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Norwalk development roundup: SoNo TOD, YMCA, Columbus School

An artist’s rendering of a Chestnut Street development, presented to the Norwalk Zoning Commission last week.

Updated, 6:10 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. — Here’s a roundup of development-related Norwalk news items:

  • Multi-building Chestnut Street TOD redevelopment brewing
  • Council considers YMCA land sale
  • Columbus School public hearing expected on 20th

Video by Harold Cobin at end of story

 

Zoners get ‘preview’ of Chestnut Street project

A Chestnut Street redevelopment is being expanded to include multiple buildings, Attorney Liz Suchy told the Norwalk Zoning Commission on Thursday.

A six-story building is planned for Chestnut Street as a complement for a renovation that is already underway at 11 Chestnut, she said. Zoning Commission Vice Chairman Lou Schulman then pressed her, saying that he had heard that “this is only part of a larger project, if you get the necessary properties.”

Suchy admitted that SoNo Metro LLC is contemplating “other phases” but isn’t ready to talk about the design of the other buildings. Schulman said the Commission would like to see the overall concept so it can consider the new proposal in context of its impact on the area, and thereby cut short Suchy’s presentation.

“The project envisions the redevelopment of about 73,000 square feet with first-floor retail fronting on Monroe and on Chestnut, first-floor parking, mezzanine parking, then about 106 residential units above it,” Suchy said.  She added that a new six-story building would be opposite the former factory at 11 Chestnut.

The 11 Chestnut St. project was approved about four years ago, with 16 apartments over first floor office space.

This development is spurred by the recent approval of a Transit Oriented District (TOD), Planning and Zoning Director Steve Kleppin commented.  He noted that the new regulations give the Zoning Commission a say in the architectural plans for the building, a role formerly assigned solely to the Redevelopment Agency.

It’s possible there will be no public hearing on the six-story building, Schulman noted.  “Is there any concern that the public really doesn’t get a full voice in this process?” he asked.

Kleppin said the height of the building was basically pre-approved when the TOD plan went through, as the application complies with the Zoning regulations and “you don’t have leeway.”

There were numerous hearings on the TOD changes before they were approved, and, “to me, that’s when that process occurred,” he said.

Zoning Commission Chairman Nate Sumpter agreed.

“The beauty is that there is no property that is being taken through eminent domain or anything like that,” Sumpter said. “This is property that is there and I really would like to see it developed. As long as we are doing everything with the letter of the law then it makes sense that we move forward, knowing what we know. But just making it clear that the public understands that, also.”

SoNo Metro LLC has five members, according to the Secretary of State:

  • CBA Realty LLC
  • Bruce Beinfield
  • Keith Brown
  • Joseph Condon
  • Matthew Edvardsen

 

City’s YMCA property appraised at $950,000

Norwalk Hospital is looking to acquire two City-owned West Avenue properties as part of its plan to build a mixed-used development on the former YMCA site, as well as two state-owned pieces.

Norwalk Common Council members heard this proposal last week.  Building and Facilities Manager Alan Lo explained that the .44 acres owned by the City, at the intersection of West and Route 1, are appraised at $950,000 and that’s what the hospital is paying.

Nick Sacchinelli (D-At Large) asked if there would be a reverter clause because “there was concern about overdevelopment in that area” and if the hospital doesn’t go ahead with its plan, the land should come back to the City.

With The SoNo Collection opening down the street, that parcel will become valuable, he said.

Tom Livingston (D-District E) agreed that no one wants a “POKO situation.”

“It’s a little bit different than POKO, we are paying fair market value for the property,” Attorney Albert Vasco, representing Western Connecticut Health Network said.

“I’m just saying, things happen,” Doug Hempstead (R-District D) replied, pointing out that the entire parcel becomes more valuable once the small slivers are added.

A public hearing will be required on this plan, Livingston said.

The 254,000-square foot mixed-use project is planned to include 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.

“Personally, I think it’s a great project,” Livingston said.  “I have heard a number of complaints about the parking garage already. ‘It’s going to be massive behind the building.’” he added.

The concept is much bigger than “than just building a medical office building with a component that had some senior housing,” Christopher Smith of Maplewood Senior Living replied, explaining that it’s a wellness center with an educational component, with access to Matthews Park and the hospital campus.

“It’s really important to us as developers and partners with the hospital that this sense of arrival in that patient and family experience makes it so we are trying to be as thoughtful as we can, even how it feels going in the parking garage,” he said, commenting that the ceiling heights, the light and the ease of getting in and out are being considered, as well as the look of the property from Route 7 and Norwalk Hospital itself.

“We are trying to be really conscientious of that design,” he said. “We want it to be inviting and relaxing and engaging with the community.”

 

Columbus School

Norwalk Zoners on Thursday also got an “initial presentation” on the school planned to be built behind the Nathaniel Ely preschool center on Ingalls Avenue as the future home of Columbus Magnet School.

Lo reviewed the need to create more space for Norwalk school children.  Jim Holden, project architect, explained that the new school will be pushed back as far east as possible, and it will be built in tiers to take advantage of grade changes.

The City is buying two properties to reduce the loss of open space in the area.  The acquisition of 4 Tito Court is friendly, while 10 Tito Court is being taken by eminent domain, Lo said.  He predicted that the courts will wrap up the former in about a month.

The Common Council is voting on a lease for 4 Tito Court on Tuesday, which would allow the current tenants of the church there to stay for a year as the construction isn’t expected to begin before then.

Zoners plan to hold a public hearing on the school on Sept. 20.

8 comments

Michael Foley September 11, 2018 at 8:01 am

Norwalk Common Council members heard this proposal last week. Building and Facilities Manager Alan Lo explained that the .44 acres owned by the City, at the intersection of West and Route 1, are appraised at $950,000 and that’s what the hospital is paying. ( So with this comment does this mean this is a done deal ? Who appraised this property and was it more than one source ?

Susan Wallerstein September 11, 2018 at 8:18 am

Will the new mixed-use project generate any property tax revenue? Does the hospital’s tax exempt status extend to partners and activities that were they not under the hospital’s umbrella would be subject to property tax?

Diane Lauricella September 11, 2018 at 9:22 am

IF it is decided to sell the City property, I believe the City should get a second opinion on the appraisal (this was paid for by the applicant) and propose a higher price, such as 1.5 Million, then actually NEGOTIATE on behalf of the taxpayers.

Some of us feel that the City could have explored purchasing that site years ago, creating a new Y complex in a public-private partnership…then passed up another chance for a Y complex at the Mall site to fulfill its “mixed use” component.
Speaks to need for creative short- and long-range planning. Let’s try!

Rick September 11, 2018 at 9:55 am

the new school will be pushed back as far east as possible, and it will be built in tiers to take advantage of grade changes.

I thought Mr Lo was going to make sure radon testing was going to be done on the ledge , before the great grade changes were used?

What a nice school it will come with a radon removal system before or after the kids move in?

I guess some of the new parents won’t care about Radon their generation never learned about it being at the other end of the bong.

Piberman September 11, 2018 at 12:16 pm

We’re all waiting to hear the news about major new firms locating in Norwalk building/renovating bringing good jobs. Going to be a long wait. Unless one believes Developers bring good jobs and raise the Grand List and then we need to have a discussion.

Mitch Adis September 11, 2018 at 4:44 pm

“I’m just saying, things happen,” Doug Hempstead (R-District D) replied, pointing out that the entire parcel becomes more valuable once the small slivers are added.

A great example is 95/7. The City helped assemble the slivers that collectively cost $9,000,000. The “developer” who did nothing but sit on the property turned around and sold it for $34,000,000 to GGP. Imagine what would have happened if the “developer” had to give the property back if they did not develop what was promised?

The tax payers should get more for this “Tiny” but valuable property. The value should be based on the value add once the parcels are combined. Also, there should be a “reverter clause” no matter what.

Tony P September 11, 2018 at 10:09 pm

Has Nate Sumpter seen a housing project he didn’t like? He sold out East Avenue with that 15 unit housing project shoehorned in between the Dunkin Donuts and the Chruch school? He basically told the developers attorney that he didn’t to ‘hold them up’ – seriously????

EnoPride September 12, 2018 at 10:55 am

I was wondering what that was between the school and Dunkin Donuts. That is just terrible how they crammed all those units in there! How could that type of development pass on that parcel?! And the materials used on the homes though new are the cheapest materials, finishes you could possibly go with. Completely irresponsible. The whole setup smacks of high volume, low budget sell out, and looks questionable and borderline unsustainable because of the tight quarters. Can you imagine that parking lot behind there on a daily basis during rush hour times when those units all fill up? All those cars coming out and feeding onto East Avenue, which is a pathetic nightmare anyway? All those cars contributing to the four gas station truck stop vibe right up the way?? Just terrible. Yes, the original two houses were in very bad shape, but come on already!

Could we have kept the layout of the two houses with maybe 2 family units per home instead? Something like the two nicely done properties back on Osborne? Here is link:

https://www.redfin.com/CT/Norwalk/61-Osborne-Ave-06855/unit-B/home/144527204

Garages could have been behind the homes on the East Ave. houses? Wouldn’t that have been the responsible, appropriate approach with this property? That or incentivize businesses in the two houses? Congrats, Mr. Sumpter et al… In one fell swoop you have just made quality of life that much worse on East Avenue with your frivolity in allowing this misuse of property. Aren’t you supposed to be doing the opposite? Stop with this reckless, nonsensical approach already. It is infuriating and insulting to the public. Represent us the way we deserve to be represented.

Here we go with the multiplier effect, development crazy RDA, P&Z and Common Council again. Norwalkers should demand a comprehensive study and, here we go again (this is getting old, isn’t it, fellow Norwalkers?), ACTUAL DATA, strictly on a compilation of every type of apartments or multi family housing structures, so we can know; first, how many units are currently in Norwalk as a whole, and second, how do these multiplier properties impact Norwalk in the areas of expense to taxpayers, quality of life, traffic congestion, impact on schools, proportionate ratio of residential units to economic development/businesses (should some of these parcels be businesses instead of residential developments?), etc., etc. I am assuming with this group that we have nothing of the sort to rein in the recklessness that is ensuing with regard to overdevelopment and City Hall acting as sell out developers and real estate experts, killing Norwalk quality of life, one neighborhood at a time. We need to hold these people accountable. They are just winging it here and this lack of management is costing us. Just look at the POKO mess as an example of poor management.

Mr. Sumpter didn’t even seem to know about the extreme traffic situation in this area of East Norwalk where this 15 unit fiasco is earlier on, nor did he know the troubled layout of the roads which feed into what will be the East Ave train station project. And of course, we who follow the goings on all know that a more involved traffic study of the area is only just now beginning, cart before the horse style, which has become Norwalk’s signature style of mismanagement. But this misinformed approach and lack of knowledge did not stop Mr. Sumpter or most of the others from flippantly voting in MORE apartments with these two projects. Mr. Sumpter is completely out of touch about East Norwalk. I guess Mr. Sumpter and the other Council members can vote these projects which will impact quality of life and exacerbate already terrible traffic conditions in so frivolously because this is not happening in their back yard. Irresponsible…

And magically, no significant amount of children will come out of these units and clog up the schools, because Mr. Sheehan says that children coming out of newer developments in Norwalk don’t generate an amount of children significant enough to overload the school system. The council members appear to believe him. How is that? Where is your data backing your false statement and numbers, Mr. Sheehan? The public wants to see! When can you provide us with this data? Ughhh… It’s gettin’ old…

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