Y sat night one kid running around inside the empty building is not good.

Norwalk Hospital paid $4.6 million. for the Y can’t imagine them not having all alarms not working. A security officer at the Norwalk hospital said its full of mold and the roof has been leaking.

City just gave raises , then hires new inspectors all the way around no reason this building should be left the way it is.

Where are the signs or security and the city depts saying nothing wrong with building needs no action by the city?

The fact they closed it is sad , but these plans now leaves questions and no deadline , so for now the city babysits?

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