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Milligan plans Garden Cinema protest in opposition to Wall-West plan

At left, The Garden Cinema on Isaac Street; at right, the stalled Wall Street Place development, referred to by many as “POKO.”

Updated 10:13 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. – The fate of the Garden Cinema and the proposed Wall Street-West Avenue Neighborhood Plan issue are set to merge Tuesday evening in Norwalk City Hall, and at least one person plans protest activities.

Wall Street area real estate owner Jason Milligan said he’s working to recruit people to attend the Common Council meeting where the Wall-West plan is expected to be voted upon, and bring both a bullhorn and a sign saying, “Save the Garden Cinema.”

“Fireworks at city hall tomorrow,” Milligan wrote in a midnight text message.

Milligan is being sued by the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency and the City of Norwalk because he bought properties that were designated as part of “POKO” phase II and III, without Redevelopment Agency approval, as was required by the Land Disposition Agreement for the properties.

Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan revealed in testimony last week that a plan has been developed to restart the stalled “POKO” phase I, which will be discussed in executive sessions this month and then revealed to the public, if the Council and Redevelopment Agency Commissioners agree to the terms.

Milligan in August said that JHM Group, the expected redeveloper of POKO phase I, officially referred to as Wall Street Place phase I, was attempting to buy the Garden Cinema.

The Cinema property could be used to provide parking for phase I. You might think that Phase I would already have enough parking because it was approved by the Zoning Commission, but the Commission in 2016 allowed POKO Partners to move some of the parking spaces to its Phase II properties. Then construction halted due to cost overruns, a shortage of funds, and the illness of the late POKO principal Ken Olson, and Citibank foreclosed on the project. Richard Olson retained the phase II and III properties until he sold them to Milligan, separating critical parking needed to complete phase I. Now that Citibank doesn’t own the properties, it reportedly needs to find room for parking elsewhere.

NancyOnNorwalk asked City officials last week if the Garden Cinema is part of the plan being presented to the Council and Redevelopment Agency.

“Nothing is finalized yet and with ongoing negotiations, we cannot comment further,” Norwalk Communications Manager Joshua Morgan replied.

 

Wall-West

Tuesday’s Council vote is on the proposed Wall Street-West Avenue Neighborhood Plan, not the tax incentives associated with it, Ordinance Committee Chairwoman Eloisa Melendez (D-District A) confirmed Monday.

A copy of the plan is not included in the Council packet available online. The draft available on the Redevelopment Agency’s webpage is dated October 2018. The link to the February update is not advertised on the webpage.

Council member Doug Hempstead (R-District D) said last week that he had received new amendments to the plan only a week and a half earlier.

Opponents are challenging the criteria used by Redevelopment as the legal foundation to justify the need for a redevelopment plan, a determination referred to early in the process as “blight” but now cited as “deteriorated or deteriorating” conditions.

Michael McGuire of the Austin McGuire Company, a commercial real estate company, on Monday emailed Council members “an analysis on the overall health of the real estate markets” of the area that would be covered by the plan.

Wall-West RE Market Analysis Summary

“Blight/deterioration, if actually present, would have to show up as sub-par performance reflected in essential market parameters such as rental rates and vacancy rates.  None does.  If anyone says differently, make sure to ask for their source, citations and analysis,” he wrote.

An excerpt from the proposed Wall Street-West Avenue plan, showing stakeholder input.

Redevelopment consultant RPA had originally cited the area as blighted; after Wall Street Theater operator Frank Farricker challenged the determination, Redevelopment engaged Harriman, formerly The Cecil Group, whose study stated that the area qualifies for designation as a redevelopment area.

That was “highly subjective work done be unqualified people with no valuation expertise,” McGuire wrote Monday, calling the determinations “unsupported claims” as opposed to his “solid empirical market data which I endorse as a court qualified (state and federal) valuation expert.”

“{T}he public was only aware of the blights data (RPA) in December 2018, and for the Harriman work February 13, less than 4 weeks ago,” McGuire wrote. “Replacing the flawed RPA report with the even more flawed Harriman report, and expecting the public to keep pace with these changes is unfair.  Please consider this when voting tomorrow.”

Milligan complains that a second public hearing wasn’t held on the plan after it was revised in February, calling it “totally different” with the addition of 18 pages.

There’s been no change to the plan since January, Director of Community Development Planning Tami Strauss said Thursday.  Appendixes have been combined to reflect the initial blight analysis and the second analysis showing the “deteriorated or deteriorating” conditions, she said.

Milligan and McGuire have made repeated pitches to the Council Planning Committee on this topic, airing their concerns. The Committee on Thursday voted 6-0-1 to move the plan ahead to the full Council, with Hempstead abstaining on the grounds that he hadn’t had much time to review the current version.

Strauss addressed the accusation that the plan is being “fast tracked” by noting that work on it began in late 2017 and the Planning Committee has met publicly seven times to discuss it, beginning in February 2018.

Planning Committee Chairman John Kydes (D-District C) asked Straus to explain why a plan is needed.

“This neighborhood has seen some development and infrastructure improvements over the last 10 years yet it still does not exhibit the signs of a healthy urban environment, economically, physically, or socially,” she replied. “Despite the addition of apartments and the presence of major employers in the area, the population density is too low for a healthy urban environment. There are highly visible sites that are not built out to their highest and best use. There is significant commercial and ground floor vacancies and there is a lack of appropriate urban amenities, with a lack of connectivity – parks aren’t built out.”

“This plan sets forth the vision of participating stakeholders for how the plan area should be built over the next 10 years,” Straus said.

 

 

 

Garden Cinema

JHM, otherwise called “McClutchy” because it’s owned by John and Todd McClutchy, has a contract on the Garden Cinema for $3 million, Milligan said Monday.

“It is coming down if McClutchy gets it,” he wrote.

Milligan, a real estate broker who owns at least 19 properties in the Wall Street area, said he confirmed the Cinema is still under contract to JHM two weeks ago, when he tried to broker a deal for a client who wanted to buy the theater and donate it to a nonprofit.

Sheehan in court last week testified that Milligan caused irreparable harm to Norwalk when he bought the Phase II properties, because Citibank expected that it could “exercise its interest” in the properties to provide parking for Phase I.

Milligan on Monday called the idea that he is partially responsible for the possible demolition of the Garden Cinema “ridiculous.”

The Land Disposition Agreement does not grant Phase I the right to use Phase II for parking purposes, he said.  Thus there’s a disparity in Norwalk approvals, according to court testimony that Zoning approved POKO’s request to move the parking without notifying the Redevelopment Agency.

“They f—- up beyond belief and they are trying to blame others,” he wrote. “Through a combination of incompetence and deceit the players screwed the citizens of Norwalk with POKO.”

Milligan said he’d be wearing a Tyvek sweatshirt Tuesday, and needs a bullhorn so he can be heard inside and out.

“I hope a large turnout,” Milligan wrote. “The short notice is a killer.”

26 comments

Jason Milligan March 12, 2019 at 8:07 am

Talk about 1 of the all time railroad jobs.

This plan was approved by planning on Thursday, Council votes tonight and Redevelopment tomorrow. This NEW PLAN has not gone through the state statute required steps which includes the public to a great extent.

The problem is people like John Kydes has disdain for the public.

It wasn’t until late Thursday when Tim uttered his last words on the witness stand while under oath that we learned that the Wall St Redevelopment Plan is in fact EXPIRED!! And it has been for almost a year.

Labeling an area as a Redevelopment area is an extraordinary step. The fact that the decades old label for Wall st expired a year ago is significant.

Any plan now is entirely new.

Can you imagine Sylvester McKonkey Sheehan pulling into town peddling his wares asking the city to point him to the area where Slum & Blight exist. Not a person alive would direct him to Wall St, lower main st, West Ave and then awkwardly also loop him around the hospital.

This plan is a Sham! It is attempting to rip off the tax payers by lying about slum and blight.

That designation allows the Redevelopment Agency to apply for State & Federal grants and subsidy, it will allow for the great tax give away formerly known as the Innovation District and ultimately it gives the Agency the tremendous power to sieze property through eminent domain(w/ council approval).

NOW is the time that Redevelopment can be tamed. Their responsibilities can be distributed to the Housing Authority, Dept Economic Development and planning & Zoning like every other well run city in this country.

Norwalk’s RDA has expanded to ridiculous proportions. They are an unelected an unaccountable blob.

There is absolutely no need to pass this plan!!

Michael McGuire March 12, 2019 at 8:44 am

Strauss/ Sheehan

Let’s focus on the core issues .

1 Just because some sites in the Plan Area are, in your opinion (and with zero analysis) underutilized does not mean that you get to falsely classify the entire plan area as blighted or deteriorating. Why would you do that?

2. Regarding the RDA claim of not enough people down here is not supported. You are using old data from 2014 before Waypoint or Head of the Harbor South were built.

I agree we need more people living down here. But we don’t need RDA to make that happen. That can be done with modest zone changes, the in place plans for Highpoint, Fixing POKO, pushing forward with Head of Harbor North and streamlining our development processes to make the area more attractive to capturing “Opportunity Zone” funding which is designed to by-pass bottleneck agencies like RDA.

The Wall Street area,is already making a strong comeback despite the body-blows delivers via “7 Years of Duleep” and POKO – both inflicted by inept regulatory oversite. Why would you expect us to accept more regulatory oversite from the folks that screwed up POKO, blighted the neighborhood with POKO and the Phase II buildings ( left by RDA in deplorable condition for 2+ years), then sued the one guy who took his own money and put it at risk to buy these properties, clean them up, lease them up (don’t you call that activating the Street front).

You don’t seem to understand that RDA regulatory oversite of this area damages every property owners bundle of rights. RDA are the ones creating irreparable harm to the area.

The poorly concocted ordinance on tax incentives is a long-term death sentence to the small property owner. But you don’t seem to understand that either. Your plan only works for large scale properties created via assemblage which use our tax dollars to subsidize the elimination of small business and property owners.

If the City wants RDA input they should curtail RDA efforts to a few sites that you believe need your services. Then have RDA make a strong pitch for the inclusion of its services. To have wholesale oversite of the entire area is ludicrous and reflect poor management.

RDA mislead the CC members and its own commissioners. The RPA report was a real stretch but the Harriman report is garbage. Everything hinges upon the finding of blight or deterioration so misleading reports where concocted to support your claim for regulatory oversite of the entire area. Now you are trying to ram this through since your term here has expired, which you also attempted to hide from the public. Thankfully that was found out and exposed.

Each of these topics noted above need far more time than the allowed 3 minutes to unpack. Robust public policy comes from robust public debate. And it appears much of the written comments sent in to the CC members who vote on this goes unread. I even doubt that many of the CC members have really read the Wall-West plan.

There is a great saying- “if we can trust you with the little things, we can trust you with the big things”.

Isabelle Hargrove March 12, 2019 at 10:17 am

Michael McGuire nailed it. This is an unnecessary take over of our entire downtown by RDA under dubious claims of blight. It will permanently hurt small property owners, businesses, and create more behemoth projects that go exactly against our desire to develop an authentic, vibrant downtown.

Again, we are always only offered a binary choice – do nothing or let the RDA take over. This is not so. We do not have to surrender our town to agencies. Agencies should be working with stakeholders instead of against them to produce the best outcome for Norwalk.

It is also chilling to think that this plan will be approved by our common council tonight with no transparency on its impact on some of our most beloved institutions like the Garden Cinema.

Every resident should urge the Common Council to vote NO on this plan. Show up tonight or email [email protected].

Jason Milligan March 12, 2019 at 10:31 am

Let’s be clear.

POKO failed long before I got involved.

It took 11 years from plan to start construction. 6 months into construction a $10 MILLION “budget gap” was discovered. That’s after 2 free parking lots and $21.5 million in tax payer subsidy.

Corners were cut. Basement parking was eliminated from the plan. Spaces were relocated off site including 100 spaces put in Yankee Doodle garage(yes you read that right). Construction stopped within 1 year of starting.

Then Citibank foreclosed! That was in 2016. For the next 2 years McClutchy & Citibank had secret discussions. When the public demanded to know what was going on then everybody signed a non-disclosure agreement. McClutchy squandered those 2 years.

2 years later in 2018 I bought the properties, but before I could close Citibank and by extension McClutchy had the opportunity to match my offer and take over with a “right of first refusal”. They chose not to match.

It is ridiculous to try to blame me. This POKO cake was baked.

I have merely exposed the many issues and shed light on the the secretive dealings that gave away 2 city parking lots for nothing.

It is time to let POKO die.

It is not time to give the creators of POKO another decade of control over the entire downtown of Norwalk.

It is not time to knock down the Garden cinema to fix POKO. Tear down POKO not Garden Cinema.

Stop dumping tax payer money into the POKO black hole!!

City Council VOTE NO to the NEW Expanded Wall St, West Ave, Main St & awkward Hospital Loop Plan!!

Michael McGuire March 12, 2019 at 11:24 am

CC members (and the Norwalk Public at large) please realize that if RDA is given regulator authority over this area anyone opposing RDA’s future actions (i.e. taking over properties for assemblage into large developments) has only one course of action – suing them. That’s pretty much it.

RDA won’t listen and does not seem to care. RDA will bleed you in a long, drawn-out law suit because that is what they do. I know this first hand having been party to their practices. They are an un-elected, un-accountable agency that City Hall has no control over.

And don’t let them hide behind the statement “the common council has the ultimate authority”. The only authority you will be given is based on the data provided by RDA. Consider that three times in less than 3 months on this one issue alone RDA has given you bad/cherry-picked information.

1. Who knew the old plan had expired more than a year ago? It took being under the prospect of perjury (last week) to get that out of Tim Sheehan.

2. RDA gave you a crappy blight analysis performed by RPA as an afterthought. The Redevelopment agency figured it would slide right by you. Guess what – it did.

3. Then when challenged by the public, RDA went off and had a new study done without public input, even though the public had specifically requested it (the public) be part of the vetting for a new study with an accurate scope of work. This resulted in the Harriman study, a study so bad Harriman will not stand behind their work when I pressed them.

CC members are you going to give away our rights based on an unsupportable claim by RDA?

You were elected to do better. Kill this plan or table it and do the blight/deterioration study correctly.

Sid Welker March 12, 2019 at 11:34 am

Its sad to see the Garden cinema closing its doors but lets not forget that they are not being evicted. If the owners want to sell for their asking price then by all means more power to them. There is no emanate domain here. Why is this a “lets protest the city thing”? This is a mom and pop run movie theater that maybe just maybe the owners have had enough running day in and day out. This is an opportunity for them to get a boat load of cash and retire for their years of hard work and enjoyment they have put onto millions of Fairfield County citizens faces. I say good for them. Does everything need to be blamed on redevelopment? Not everything is about Milligan and Poko if it involves the Wall Street area. Hypothetically speaking if the owners of Garden Cinema were to sell to a grocery store or another retailer and that said store were to tear down the cinema would this be a story? Or would Milligan be protesting? Also if Milligan didn’t purchase the parcels that the city and him are fighting over would Garden Cinema need to be purchased in the first place to be torn down? Just asking as I’m not interested in real estate lawsuits. Just a quick yes or no.

Jason Milligan March 12, 2019 at 12:58 pm

Sid Welker comes out of hibernation…

With amazing knowledge and insight. Come tonight and we can discuss the truth.

Garden Cinema can be saved. It should not be torn down to make parking for a government subsidized disaster call POKO!

Rip down the Tyvek Temple not Garden Cinema. Start over. Build an appropriate size & scale building for the neighborhood and provide enough parking.

Paul Lanning March 12, 2019 at 1:02 pm

Drastic declines in film exhibitors’ box office revenue/profits signal the death of suburban art houses like the Garden.

By going straight to Netflix (in addition to theatrical distribution) upon initial release, “Roma” set a precedent that will soon become the norm.

Meanwhile, with U.S live concert attendance/revenue/profits at an all-time high, the management of our $8 mil renovated Globe (Wall Street Theater) stubbornly avoids becoming part of the action.

Jason Milligan March 12, 2019 at 1:40 pm

Let’s blame the macro issues instead of the more obvious local issues like POKO.

POKO removed 250 parking spaces from Isaac street and replaced it with a hideous, dangerous eyesore.

Surely POKO had nothing to do with attendance plummeting at Garden Cinema.

There exists a non profit ready to take over the theater and an investor willing donate it, but McClutchy has it locked up under contract to make a parking lot.

The sick thing is McClutchy will be subsidized to tear down the theater with taxpayer money.

Sid Welker March 12, 2019 at 2:15 pm

Mr. Milligan,

Please answer or try your best to what I asked before. Or if anyone else could chime in their personal opinion:

“Hypothetically speaking if the owners of Garden Cinema were to sell to a grocery store or another retailer and that said store were to tear down the cinema would this be a story? Or would Milligan be protesting? Also if Milligan didn’t purchase the parcels that the city and him are fighting over would Garden Cinema need to be purchased in the first place to be torn down? Just asking as I’m not interested in real estate lawsuits. Just a quick yes or no.”

I don’t need to attend the circus to hear an answer from a “major player” in the game. As for my Hibernating or as I like to call it “North Carolina”, it’s were I go to escape the cold weather months and negative news. You know unwind and unplug. Looks like I should have stayed longer. Still the same players barking about the same issues pointing the same fingers. Reminds me of the old Benny Hill episodes. Cue the Yakety Sax.

Jason Milligan March 12, 2019 at 2:45 pm

Sid,

Apparently they don’t have internet in North Carolina?

The answer is yes.

The theater is not a mom and pop. It is a wealthy guy that has subsidized the theater since Poko crushed it.

The fact that the city ignored him and didn’t seem to care has caused him to give up. It is totally understandable.

That doesn’t me that the neighborhood or the patrons should give up.

Claire Schoen March 12, 2019 at 4:07 pm

Maybe after the meeting everyone who supports the Garden Cinema should head down to the movies and buy a ticket to show $$ support as well. The economics are such that maybe it does make
sense for the Garden to sell out — but it will be a very, very sad day if this happens. It’s one of Norwalk’s gems!

Paul Lanning March 12, 2019 at 4:15 pm

Of course the parking debacle around the Tyvek Building has hurt Garden Cinema attendance. But no more so than the transformation of our film-viewing culture from “Show Up On Time” to “On Demand”.

However, audiences for live music continue to grow, and the 1,000-capacity theater stands poised to capture a share of the action, yet what do they have? A sparse schedule of tribute bands, amateur shows, local club acts and occasional classic rock or r&b road warriors. The theater is a wasted resource.

Jason March 12, 2019 at 5:01 pm

The closing and/or demolition of the Garden Cinemas would be a terrible loss for our city. One of the few remaining “rare gems” in town that I frequently patronize AND bring out of town guests to enjoy. Boy, I so much want to love my city but it’s hard when things like this happen. I wish my knowledge of these issues was better, because half of what I read here might as well be Greek. All I know is the cinema deserves to be fought for. Tell me what I can do to help!

E March 12, 2019 at 5:16 pm

The Garden is a gem and carries a bright light for film and arts culture in Norwalk – and otherwise we’d have to travel a pretty long way to get anything similar. Here’s truly hoping a remedy is found to keep it – no doubt the $ offered to but was meant to entice, i.e beyond normal market value…retaining the Garden would actually enhance and increase $$ value of that neighborhood overall.

The idea of buying The Garden and/or transforming into a non-profit could work! Look at Jacob Burns Film Center -! https://burnsfilmcenter.org/ I’d get in line to volunteer/fundraise/help make it happen.

Babar S March 12, 2019 at 5:53 pm

Parking is an issue? People are going to stop buying cars soon and we’re still stressing over parking spots. Plenty of residents don’t have cars anymore or families going with one car instead of two. Just develop the damn area. Tyvek Temple is an embarrassment to all involved. Garden Cinema might be a gem but look at it, another eyesore. Look at Avon in Stamford, amazing what some make up can do for the exterior. Interior isn’t great there either.

James Cahn March 12, 2019 at 6:04 pm

This is another idea that’s so great that it needs to be forced on us. Only in Norwalk could the amateur statists decide, “You know what we need to fix the unwanted, poorly conceived, tax-payer funded mess that has no way to get out from under being crushed by itself? ANOTHER unwanted, poorly conceived, tax payer funded mess!”

The commercial real estate market have more than doubled since its low of May of 2009 and you’d have to go back to 1958 to get your hands on cheaper money. Spoiler Alert: If Norwalk hasn’t properly captured enough of this appreciation it’s NOT because we haven’t given away enough tax incentives or had sufficient meddling by City Hall. Especially since we have. If you’re a developer and your idea isn’t good enough to make money in this market, your idea isn’t good enough. Period.

EnoPride March 12, 2019 at 6:14 pm

This is a sad shame, really. Another lacking in creative big picture vision production, compliments of the RDA and City Hall. Garden Cinema is a gem worth saving, a Norwalk icon worth showcasing. Garden Cinema is an institution which is unique to Norwalk, and should be built up, not destroyed. If promoted properly and with APPROPRIATELY developed surroundings, it could have been thriving at that locale in tandem with all the other businesses nearby for the past decade plus. In conjunction with Wall Street Theater, it could have anchored an arts and culture district and actually strengthened the area, rather than struggling to keep afloat behind POKO I’s carcass. Businesses would in turn have popped up organically around them. That is what should have, and could have, happened, with a different cast of characters at the helm.

One could argue that POKO I’s rotten presence killed Garden Cinema as well as other opportunities for bustling foot traffic and economic commerce at that locale. Think of all the revenue lost and the taxpayer money squandered. Why more businesses and residents are not choosing to sue the city is beyond me. City Hall should be held accountable as this is no small ($$$$) deal. It is amazing to me how City Hall officials never publicly discuss this debacle that they have brought upon the residents of Norwalk. It is as if it never happened. No mention of it. We are not to talk about it in meetings. RDA is detrimental to Norwalk and should be abolished, as the agency has gone well past “three strikes and you are out”. RDA simply has too much power of decision making. Norwalk is long overdue for some fresh perspective and some smart new leadership. Vote for change next election, Norwalkers! We can no longer be complicit regarding financial irresponsibility of our city government and thoughtless “sell out” development which is devouring the character of our city along with our wallets. Out with the old and in with the new!

While City Hall is wasting stakeholders’ money as if it is being cranked out in basements by the hundreds of millions (Can Mayor Rilling please show us the transparent cost breakdown of his 511 million Boondoggle Bridge when CA is building a comparable or larger bridge capped at 172 million? No? Didn’t think so.), they are literally erasing the unique character of this city with their poor decision making, lack of expertise and love of pro-big development box buildings, one neighborhood at a time. Stakeholders who realize that Norwalk could be so much more and fight to be heard at weekly meetings are ignored, threatened to have security escort them out if they, God forbid, speak over three minutes, and are expected by these folks to sit back and watch the Norwalk hack job. Very divisive culture which the RDA and City Hall has created. And we wonder why more of the public does not bother to show up at these meetings after subjecting themselves to a handful of them? They grow exhausted of talking to the hand. They realize that the meeting already happened and minds were made up at the behind closed doors version of the meeting that they were not invited to. It does get old…

Norwalk is home to incredibly passionate and engaged stakeholders who possess CREATIVE VISION AND PROFESSIONAL EXPERTISE amongst all of them, who show up at meetings to participate with their excellent input, only to be marginalized, and, in almost all cases from what I have witnessed, flat out shut down. I wish we could turn the tables here. From what I am following, these vocal stakeholders are more in line with and representative of how Norwalkers envision their city than the officials are. It would behoove these officials to incorporate their thoughtful input. Compromise at the very least is crucial here. Stakeholders’ input should matter. A better finished product would be the result. Isn’t that how it is supposed to be done? Why are we fed a dictatorship by our public servants when we should have a democracy?

Just think of “what could have been” in that locale showcasing Garden Cinema. The possibilities to have brought in foot traffic, a bustling, village-feel public space, a town square enclave, were endless. But here we go again. RDA and Common Council take what could have been an opportunity to make a dynamic interactive space, encouraging foot traffic and bustling community activity (Think Harlan Public enclave and how it’s layout encourages socialization/foot traffic… Envision that same vibe architecturally designed as a an arts/culture enclave for the older than millennial set), and they squandered the opportunity and our taxpayer money on yet one more disproportionate, uninspired fortress building. POKO I’s footprint should have been: appropriately scaled buildings to integrate with the historic ones, a “designed” town square behind the buildings with nicely masoned sidewalks, street lamps, trees lining the square, maybe a fountain, benches, coffee/pastry shop, a few smaller businesses, etc. But, Oh well….

It is a shame…

Jason Milligan March 12, 2019 at 11:21 pm

Well that was a disappointment tonight.

The cake was baked before we got there.

I will say I am happy to have made the acquaintance of several council people that I have not known. I will not mention you by name, but I appreciate the time you spent chatting with me.

I found you all intelligent and reasonable. I only wish that you gave yourselves a bit more time to hear from a variety of other sources before passing this plan. I also wish that a more careful study of CT Statute Chapter 130 was made because the vote tonight was probably illegal. You can view it in its entirety here: https://www.cga.ct.gov/2017/pub/chap_130.htm

Please don’t be personally offended if a lawsuit is filed against you. It might give you the opportunity to more thoroughly examine this decision.

John Levin March 13, 2019 at 12:49 am

“The cake was baked before we got there.” That appears to be the case too often, in my opinion. Public hearings are a show, intended to give the pretense that public opinion is considered.

Frank Farricker March 13, 2019 at 6:19 pm

I’d like to reply to the comments of Paul Lanning (above)

First, I would like to change a misperception that seems to be running around in some circles. The Wall Street theater was funded without a cent of money from the City of Norwalk. So referring to it in some way as a municipal responsibility is incorrect. The Wall Street Theater Company is a 501(c)3 non-profit which is solely responsible for its profit and loss/success or failure. We receive no regular funding from anyone. Our performance is how we operate and nothing else. We welcome your support and donations when appropriate, but it is a business for the community.

As far as the show selection. The theater, very thankfully, is surging in attendance to which we thank all of you. Attendance by Norwalk residents has also surged as the misconceptions about Wall Street and the building begins to fade and people realize what a great neighborhood we have. Shows are generally selling out or getting close to sellout. Michael Carbonaro sold over 500 tickets on a Tuesday night! We also host Hillsong Church on Sundays, have community events ranging from Norwalk Neighborhood Associations to regional conferences on historic restoration.

We are not the Globe of the past, although we welcome those who bring out its spirit as we did Saturday with a heavily attended heavy metal show. Back then there was no FTC or Ridgefield or Capitol theater in the state they are in today. We are in a different marketplace, and the bands that might have played the Globe have choices. Norwalk is different too, and the music scene is different. We are happy we are doing well in that market and you’ll see more and more great shows coming fast and furiously.

We always have room to improve, but there’s no reason to be down! Our goal is always to be not only a concert house, but a community resource. Through trial and error, we’ll get it 100% soon enough and we thank ALL of you for your patronage.

Christy Colasurdo March 14, 2019 at 7:21 am

The Garden Cinema has been the glue that has held together the disgusting Wall Street area mess that everyone is fighting over for as long as I can remember. Without the Cinema, restaurants like Ponthos, Peaches, and Bar Sugo would not have been able to survive the fact that there’s a half-built eyesore taking up half a block of prime retail frontage in an area that is struggling to revitalize.

I live in Westport, where the downtown is suffering greatly because there is no cinema or bookstore, arts venue, or other recreational “attraction.” Restaurants and retailers cannot survive without such lures. The Cinema provides a real REASON to come into an area. “Let’s go for a movie and dinner or drinks.” A movie is one of the last affordable forms of entertainment, and the Garden Cinema attracts an interesting mix of people who appreciate the arts and would love to eat, drink and patronize other local venues after the show.

You can build all the new buildings you want, but you are building up an area that people will leave in order to go to another area with a beating heart. Without a heart and soul, all you have is another lifeless block of new housing, and there’s plenty of that to go around already.

EnoPride March 14, 2019 at 9:07 am

@Christy Colasurdo, I love your eloquent post! I and many agree with your wholehearted sentiments. Thank you…

Bryan Meek March 14, 2019 at 9:09 am

True the city of Norwalk doesn’t give any $ to the Wall Street Theatre (but give it time).

The residents and businesses of the city of Norwalk however do give about $4 billion collectively in local, state, and federal taxes.

Most of them don’t get $4 million in potential tax credits to run a hobby like the WST. Most of them pay their bills without court orders. Most of them don’t need to evade taxes through 501c3 schemes. Most of them don’t consider chapter 11 restructuring a hallmark of a successful business. Most of them don’t make excuses for lack of financial performance due to market forces that existed before the project was conceived. Most are getting sick of all these deals that always end up screwing taxpayers who follow the rules.

https://www.thehour.com/news/article/After-bankruptcy-Wall-Street-Theater-battles-13135871.php

https://www.thehour.com/business/article/Norwalk-theater-clears-bankruptcy-still-on-the-13573021.php

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