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Norwalk development notes: POKO, Milligan and Spinnaker

Wall Street Place on Thursday.

Updated, 5:35 p.m. and 8:07 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. – Some development related items for you:

  • Milligan claims Citibank has lost POKO’s tax credits
  • Spinnaker’s New Haven development echoes Norwalk mall decision
  • Normally silent P&Z opines on Milligan

 

Whither POKO’s tax credits?

Real estate broker Jason Milligan says he was told by Department of Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein that the tax credits issued to “POKO,” officially referred to as Wall Street Place phase I or the “Parcel 2A LDA,” will not be renewed.

The funding stack compiled by POKO Partners for Wall Street Place includes $8.64 million in 9 percent Low Income Housing Tax Credits. The tax credits expire on Dec. 31, Connecticut Housing Finance Authority Communications Director Lisa Kidder told NancyOnNorwalk on Nov. 16.

“CHFA is aware there is a potential developer and we are waiting a formal request to address the credits,” she said on Aug. 30.

On Nov. 15, Kidder said CHFA has “not received a formal request from Wall Street Place regarding the Low Income Housing Tax Credits.”

The project would need Zoning approval to apply for tax credits. The project is out of compliance because of its expected parking was moved to Phase II, on land now owned by Milligan.

NancyOnNorwalk emailed CHFA on Aug. 30 to put in a Freedom of Information Act request for the allocation agreement issued to POKO Partners when it was awarded the tax credits in 2014. The request was acknowledged in a timely manner but there was silence until Nov. 15, when NoN emailed CHFA to ask again for the document.

“The documents you have requested are currently with our legal department for review.  As soon as they are available, I will send them over to you,” Amy Stoto of CHFA wrote in a reply email.

Todd and John McClutchy, said to be Citibank’s preferred developer for Wall Street Place, did not reply to a Nov. 16 email asking about Milligan’s claim regarding Evonne Klein and the tax credits. Neither did Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan and a Citibank communications person. Dan Arsenault of the Department of Housing referred the inquiry to Kidder.

“I suspect that Citibank and McClutchy are going to take one last desperate swing and beg for those tax credits,” Milligan said last week. “But it’s all smoke and mirrors.”

Citibank could be open to building a smaller project without the tax credits, Milligan said.

 

New Haven runs afoul with prominent project

Spinnaker Real Estate Partners, known here for the Ironworks apartment building and other developments, as well as for selling “95/7” to General Growth Partners who is building a mall on West Avenue, has “signed on as a partner to restart the stalled plan to build a new urbanist mini-city,” in New Haven according to the New Haven Independent.

Spinnaker is partnering with “The project’s struggling original builder, Montreal-based LiveWorkLearn Play (LWLP),” the Independent reports, explaining that Spinnaker’s been building many apartments in New Haven, including around the stalled New Haven Coliseum project.

As you read the Independent story, you find an echo of Norwalk GGP controversy, under the subhead “No-Tell: Hotel?”

Turns out the Coliseum project is planned to include a four-star hotel.  Spinnaker has asked that the hotel be stricken from the project.

You’ll recall that GGP, now Brookfield, originally committed to building a small boutique hotel over Bloomingdale’s, as part of its mall, then backed out when a hotel was approved for construction next to the Norwalk Police station.  Norwalk city officials allowed GGP to remove the hotel from the mall project after the company agreed to pay the City $3.5 million.

Since the New Haven deal was approved in 2013, numerous boutique hotels have been constructed, the Independent reports. Including one built by Spinnaker.

The story quotes New Haven Mayor Toni Harp as saying the city needs more conference and banquet facilities like the type you find in large hotels – sound familiar?

You can read the New Haven Independent story here.

 

 

 

Stalling Mr. Mango

Norwalk Planning and Zoning leaders recently pointed a finger of blame at Milligan, claiming that he needlessly prolonged the “Mr. Mango” permit dispute.

In addition, Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin said, “I don’t think you can be a developer and not understand the permit process. To me, that’s kind of­ – asinine.”

Luis Eduardo Londono will be opening his Wall Street storefront soon, Jason Milligan said.

The comments came at the Nov. 13 Planning Commission meeting. No reporters were present at the Nov. 13 discussion and NancyOnNorwalk has since obtained a recording.

City officials typically say “no comment” when asked about Wall Street Place (“POKO” to many) and/or Milligan, who is the target of a lawsuit due to his purchase of POKO phase II and III properties. In this case, Commissioner Brian Baxendale brought up POKO, commenting, “The city looks a little foolish, I would suggest.”

Kleppin responded with an explanation of Mr. Mango’s saga: Milligan was seeking a permit for Mr. Mango, actually named Luis Eduardo Londono, to open a storefront in a large building which has an official address of 97 Wall St.  This was initially held up by a Zoning violation in the back of the property, a garage area referred to as 51 Isaac St.

Assistant Planning and Zoning Director Mike Wrinn said that just when P&Z was ready to use executive privilege to allow Londono to move forward, Milligan had a mural painted on the side of the building, in violation of the Zoning regulations.

“That’s when he knew the other mural was in violation. He did that when he could have just not put the mural up,” Kleppin said.

Asked about this by NancyOnNorwalk, Milligan said his first mural had not been cited when the second one was underway. He paid for three murals, as a set, he said.

“There is not a chance that I had received a violation before I started on the other one,” Milligan said.

NancyOnNorwalk found the 97 Wall St. mural partially completed five days after publishing a story that quoted Norwalk Communications Manager Josh Morgan as saying that the first mural was being cited for violating the Zoning regulations.

The artist had already started the mural, Milligan said.

Kleppin on Nov. 13 said that Milligan had been in the Planning and Zoning office, seeking Londono’s permit, and had objected when he was told that Mr. Mango needed to go to the Health Department, the fire marshall and the Building Department. He quoted Milligan as saying, “Why do I need to go to the health department?”

“Well, does anybody need to go to the Health Department when you’re dealing in food?” Kleppin asked. “What happens if there’s a salmonella outbreak? Don’t you want to know food is being handled appropriately? He doesn’t want to comply with permits. I don’t think you can be a developer and not understand the permit process. To me, that’s kind of­ – asinine.”

“I never once called myself a developer,” Milligan said last week to NancyOnNorwalk.

Milligan told NoN in August that he didn’t want to be referred to as a developer, that “real estate broker” was an accurate description.

Kleppin and Wrinn are “so deep in their own cesspool that they don’t realize how cumbersome the process is,” he said last week. “You shouldn’t have to be an expert in all this stuff. It should be a piece of cake.”

It shouldn’t be up to him to explain the permitting process to the small business people and budding entrepreneurs he attracts as tenants, he said.

“Why should the town hall have attitude? Because they know how to do everything and a new business doesn’t know?… I don’t know everything in detail either,” Milligan said.

38 comments

Milly December 3, 2018 at 7:01 am

I am glad Mr. Milligan is now calling himself a “real estate broker” – that’s more accurate than when he called himself ” the little people”. I am confused why he marketed 97 Wall St as an area soon to have a train station – when is that happening?

Jason Milligan December 3, 2018 at 7:35 am

I believe Messrs Kleppin is using hyperbole. I did not complain about a food-use having to go to the health department. The complaint was over the requirement to go to the Department of Public Works and the Conservation Office as part of the 11 steps Mr. Mango had to go through.

The process is broken. It should not take a small business 3 months to open a 600 SF store in an area that is dying and desperate for new businesses!

It also doesn’t seem right for the head of the zoning department to be trying to make fun of one of a city taxpayer. Who does he think he works for?

Instead of comedy, he should try updating the terrible regulations.

Jason Milligan December 3, 2018 at 7:44 am

BTW the online poll about the POKO lawsuit is trending further in my direction.

Should Norwalk continue the frivolous lawsuit against Milligan or try to talk?
Continue lawsuit 16.1%
Try to Talk 83.9%

Who will win the POKO lawsuit?
The City 18.2%
Milligan 82.8%

You can take the survey anonymously in less than 1 minute here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DG3ZJ2B

Jason Milligan December 3, 2018 at 8:18 am

Milly

When/where do you see marketing from me that says Wall St is soon to have a train station?

I am in favor of a train stop much like exists at Merritt 7. Just build a small cement pad and or platform and stop the train a few times per day. Maybe only a handful of times to see if there would be demand.

Of course there are million reasons that the city and state will give us to argue against such a simple and inexpensive solution.

Piberman December 3, 2018 at 9:21 am

Ongoing development imbroglios ought suggest hiring development professionals at City Hall.
Such problematic City oversight likely to continue discourage Developers from doing business with Nowalk. It’s an old story. For decades. So our shabby Downtown remains a City fixture. Shame.

Milly December 3, 2018 at 11:33 am

Mr. Milligan – this is what is posted on loopnet for 97 Wall Street – if this is not your listing I stand corrected.

1 Space Available

Display Rental Rate as
1st Floor
Rental Rate

$30.00 /SF/Yr

Date Available Immediate
Service Type Plus Electric Space Use Retail
Space Available 800 SF Floor 1st Floor
Space Type Relet Build Out As None
Lease Term Negotiable

Located across from the Library and next to the Wall Street Theater this retail space is great for first time & seasoned business owners. Wall Street is growing, with a train stop in the works and an apartment complex in the making.

Patrick Cooper December 3, 2018 at 12:23 pm

@Pamela Parkington – tiring of Milligan? Not even a smidge. How about the POKO saga?

Tiring? How about our bumbling, bungling, mumbling mayor and Norwalk’s 1-party rule? Of that? I am completely exhausted, disgusted, embarrassed and determined to support a regime change. Put that in the dewy decimal system.

Jason Milligan December 3, 2018 at 12:49 pm

Milly,

That is my listing. “Train Stop in the works” is not “an area soon to have a train station”. $250,000 was budgeted to study the viability of a train stop. I personally attended a meeting at the DOT headquarters with Mike McGuire and the head engineer at DOT to discuss a Wall St train stop. I would say that a Train Stop is in the works. However, I will admit that I did not write that copy and it would not have been my choice of words. I will likely update it soon.

The main point of any listing should be that the Wall St area has a ton of potential and it is an up and coming neighborhood.

Btw, Can I interest you in a Mango Smoothie sometime soon? Like hopefully this week.

Sid Welker December 3, 2018 at 1:12 pm

Im with you Pamela. This is just the same old story reworded. Milligan this and Milligan that. I cant open this site without seeing a story about his issues or the comment section flooded with his quick quips. Run for mayor or follow the rules. The rules may not be perfect but just follow them and stop the harassment and name calling of public servants.

Jason Milligan December 3, 2018 at 2:36 pm

Pamela,

I am tiring of the Jason Milligan saga. Why can’t the city find a away to embrace the positive energy I bring to area instead of fighting everything?

It would not be that difficult for the story to have a happy ending, but it would require a few people to check their ego, including me.

Pressing the pedal to the metal on litigation is the exact opposite of what is best for the Wall St area and Norwalk in general.

Someone should keep serious tabs on the legal bill for this. I’ll bet the city has racked up close to $100,000 on legal bills already and that is before the trial on Monday. The trial Monday isn’t even the real trial. It is a trial to see if the City can get an injunction to prevent me from putting tenants in the spaces among other things.

Marie December 3, 2018 at 3:02 pm

Mr Milligan, as a norwalk taxpayer I would like you to just follow the rules and stop wasting taxpayer money with your antics. You know violations keep you from getting permits yet you commit violations anyway then cry when your permit is held up???? And you expect the rules to just change because you don’t like them? Hundreds of other business owners manage to start up businesses without BS surveys and constant whining. You sound like a spoiled brat. Don’t like the rules? Appeal to your city rep and go about it the right way, not with public whining. I agree with Mr. Kleppin—asinine indeed! Why any business owner would move into your building at this point is beyond me.

cc-rider December 3, 2018 at 3:45 pm

I love how people come out of the woodwork to complain about Milligan, but give the city a free pass to bungle and grossly mismanage Poko development. Makes a lot of sense right???

Jason Milligan December 3, 2018 at 5:05 pm

Sid you seem much more equipped and better positioned to run for mayor than me.

I am sure you eagerly open this site hoping that there will be more stories about what is happening next in the Wall St area.

Btw-I am still eager to make your acquaintance.

Jason Milligan December 3, 2018 at 5:15 pm

Marie,

I forgive your ignorance. Hundreds of other small businesses do not follow the rules. Nearly every business in this city is in violations of a host of rules. There are way too many of them and they are selectively enforced.

I don’t only “whine in public”. I speak to everyone and anyone that will listen. I write to the leaders and public representatives and I lobby for change every chance I get.

I called into a task force working to amend the zoning regulations while I was on vacation this summer.

I am fighting this battle on multiple fronts. What you see and hear is the public comments. I speak about it publicly because the public should know the areas for improvement and the hypocrisy of our government.

We need a lot of changes and should it really be up to me a private citizen to pay for the the rewrite of the regulations. Clearly that is unreasonable.

Our leadership should be constantly working to improve the rules and regulations. They should regularly be checking there efficiency and effectiveness.

Marie I feel confident that you have never had to “follow the rules” of opening a small business or being a landlord to a small business. If you had gone through that process I promise you that you would have a new perspective.

Jason Milligan December 3, 2018 at 5:54 pm

Deb-I think you know that I do not currently live in Norwalk.

Disclose sounds like that was a secret. I did live in Norwalk for almost 10 years of my life and I was very satisfied with my time here, and perhaps one day I will live here again.

Does this make my opinions more or less relevant? Can you please disclose if you pay taxes in Norwalk and how much?

I pay $486,000 per year in Norwalk taxes. I care how that money is spent. I would like to see it go to better use.

Debora Goldstein December 3, 2018 at 6:29 pm

Yes. Jason.

I both vote and pay taxes in Norwalk. About $6k per year.

And yes, it is relevant. Since the employees are charged with enforcing policy made by those that are ELECTED to make policy.

In a democracy, its one person-one vote.

The fact that you pay 86x the property tax I do does not negate the fact that I, and others like me, have to live with the consequences of zone changes. You go home every night.

Jason Milligan December 3, 2018 at 9:24 pm

Deb,

I still like you and I think you provide value to our city. I am not sure what your beef is.

McKeen Shanogg December 3, 2018 at 10:07 pm

There was a man named Milligan
Who wanted to be king of the hill again.
He said “I’m no schmo,
I’ve got the dough.”
And went on to start some shenanigans.

Mitch Adis December 3, 2018 at 10:08 pm

I just learned that zoning rules are in effect from dusk until dawn. AND I learned they only impact residents, not property owners. Thanks for the education Deb…

Jason Milligan December 4, 2018 at 7:41 am

Milly,

You can get a smoothie hopefully as soon as tomorrow. I’ll buy you one if you want to meet me at Mr. Mango. They are delicious.

It’ll probably be a while before you can take a train there especially when our mayor and other leaders barely support it.

Marie-Do you know Milly? Go together. I buy you both a smoothie and we can talk about rules. I really look forward to people like you defending and enforcing the updated commonsense rules once we get them in place.

Debora Goldstein December 4, 2018 at 9:57 am

I’m so glad several people chose to avoid the point I was making by pretending I said zoning decisions only apply at night.

The point is that the largest voice in deciding how our city should look and be run should be those who actually live and vote here. Because they have to live with those consequences 24 hours a day. Similarly, businesses who are run here by their owners, have a stake in the property taxes they pay, and in that the rules affect their ability to earn a livelihood.

Some of the very problems with the zoning code right now are a result of individuals like yourself coming in and asking for zoning modifications to suit their own projects. Worse yet, our zoning commissioners are often pressed to make changes to increase profitability of a single project. Which then makes it that much harder for the next project to be profitable.

I don’t have a beef with you, except the one you and I have discussed at length, on the phone, in person and in these comments. Those other developers, however painful the results of their zoning requests are, at least are following the rules and processes of Norwalk.

You,, on the other hand, don’t even want to follow the rules, while asking that the zone be redesigned to your liking. And you do so while 90k+ residents, plus many small business owners, are in the process of being heard on what THEY would like to see there.

You want the City to honor the LDA, even as you violated it yourself.

I have no beef with you. Folks who know me here in Norwalk know that I am a fan of protest to effect change. But it is usually on behalf of large groups of residents and/or businesses who are being disenfranchised. You,, on the other hand, went out of your way to purchase property in the most regulated areas of the City, and are now chafing at the regulations there.

One has to wonder exactly why you’ve chosen Norwalk to redesign in your own vision, rather than the NY town you live in, or any of the dozens of towns between there and here.

Jason Milligan December 4, 2018 at 10:25 am

Whoa Deb.

There is a lot in there.

First of all I started working in Norwalk in 2001 and I began my own business in Norwalk in 2003 and I have operated it here since then. I lived in Norwalk for nearly a decade.

I have been successfully doing business in Norwalk for 17 years. I have had frustrations over those years and I have shared them when appropriate, but I largely followed the rules and didn’t make waves.

Until this arrogant mayor and corporation council sued me over the library project. That project was completely by the book and as of right. I followed all the rules! Yet this mayor and his henchmen pulled every trick in the book against me.

I ad met with Harry Rilling in his office with the amazing economic director Liz Stocker 1 week after I bought the property next to the library. I highlighted the library’s lack of parking and suggested we find a way to collaborate. Harry dismissed me until the library patrons were up in arms. Then he panicked and lashed out. It wasn’t right and it wasn’t fair but it taught me a valuable lesson. It also encouraged me to look into the failings of the POKO project. Wall St is my favorite area of Norwalk and watching it get ruined really bothered me. I decided to research everything I could and it became clear that I could fix it. It also became clear that the public needed to know what was going on. The non-disclosure agreement was the last straw.

So what is the way to get change? Not exactly sure when you have a mayor that is weak, insecure, and arrogant. He has changed. He used to be a man of the people. He was personable and seemed to care. Now he seems disengaged, easily annoyed and has disdain for the taxpayers. In his defense being mayor must be a tough job. You can never please everyone. Perhaps the demands of the job have taken there toll.

Should we all wait for the people that like the system and benefit from it to enact changes or should we the people usher in the changes we want?

Deb-You are right in the fact that I currently do not have the right to vote in Norwalk. I can only make suggestions. I am willing to have a battle of ideas. The changes that I support and promote on Wall St are not designed to benefit me. They are designed to lift the area and benefit us all.

Perhaps you should join Milly, Marie and I for a smoothie to talk about it. Mr. Mango’s grand opening is tomorrow at 2 pm.

cc-rider December 4, 2018 at 10:35 am

Deb- how do you feel about all the city workers that collect paychecks from the city, but live in other towns? Surely you would feel the same angst against them as they do not have to live with the “consequences” of their work.

Debora Goldstein December 4, 2018 at 1:21 pm

Thanks cc-rider. An excellent point. It is another thing that the town has voiced a desire to fix over the years. In general, I really believe that department heads, at the very least, should be willing to relocate here, since they have a lot of influence on the policy-makers and make the choices to execute on policies. Some would argue that those department heads have a whole lot of effect on policy execution with their budget requests.

Given the overall state of the economy, its a little harder to insist on that for rank and file schoolteachers, police, fire-fighters and administrative workers. Everyone has to make a living, and those folks don’t really have an effect on the policies or the way those policies get carried out. On the other hand, they don’t vote here either.

Debora Goldstein December 4, 2018 at 1:31 pm

Jason,

Thank you for the bio and the history. I don’t dispute the facts of how long you have operated a business here.

We all want a better Wall St. I would prefer that we get the Wall St that the people of Norwalk want. If that aligns with what Jason Milligan wants, so be it.

My best wishes to Mr. Mango, but we do have smoothie places closer to home.

Susan Wallerstein December 5, 2018 at 8:06 am

Residency issue aside, interesting to me are three recent Norwalk-New Canaan intersects that seem to illustrate the challenging urban/suburban dynamic that affects Fairfield County in so many ways: White Barn open space/New Canaan developer, New Canaan historical house eminent domain/1st Taxing District property, Wall St./New Canaan developer. Lots of interesting and important variables here including who has the $, who has the land, who is able to purchase/protect open space & protect historical assets, environmental and preservation interests, etc., etc.

EnoPride December 5, 2018 at 10:51 am

Great points raised by Susan Wallerstein. Developers from out of town are always purchasing and profiting here in Norwalk, and like Susan posted there are so many important variables regarding protection of open land and historical assets, etc. Norwalkers never seem to hear discussion about these variables she mentioned, even while attending meetings, as these development projects are often shoehorned in or voted in at fever pitch and most usually almost unanimously at City Hall, which always astounds me. This practice is not always in the best interest of Norwalk as a city and smacks of a thoughtless sell out mentality. Like Deb Goldstein mentioned, these developers go home to their towns after they seal the deal here. They don’t have to live with what they purchased and developed staring them in the face twenty four seven. Are these out of town developers buying, tearing down, building up, keeping in mind what is in the best interest of the city of Norwalk with regard to appropriate land use, or are they merely turning a profit without regard? Are these out of town developers doing right by Norwalk in their final product, or are they not, as they are not wholly invested, tax paying, voting Norwalk residents? Are our City Hall members quick to advocate for Norwalk when dealing with these developers, and are they being discriminative enough in getting these projects “just right”, or are they selling out and giving developers too much say on the final product and rubber stamping their development plans too rashly?

Debora Goldstein December 5, 2018 at 1:07 pm

An important clarification here is make sure we understand that “developers” themselves aren’t an inherently bad thing. They are an important component to revitalizing areas like Wall St and to help us do the kinds of economic development that will broaden the tax base and bring jobs.

What does not work is when the community agrees that they want or don’t want something, and our code isn’t aligned with that. And that gets further aggravated by the overuse of special permits and text amendments that take projects further away from what Norwalk wants and needs.

Let’s focus on the root cause of the problem, instead of vilifying an entire sector that can be part of the solution.

EnoPride December 5, 2018 at 4:34 pm

Totally agree, Deborah Goldstein. Didn’t intend to come off as villifying an entire sector in my post. Grateful that developers want to invest in Norwalk, and in doing so, are helping to revitalize and bring economic development, no question there. Planned properly, development can be a win-win. Just somewhat skeptical of some of this development going on in Norwalk and how it is being handled. Some projects hit the mark while some do not seem to, and I wonder why Norwalk is so quick to rubber stamp what in the eyes of many Norwalkers doesn’t hit the mark in some instances.

Susan Wallerstein December 6, 2018 at 7:05 am

@EnoPride & Deb Goldstein My comment was not intended to be anti-developer, rather suggesting the need to remind ourselves of the larger picture that is Fairfield County.

Susan Wallerstein December 6, 2018 at 7:07 am

…and to sometimes see patterns among projects that don’t seem to be connected at all, maybe even to try to get creative about leveraging our assets to meet our small city’s needs.

EnoPride December 6, 2018 at 10:56 am

Agree. My big picture vision of Norwalk many years from now does not want to be of an uninspired fortress building patterned landscape eclipsing our beautiful shoreline. I don’t want to be another Stamford when we could easily be our own unique city with creative planning and land use. Many Norwalkers envision our city in a way very different than how it is being developed. It just seems we are seeing a lot of, and too much of, the same being developed, whether it belongs in its setting or not.
Creative big picture vision would be refreshing. I worry too about the long term economic sustainability of all these more massive apartment structures and how it could impact the city in the big picture future.

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