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Collins: SoNo on upsurge, merchants skeptical of GGP plan

Bill Collins

Former Mayor Bill Collins, left, beams after cutting the ribbon for Ironworks SoNo last week.

NORWALK, Conn. – Skepticism prevails in SoNo toward the possibility of a mall on the former 95/7 site, former Mayor Bill Collins said recently.

Collins, the chairman of the SoNo Task Force, issued a generally optimistic forecast of SoNo’s fortunes but said the reaction among SoNo merchants to the mall concept being shopped around by General Growth Properties (GGP), the owners of the long vacant lot at the intersection of Interstate 95 and Route 7, is tepid.

“I think they don’t know what to think,” Collins said. “They are always hopeful that a new retail place like that would bring activity but looking at the malls around the country it’s not an upgrade. In most places the malls are struggling, they’re struggling everywhere. One thing we don’t need around here – some of the merchants don’t want to have something go in there, big thing, and then have it look sort of half-baked after a few years. Because it’s not a multi-purpose building. It’s not like an office building or mixed use, you can alter it; a mall – not much you can do to alter that.”

Doug Adams of GGP said outreach for the mall is currently in a lull.

“We are continuing. but it is mostly one-on-one and small gatherings during August since most groups don’t meet.  We expect to be back at it in September and October when neighborhood meetings resume,” Adams said.

“I keep asking Doug Adams, ‘What does Plan B look like if you don’t get to build a mall?’” Collins said. “They don’t even admit to even looking to a Plan B, which maybe is good politics, I don’t know, but to be realistic you’ve got to be ready.”

Collins rhetorically asked what would happen if GGP lost a main tenant?

“Stamford Mall is not looking too spiffy these days. Malls everywhere are suffering from Internet purchases. So do we want to be in on the downhill slope of the mall era?” Collins asked.

SoNo has more people in it with the completion of Ironworks SoNo, Collins said. He suspects it will gradually get better, and then be more appealing to people looking for small office space.

Mike Oz, the new owner of 50 Washington St., is banking on that, he said.

“The idea is that SoNo is on the upsurge and that he can draw tenants here by upscaling the building, and I think he’s right. Probably the best future is a lot of office and a lot of retail on the ground level and, of course, a lot of parking,” Collins said.

The SoNo Task Force is quiet but busy, he said. He had been out with the task force garbage committee chairman Tuesday morning, he said, looking at the trash on the street and in the parking lots. There is a meeting this week with Mayor Harry Rilling and the Redevelopment Agency to discuss plans to upgrade the street lighting in the area, he said. Task force members are looking at the corridor on South Main Street to Monroe Street and over to the railroad station to see how they can make it an enticing place to walk, he said.

39 comments

anon August 4, 2014 at 5:16 am

This article says little besides voicing the opinion of one person on a task force, a mayor over 3 decades ago, who refers to all SoNo merchants as ‘they’. Who are ‘they’? This article would make more sense if ‘they’ opined instead of ‘him’.

EveT August 4, 2014 at 9:43 am

Bill Collins is one 80-year-old who’s more with it than a lot of GenXers. He is a real treasure and I’m glad Mayor Rilling has seen fit to tap into his wisdom and common sense.

piberman August 4, 2014 at 10:04 am

Article omitted that Merriit 7 went up during former Mayor Collins administration though reportedly he was not directly involved. The lack of evident enthusiasm for the mall among citizens and local business speaks loudly. Will elected officials notice ?

Oldtimer August 4, 2014 at 10:19 am

Bill Collins may be close to 80, but he knows what he is talking about. There are a lot of people that are concerned about the plans for a mall on that property and would prefer more of a mixed use proposal. Some retail, certainly, but all retail ?

srb1228 August 4, 2014 at 11:17 am

What difference does it make that he is 80? He seems spot on. The mall is high risk and if it fails there is no bounce back up. 95/7 continues to be a fantastic location, there are a host of good projects that could help sustain and build the area. That should be the focus, too much Fed, State and local money has gone into this to just let the city get sidetracked by someone who is ready to build.

One and Done August 4, 2014 at 11:18 am

What would you expect retailers to say about a competing mall? Duh? This task force is about as useless as useless gets.

Bill August 4, 2014 at 2:30 pm

I love how people continue to insist on something other than what the market demands, a mall, despite the fact that nothing has been built or desired by the market participants in over 10 years. Get over it, we are not getting an office tower like Stamford. Norwalk is a residential city with some retail.

Michael McGuire August 4, 2014 at 2:33 pm

I’d really like to hear from the SoNo business owners on this.

I find it hard to believe that restaurants (which is pretty much what we have in SoNo besides bars) would be reluctant to have a larger number of shoppers drawn to their district (95/7 is in SoNo) and with a circulator bus to boot!

SoNo always was missing an anchor, a real reason to draw people in. Now that reason is here and those business owners think its a bad idea!? Sounds fishy.

I’m for anything that makes Norwalk a better place to be, for its citizens and for business. Frankly I can not think of a better use for 95/7 than the latest thinking in retail design. What better way to clean up and tie together our ever anemic business centers and make Norwalk a great and inviting place for business and its citizens.

More business would be attracted to the area, commercial property values would increase, revenue to the City in all forms would increase.

The alternative – an 11 acre parcel of vacant land in the heart of Norwalk surrounded by areas which always had so much potential but never really achieved it. Now,if we just had some real reasons to expose that potential….

Mark Chapman August 4, 2014 at 2:49 pm

@Michael McGuire

We have actually started working on that story, but it takes a little time to catch up to the business owners who can speak to the press. There are many parts to this story, and we will be covering several. Thanks for your interest, and for reading NoN!

piberman August 4, 2014 at 3:11 pm

With real old fashioned leadership City officials would request a detailed plan by the mall promoters that could be looked at by any interested citizen. And then a series of public forums in various parts of the community could be held to further flesh out the details and allow citizens to express views. But this is Norwalk where leadership is scarse. Some (many) of us suspect that the absence of a detailed mall plan is purposeful to dampen criticism and allow the “usual Norwalk fix”. Look how much better off we’d be if the plan did have careful review by the community with either a strong endorsement or strong objection. Building a mall over the expressed disapproval of the community guarantees mall failure. City officials have a difficult time understanding that reality. And where’s the objection when a high profile Legislator works as a “pitchman” for the mall’s promoters ?

Mayor Rilling promised better “civic discourse”. Here’s another chance to demonstrate those words are meaningful. What better opportunity could the Mayor have to organize thoughtful community wide discussions on the mall project ? Not an opportunity to “duck and hide”. While I have substantial reservations about the proposed mall the greatest reservations are the lack of public information and forums conducted by City officials. Is the “Norwalk fix” really in.

Norwalk doesn’t have to always be the City that others disparage. Merrit 7 was an outstanding sucess. Maybe we can have others. For decades resident claimed our public school system was utterly hopeless. Yet with a prominent new Supt. and revitalized BOE we now have great promise.
So it is possible to do “great things” in Norwalk. But it takes “great leaders” and they’re no where in sight outside the BOE. Here’s a chance for Mayor Rilling to really make his mark on Norwalk by giving the mall proposal a through and legitimate examination with public input. Not hiding and ducking.

Bill August 4, 2014 at 4:39 pm

All of you against the mall need to pull your capital and build whatever the heck you think “needs” to be there, otherwise be quiet, the rest of us don’t want a hole in the ground for another 10 years. Also, please pony up $5,000,000 in tax money that would go to our school children each year without the mall.

Haley August 4, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Malls are failing all over the United States. In fact, as CBS and other news outlets have reported, no new malls have been built in the United States since 2006. One of the more successful malls in this country is an old mall near Atlanta that has been retooled with a Latino theme.
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/a-dying-breed-the-american-shopping-mall/
Fine with me! But what we are being sold is yet another glitzy mall aimed at the carriage trade.

Kevin Di Mauro August 4, 2014 at 6:35 pm

I’ve lost enthusiasm for this project after the last public meeting which described potential merchants as not ultra luxury and not bargain basement. The picture I’m getting now is that this will in fact be just another mall but with a glitzy exterior. Personally, I’m not happy with this.

Suzanne August 4, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Hmmmm. Walkable street, businesses, gathering places, recreational spaces, pocket parks, restaurants, small business office space – it’s called “mixed use” and is the way a lot of these dying malls are managing to get themselves out of the water they are all drowning in. *
DeadMalls.com has a list of eight malls that have already died just here in the State of CT.
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For all of those Bills out there who think this is the only solution for the “hole in the ground”, a glassed in “big box” with retailers that I can order from on the Internet, think again about that additional $5,000,000 you believe will be added to the tax and education coffers. It isn’t going to happen (especially with the initial tax breaks given to GGP for development.)
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And Mr. Berman has a point: why hasn’t there been a comprehensive plan presented to the community and in the press? Instead, the dog and pony shows are going around the community a pace with Mr. Cafero at the helm as the ringmaster. Pretty pictures do not a reality make – tell everyone what you really are up to, GGP, and quit trying to take us for ignorant people with whom you can schmooze your way to the top.
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Norwalk deserves better and so do the merchants of SoNo who are, understandably, skeptical of your intentions when there is no clarity other than a really cool trolley that will bring all of the tourists from NYC that are bound to materialize because of this fantastic whatever it is.

Pat Ferrandino August 4, 2014 at 9:21 pm

I did a little research on General Growth Properties, the perspective mall developer. They are a publicly trade Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) with $39 billion total enterprise value and the 2nd largest REIT in the nation with 120 regional malls in 40 states, with an occupancy rate of over 90%. They’ve acquired the SoNo property for $35 million and plan to spend $300 million on the project, while creating more than 2,200 permanent jobs here in Norwalk along with more than 5,500 temporary construction jobs.
My guess would be that GGP has done its due diligence. Hopefully, they don’t change their mind and the project moves forward. It would be a windfall for Norwalk and for SoNo in particular.

http://investor.ggp.com/sites/ggp.investorhq.businesswire.com/files/doc_library/file/GGP_Presentation_Q2_2014_FINAL.pdf

Pat Ferrandino August 5, 2014 at 12:08 am

@ Suzanne:
Granted, one million square feet of office space would produce a much higher per job pay scale, but where are the takers? This property has been sitting idly by for ten years, producing zero jobs. Using your $28,000 per job figure times 2,200 jobs equals $61.6 million dollars of consumer earnings annually from new job creation. Some of that money would certainly find its way to the merchants in SoNo. Apply those numbers over the past ten years and you would’ve been at $610 million of consumer earnings versus what that property actually yielded, which was zero.

WOW just WOW August 5, 2014 at 12:35 am

@Suzanne
The malls that you reference from deadmalls.com were all old antiquated malls that were built in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. These were not even true malls, but more like enclosed shopping centers considering the main stores were Stop and Shop and Bradless. These were basically the old Pathmark mall in Norwalk.

This doesn’t seem to be what is in the plans for 957 site. You and a few others seem to be set against this and most development in Norwalk. This site has been vacant for years, please tell us what and how you would get someone interested other than the mall developer. Maybe this can be another BJ’s site on Main Street that remains vacant.

FYI
I am not a big fan of malls, however I am less a fan of a hole in the ground.

Suzanne August 5, 2014 at 7:47 am

The limited thinking is this: if it is not a mall, it must then, therefore, be office space, a big box store or, horror of horrors, unneeded housing, especially the low income kind. These are false choices. There are no either/ors. (Please see my comment above about “mixed use.”)
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The Malls that were built in 50’s, 60’s and 70’s are the Malls that have died, yes, but, perhaps you missed the data on just how many new malls of this type are being developed in America and why they are NOT being built (except for, apparently, this very well-financed GGP who owns everything and through sheer numbers probably, yes, makes a lot of money.)
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So, we get a mall like the enclosed malls of the 70’s and, instead of any empty hole in the ground, in a few short decades have a boarded up leviathan representing the City of Norwalk in its place.
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Filling up a long standing hole with impatience or a glassed in big box with stores I can order from on the Internet (with free shipping) does not bode well for the long term success of the concept. While GGP may make its money now and run, Norwalk will be left with an unusable, uninteresting, not compelling set of enclosed everywhere in America stores that adds nothing to our community.
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I don’t care how well financed GGP is and I don’t care about the impatience to fill a hole. What I do care about is: the lack of transparency regarding exactly what is going in that valuable space through the media and to the entire community including Planning and Zoning and the City Council (it is a key intention to development for this town. We have a right to know. The small neighborhood presentations represent a strategy to win people over “one heart at a time” so that approval comes more smoothly in the end.); the appropriateness and long term affects of the development AND the overenthusiastic hyperbole about the number of people expected in order to make this leviathan financially profitable (due diligence numbers have reported a ridiculous expectation for 1. NYC visitors and 2. the number of visitors expected at all.)

One and Done. August 5, 2014 at 8:56 am

On top of Pat’s astute analysis. 8% of retail is conducted on line. Forecasted to grow to 11% by 2018. It isn’t a replacement, rather a distribution channel..
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Build the mall.
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There tens of thousands of vacant offices in Stamford alone right now. We don’t need more office space right now. South Main / Monroe is where the residential rehab will happen some day if Norwalk can show investors it is serious about modernizing.
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I’m afraid if the status quo rules out, we’ll have a hole here for many more decades. In case you forgot, Waypoint project first kicked off in the 1980s.

Kevin Di Mauro August 5, 2014 at 9:18 am

Maybe the new marketing woman who was hired to replace Tad Diesel could offer some input.

My own plan B suggestion is to take advantage of the awesome views of the harbor and Long Island Sound and do a Trump Tower.

Michael McGuire August 5, 2014 at 11:24 am

I agree with Pat and would add that once we have something tangible happening on 95/7, a development that incorporates the latest thinking in retail design, then we are bound to attract more business because the area will finally look nice. We have waited more than a decade for this site. More than 4 decades for Wall/Main. Norwalk’s development plans seem to always be a step or two behind the market because we meddle to much, load the projects with un-reasonable social agendas and as such we loose opportunities. POKO is the prime example.

Office was tried and failed (when French had the site) to get off the ground, mixed use was the most recent endeavor on this site with various iterations of retail, office, hotels etc. (when Spinnaker had the site) all came up short. Not sure what other options are available to make this work.

All properties, and all neighborhoods go through a natural life cycle. And yes, what GGP builds here will one day be obsolete and then a prime candidate to be redeveloped. That’s how commercial real estate works – that’s why its called redevelopment.

The 95/7 site was primed for redevelopment over a decade ago. The longer we delay this the more jobs we loose, the more revenue slip away, and the more opportunity passes us by.

Another point to consider is that we don’t own the land, GGP does. If Norwalk meddles to much with this site it might be another decade or two before anything happens. Yet another lost opportunity.

Don't Panic August 5, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Some consequences are worse than a hole in the ground.
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http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2014/jun/19/-sp-death-of-the-american-shopping-mall
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Where are these supposed taxes coming from if we are giving GGP abatements? $28,000 jobs in a neighborhood where the workforce housing costs over $14k a year? Again, those jobs will not be going to Norwalkers, so there will be no economic benefit from those jobs either.
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Chains stores take their profits out of state to their HQs.
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There are those people who keep challenging the realists who are against this project to “come up with something better”. We are paying and appointing people to do just that, but all they keep bringing us are these deals that need to be “pitched” with a hearts and minds campaign. Why aren’t they beating the bushes to put something in that actually will benefit Norwalk as much as the developer.
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Bill August 5, 2014 at 8:56 pm

No one has any money to build anything but the mall…duh. That’s why it hasn’t been developed since now. Quit supporting a hole in the ground. Move if you don’t like what the market gives you. You don’t own the land…GGp does.

Michael McGuire August 6, 2014 at 10:11 am

Interesting article linked to Don’t Panic’s comments – if you read closely you see that failing malls are in areas that have seen better time and are on an economic downturn. That’s the normal business cycle in a down market. Does that apply here in the NY metro area?

BTW, what’s wrong with profit? Do you get paid for your work?

Don't Panic August 6, 2014 at 11:58 am

@Bill,
I guess that means you don’t believe that there should be a zoning commission. The City gets some input into what “owners” do with their land, like it or not.
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@MM
If YOU’D been reading closely, you’d see that is not the main point of the article. The article speaks about the failure of malls that were poorly planned fits with their communities, and ill-adapted to fit a changing business environment, in which the middle class consumer cannot afford to support the mid-market mall business model (which this one is proposed to be) and the malls are cannibalizing each other for business. Some relevant quotes from the article:
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“They’re going, going, gone,” Davidowitz says. “They’re trying to change; they’re trying to get different kinds of anchors, discount stores … [But] what’s going on is the customers don’t have the [crude word deleted] money. That’s it. This isn’t rocket science.”
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Shopping culture follows housing culture…They were thrown up at a furious pace…Though construction has since tapered off, developers left a mall overstock in their wake.
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“Local governments had never dealt with this sort of development and were basically bamboozled [by developers],” Underhill says of the mall planning process. “In contrast to Europe, where shopping malls are much more a product of public-private negotiation and funding, here in the US most were built under what I call ‘cowboy conditions’.”
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Shopping centres in Europe might contain grocery stores or childcare centres, while those in Japan are often built around mass transit. But the suburban American variety is hard to get to and sells “apparel and gifts and [profane word deleted] little else”, Underhill says.
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Nearly 700 shopping centres are “super-regional” megamalls, retail leviathans usually of at least 1 million square feet and upward of 80 stores. Megamalls typically outperform their 800 slightly smaller, “regional” counterparts, though size and financial health don’t overlap entirely. It’s clearer, however, that luxury malls in affluent areas are increasingly forcing the others to fight for scraps…But midmarket shopping centres have begun dying off alongside the middle class that once supported them. Regional malls have suffered at least three straight years of declining profit per square foot, according to the International Council of Shopping Centres (ICSC).
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And there’s nothing wrong with profit, but I expect the City to receive fair value on behalf of voters, workers and taxpayers WHEN WE ARE GIVING THE DEVELOPER ABATEMENTS that come from OUR TAX DOLLARS. I keep hearing that there will be tons of tax dollars coming out of this…but the mall itself won’t be paying them, since they will have abatements during the time when the mall will generate the most business (the first few years after opening), the jobs will pay too little money for them to go to Norwalkers, sales tax goes to the state, and profits go back to the HQs in other states. I fail to see how Norwalk will be getting all these wonderful tax dollars.
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In the meantime, this mall will suck up retail dollars from local businesses that provide local jobs and contribute to the community. The traffic will clog the streets, costing me money and time. If this is such a prime location, we shouldn’t have to incent anybody to build here. There should be a bidding war to get it.
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I’ll say it again, there are worse outcomes than a hole in the ground.

Michael McGuire August 7, 2014 at 10:56 am

@ Don’t Panic – you make all good points and I believe we are in agreement on most. This mall should be the latest thinking in retail development. GGP is a smart company and I believe they see the shortcomings of prior mall designs. Connectivity into the City is paramount as you point out. This is likely the purpose of the information meetings.

Thanks to the internet and forums like Nancy ON Norwalk you, I and everyone else are given more of a voice. My hope is that we use that voice in a proactive manner to find the best solution. I see this new development as the anchor piece Norwalk was always missing. I do financial analysis on commercial real estate for a living and don’t see office, industrial, or housing as financially feasible options on this site. Nor would they have the spillover effect on SoNo or Wall/Main.

As such, I do not see SoNo or Wall/Main business area’s thriving without a significant development that pulls from the greater Fairfield County market. Without this Wall/Main will continue its steady drift downward and SoNo will need the continued attention of the City to keep it viable. Huge amounts of City resources have been pumped into SoNo over the past 40 years.

I agree with you that if 95/7 is incorrectly blended into the City than its a net neutral at best.

However, if blended into the City in a way that directly enhances SoNo and Wall/Main business centers (which is not hard to do) than we would see a real boost, right from the start.

A boost in property values for both the 95/7 site and all the surrounding properties (more tax revenue from a broader spectrum of properties).

A boost in jobs for the 95/7 site as well as the new business that will be attracted to this area. New business would come solely for the fact that this area (SoNo to Wall/Main) would be one of the most attractive business centers on the I-95 corridor.

I’m not married to this retail as a must concept. I’m just aware, based on my background, that its the only feasible development for this site that if done correctly (which is were we should focus) will have both immediate and long-term benefits to Norwalk overall.

Don't Panic August 7, 2014 at 11:47 am

@ McGuire
I appreciate the respectful answer, but I don’t think we really are in agreement. I have sat in on one of these meetings, and do not see what you see. GGP is pitching this as a mid-level regional mall, which is the weak part of the market, especially situated between Stamford and Westport). The evidence of these meetings is not that they are being held to get input, but to get buy-in. I haven’t seen evidence of one design element being changed in response to these meetings–rather, the unpopular elements just get dropped from the presentation.

You may see this new development as the anchor piece Norwalk was always missing, but I see it from the perspective of someone who has always lived among people who are not among a regional malls customer base–and a large part of Norwalk fits that bill. There are few items of necessity to be found in a mall, which means that most working class people only visit one occasionally. An anchor development in Norwalk would provide more benefit for the people living HERE, with good-paying jobs and things that people in Norwalk actually need.
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Financial analysis of real estate is helpful from the perspective of the owner of the property, but from the perspective of public administration, it should not be the sole defining factor. Big developments like this help define the soul and character of the city. Consequently, they should reflect the neighborhood. A big, overpriced mall that excludes the residents in the immediate area does not meet our needs, UNLESS it serves as an economic driver for those people. These jobs will not be sufficient to support living in Norwalk, so they will not meet that criteria.
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I agree with your assessment of SONO as a recipient of huge amounts of financial support. But disagree on the mall as a solution, UNLESS it provides economic and social benefit to the area. SONO’s success in the past seems to have had a lot to do with it’s attractiveness as a destination for socializing. As prices for everything goes up and buying power for consumers has gone down, any cost layered upon discretionary spending in the area was bound to depress business. I seriously wonder what would happen to business in SoNo if parking fees were removed or reduced significantly, and some good ole advertising on behalf of the area were done.
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I never said that if 95/7 is incorrectly blended into the City than its a net neutral at best. I said it would be worse than doing nothing at all. Anybody who has ever seen the economic devastation that moves in around a sports stadium in a big city will know what I mean.
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I also disagree that we would see a real boost, right from the start. These circulators that everyone seems to put such faith in have to be done correctly to be effective. There is no evidence from the current presentations that they will be sufficiently safe, frequent, reliable and free to effect what is needed to be successful. We will not be seeing any economic benefit initially from taxes from the development because of the abatements. And we’ve just done a property eval, so we are five years (and depending upon the timing and completion of the project, maybe ten years) away from seeing any boost to property values that will affect tax revenues. The opportunity costs that will be eaten up by additional traffic, and losses to local businesses though will be obvious from the get-go.
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I’m not opposed the notion of a retail solution here, but having watched many neighborhoods gentrify and deteriorate over time, I am leery of a proposal that could pretty much be brought to any city council anywhere in the country as the solution for what is ailing this area.
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What I am sure of is that there is pretty much no do-over with a mall. Almost anything else you could put there could be repurposed if necessary. A mall would be a white elephant if it failed, necessitating another “hole in the ground” solution, so we’d better make sure that it’s done right.

Jlightfield August 7, 2014 at 6:11 pm

@don’t panic, nice analysis which I largely agree with. Where I differ in analysis is the vision for Norwalk here. The mall effectively shifts perception of the downtown of Norwalk to the West Ave. corridor. This will result in Norwalk having a decent chance to build density in an area that the region benefits from.
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Right now, all if the retail and restaurant businesses we have, with few exceptions, rely on out of Norwalk people to support. Having national or regional retailers increases that demographic. In addition to the baseline tourism attractions Norwalk can exist comfortably in the Fairfield County ecosystem.
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Wall Street needs to pivot into something else that resembles a more civic oriented development strategy. The current path has been effectively dead on arrival between the City’s exclusive focus on Sono and the market. Washington street needs to reinvent itself as an entertainment district. That would complement a functioning retail development and expand an economic industry that would keep dollars local.
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Kevin Di Mauro August 7, 2014 at 8:43 pm

I am happy to learn that The Stand, a vegan eatery currently on the corner of Wall and Main St, will be relocating to SONO. I enjoy that stuff, and the new location will be terrific.

Mike Mushak August 10, 2014 at 7:38 am

This has been one of the best debates to read on NON ever. And no trollish nasties to ruin it!

Rare for me, but I find myself agreeing with commenters I rarely agree with, like One and Done, and disagreeing with those I usually always agree with, like sensible Suzanne and Don’t Panic. I also respect Bill Collins immensely and his slightly older than middle age is an advantage, not something to poke fun at. 80 is the new 60 anyway, as the number of cards dedicated to 100-year-olds on the card racks arrest to.
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Terrific comments from everyone, including Michael McGuire, jlightfield, Pat Ferrandino, One and Done, Bill, Kevin Di Mauro, etc.
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If done well, which I expect it will be based in the caliber if the developer, we have a potential here for a great project that will put Norwalk on the map as a serious world-class destination. I say, keep an open mind and encourage the mall. Shopping is also entertainment for many folks, and tapping into one of the wealthiest markets in the country is smart. The Stamford Town Center Mall is struggling based on its fortress design as much as anything else, at least that’s how I perceive it despite the blowing out of Filenes a few years ago. It will come back but needs another huge fix.
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Piberman and others who think office is an option are wrong, as the 20% vacancy rate in Fairfield County is one of the highest in the country from overbuilding and new trends in commercial needs (large footprint and square footages are mostly obsolete). We aren’t getting more new spec office space in Norwalk for a couple more decades, if ever.
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We need the tax revenue and the jobs. That’s why I am keeping an open mind towards this project.

Don't Panic August 11, 2014 at 7:45 pm

@mm,
the Stamford mall suffers from an overabundance of overpriced, cheaply made garbage interspersed with stores like swarovski. Even if you turned it inside out tomorrow with jewel box storefronts it would not improve the experience. Even eating there is unpleasant. Second rate chains clustered on the top floor next to a noisy kids play area that can only be navigated by changing stairwells and or slow elevators is meant to discourage any experience that doesn’t involve spending money in a store. This is the only mall I’ve ever seen that didn’t have senior citizens socializing or mall walkers.
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there is no evidence that design alone will overcome a poorly matched retail selection for the neighborhood, and again I ask, what is the PLAN B if this does not turn out as the developers’ rosy projections call for? A mall is the only development that cannot be reprised if it fails or is too weak to accomplish the revival we are seeking?

SONO Business Owner August 19, 2014 at 3:53 pm

My wife and I have had a successful service business in SONO for over a decade, and own the commercial space that our business occupies. In the early 2000s this was a significant personal investment and a show of support for, and faith in the SONO community.

Simply stated, We are 100% in favor of a mall development on the 95/7 property. No other use combination is likely to add value to the neighborhood while increasing a diversity of local services for residents, jobs for the area, and tax revenue for the town.

Mayor Rilling let’s get it done?

iain September 10, 2014 at 2:03 pm

interesting article at NPR.com……

a quote:

“There’s about 40 malls that have more or less bulldozed the existing mall and are now building the downtown that that suburb never had before. One example is Belmar in Lakewood, Colo., just outside of Denver. It used to be the Villa Italia Mall, a very large regional mall on a 100-acre single, superblock site. Today it’s 22 blocks of walkable, urban streets that connect up with the neighboring streets. At the ground floor you get a lot of shops, and then above that, a lot of either offices or apartments. At the same time, they basically tripled density on that site but they’ve more than quadrupled the tax revenue that the town is receiving and … actually cut traffic because so many of those people now are able to walk to their daily needs.”

the full article
http://www.npr.org/2014/09/10/347132924/heres-whats-becoming-of-americas-dead-shopping-malls

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=So5v28osW3E

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