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.”
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.