Quantcast

GGP set to deliver SoNo mall proposal by end of the week

NORWALK, Conn. – An application to build a mall in South Norwalk will be submitted by the end of the week, Doug Adams of GGP (General Growth Properties) said Monday.

This comes as Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) pushes to have a poll taken of the city officials responsible for the decision to see if they are open to the idea at all before much time is spent. Other community members continue to debate the idea, with the NoN commenter “Suzanne” offering research into GGP’s willingness to pay property taxes and a Central Norwalk commercial real estate businessman predicting that a mall would bring prosperity to the Wall Street area.

Adams declined to offer details on the proposal. At last month’s joint meeting of the Common Council Planning Committee and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, Adams and other GGP reps said it would include a 150-room boutique hotel and classroom space for Norwalk Community College (NCC).

The mall would be on the long vacant 95/7 site, at the intersection of West Avenue and Interstate 95. GGP must convince the RDA and the Common Council to change the specifications for the Land Disposition Agreement (LDA) for the site, which is part of the Reed Putnam Urban Renewal Plan.

The LDA currently includes office space, but there’s no market for that, according to Attorney William Hennessey, representing GGP. There’s .75 million square feet of vacant office space in Norwalk now, Hennessey said at last month’s meeting. New space would be more expensive because of the construction costs and building it would impose a hardship on the developers who own office space in Norwalk now, he said. Office space in Stamford is also largely vacant, he said. Even if you take out the BLT building, there are 3,000 units, he said.

The LDA also calls for residential space. Hennessey pointed out that there are 2,000 housing units that are either new or can reasonably expect to be built in Norwalk in the next two years, Hennessey said. Stamford has twice that and the residential market is becoming saturated, he said.

It’s a different story with retail, he said. Demand for the high end type of retail that GGP would offer exceeds supply, he said.

“The demographic here on a macro level, the state of Connecticut is terrific, the highest income levels in the country,” Hennessey said. “On a micro level this area of lower Fairfield County there just the best you can get. There are few places in the United States that have this kind of this number demographic, and that equals demand of course.”

The RDA commissioned a study on the feasibility of a hotel to be built with the expected mall proposal. Pinnacle Advisory Group said the analysis is generally positive, but expressed “general caution” about having two hotels in SoNo, a reference to the request by TR SoNo Partners to modify an approved plan for a hotel next to the Norwalk Police headquarters parking lot to make it an extended stay hotel.

Excerpts from Study of ggp hotel feasibility – Dec 5, 2014, 4-10 PM

Naysayers include members of the Coalition of Norwalk Neighborhood Associations.

Third Taxing District Commissioner Deb Goldstein said at a recent CNNA meeting that it is frustrating to see people look at GGP with a defeatist attitude of taking whatever developers suggest. The city has a new economic development director and a Zoning Task Force, she said. The Plan of Conservation and Development should be adhered to, she said. “Instead we are talking about rewriting an LDA that has been in existence for what, 10 years?” she said.

“There is this perception of inevitability,” Maria Bryant said. “There is also that mindset that Norwalk has of being kind of a loser. ‘If we don’t get this we’re not going to get anything.’ It’s desperation.”

“They won’t even show us the demographics,” Diane Cece said. “We have asked for the demographics so we can see what the draw is going to be, because it’s going to be from outside the Norwalk community. So the traffic is going to be a nightmare and people don’t – you don’t go to the mall and then go to South Norwalk to eat. It just doesn’t happen that way. It’s a destination.”

Cece said CNNA had asked for a tax analysis, comparing what would come in with a mall to what would come in if something that conforms to the LDA was built. GGP hasn’t delivered it.

Planning Committee Chairman Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) said at last week’s committee meeting that GGP has not provided the information requested of it at the joint meeting. But he said he planned to meet with RDA Chairman Felix Serrano to work out a schedule to expedite the approval process for GGP.

Kimmel said there needs to be a timeline for the joint groups to decide whether they approve of the general concept before investing a lot of time scrutinizing the details.

“There is the hypothetical possibility where we say no we don’t like the concept,” Kimmel said. “We can’t go on and on and on without knowing whether we back the concept or not.”

The tax issue is a problem for NoN commenter Suzanne, who recently posted a link to a 2007 study, done by Good Jobs First at the request of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), that says that GGP has a pattern of challenging property assessments.

“Over the past decade or so, GGP filed assessment appeals at 27 of the malls in our sample, or 54 percent. At many of these, there were multiple appeals or appeals covering multiple years, resulting in a total of 73 assessment challenges,” the study says.

Adams responded to that in a Monday email:

“General Growth Properties pays its taxes on all of its properties – including the 95/7 site in Norwalk – on time.

 “After the completion of construction of the development as proposed, Norwalk can count on General Growth Properties paying millions of dollars in taxes to the city.  HR&A Advisors, Inc. a third party consulting firm engaged by GGP, estimates initial real estate and personal property taxes of $4.7 million.   This does not include any tax revenues that would be generated by a hotel, recently proposed as an additional component of the 95/7 development.

“In some cases, where appropriate, General Growth Properties avails itself of tax appeals processes – as is the right of any taxpayer – to ensure that the taxes paid by the company are fair.”

Michael McGuire of Austin-McGuire, a commercial real estate company, said recently he had reached out to a Barnes and Noble representative to try to interested the company in coming to Wall Street, to no avail.

The rest of the story:

“I later spoke to him about the concept of attracting 2 to 4 major regional or national retail tenants together to Downtown Norwalk since there is roughly 120,000 square feet of available retail space here.  That intrigued him, particularly now the GGP’s mall concept looks like it’s coming together.  I should be meeting with him before the holidays.

“Downtown Norwalk is on the brink of great change and revitalization now that the mall is a possibility by creating interest from a much larger pool of retailers.  All properties in the Washington Street to Wall Street corridor benefit.   The closer we get to making the mall a reality, the greater the interest from anchor type retailers for the downtown.  Once the anchors are in the smaller spaces fill up fast.

“The City will need to do its part by instituting a host of small but important changes to help foster this revitalization.  Chief among these will be a blight ordinance/eminent domain and modest street/parking improvements and policy changes.”

While NCC is interested in having classes in the mall, McGuire has another suggestion.

“What would be a great move in revitalizing downtown Norwalk is to have NCC, or some other higher education institution, create a downtown classroom building in the office portion of the six-story Riverview Plaza building,” McGuire said. “That would be a great win for NCC and Norwalk.  Its downtown location by a bus stop makes it very accessible and with the library nearby it just makes sense for NCC’s expansion on so many levels.  Since the office market is weak this type of use is ideal.”

Comments

44 responses to “GGP set to deliver SoNo mall proposal by end of the week”

  1. John Hamlin

    $4.7 million a year doesn’t sound like much for the compromise that is required by Norwalk. But the state stands to gain much more — so why shouldn’t the governor and the state give Norwalk several hundred million dollars for infrastructure improvements, parks, etc — Malloy gives money away to businesses to stay in state or move cities — since the state will gain so much, why aren’t our public figures — especially all those elected from the same party — getting something significant from the state in exchange for letting the mall be built. If it has to be built, let’s get something real for it. This looks like an opportunity that’s about to be squandered.

  2. Suzanne

    My primary concern, while it includes taxes (4.7 million on such an integral piece of land to the area as well as to the amount of space? Try that as a homeowner!), also includes the appropriateness of this plan for the community of Norwalk.

    While other commentators on these threads have contributed a great deal to the lack of feasibility for this type of structure, GGP and other “experts” continue to disrespect the contributions citing them as, basically, irrelevant.

    The big box with glass, anchor stores and 740,000 square feet of retail space is failing all over the country. (Please see the highly respected report from PBS from srb above.) The promoters will say that all of these failures have to do with the local economies.

    Well, Palm Springs, Sacramento, Albuquerque and the Silicon Valley are just not in the Rust Belt locations, where claims are being made that this enclosed design as presented by GGP for Norwalk is failing.

    In addition, GGP’s own claims about the number of visitors expected (which is outsized at best – in the millions which, in the past estimates has made this destination spot a bigger draw than Epcott Center) does not include a traffic feasibility study nor explains why people from New York would want to take public transit there to shop stores found everywhere.

    Quite a few other commentators have also made the point that the market is saturated: five additional malls already exist within a 25 mile radius of this proposed Mall. It does beg the question, why do we need another with identical store “menus” and why, in the long term, is this good for Norwalk? As expressed, it is redundant.

    Yes, there is a defeatist attitude about this project. Those who seem to have the decision making powers have been swept off their feet while cooler headed citizens have done their research and are showing why this is not a good idea. Some are frustrated with the “hole at 95/7” and want anything, anything at all, to fill it.

    At some point, the commercial real estate person cited above analyzed the “lifecycle” of such a building and gave the figure as 25-50 years (and with other Malls of this type, none built since 2006, around the country, the lower number can be expected.) We are leaving a white elephant for future generations to remediate, no doubt at great expense, even if bulldozed.

    What demographics is GGP talking about? Westport? Darien? Greenwich? Rye? New Canaan? This development certainly does not speak to the varied incomes and means of the people of Norwalk (unless one is to assume everyone has the singular interest and money to shop, shop, shop as has been proposed by others.)

    The “carrot” is NCC classrooms and a performance space amounting to a minuscule amount of square footage when compared to the retail space (which, after all, as GGP has told us time and time again, is in the Mall making business and nothing else.) This effort to “listen to the community’s needs is laughable.

    In addition, most NASDAQ analysts will rate GGP’s viability as below 50 percent – this is after an offload of all of their failing malls when reorganizing their company after their April 2009 bankruptcy. (A good example of this “offload” failure was shared by another commentator in a report on Chestnut Hill and its mall’s demise.)

    GGP has withheld key information about their activities and have worked a strategy – small, consumer friendly presentations in various neighborhoods with Larry Cafero speaking as a key promoter.
    Winning hearts and minds one at a time may be a smart strategy for this developer but I don’t think all of Norwalk is fooled.

    This is a failed idea (already!) as shown by countless “Dead Mall” examples, the e-commerce forecasting showing sky high increases, the recent big shopping week end showing a rise to 12% from recent 8% forecasts and rising higher, and the paltry pay for jobs being offered that no one who lives in Norwalk can really afford.

    Finally, the idea that this inward focused, surrounded wall space will be a grand “connector” between downtown and South Norwalk confounds me. How does a self-sufficient, everything you could ever want to buy as presented, space connect neighborhoods? GGP can not have it both ways – a fabulous center for everything you could ever need while a stepping off point to other commerce in other neighborhoods. How does that make any sense? It doesn’t.

    Norwalk is better than this idea. It does not need redundancy, it does not need “fabulous” for other communities and it does not need more shopping. If that is the goal let the leaders of this effort do the hard thing: improve the communities about which they are so concerned using viable urban planning strategies (hint: installing a self-enclosed Mall is rarely one of them.) GGP is not a savior and GGP is not the answer – they are in this for the money, of course, but why should we give it them on the back of an outmoded idea losing ground across the nation?

    This Mall is not the answer. This Mall is bad for Norwalk.

  3. independent voice

    Just say no! How about polling the city’s citizens to receive an overwhelming confirmation that this is not wanted nor needed. Norwalk’s reputation need not be tarred by being a big box store/redundant retailer.

  4. Piberman

    Let’s encourage City officials including Mayor Rilling to hire outside expert advise to undertake a detailed costs benefits analysis of this complex proposal and post all relevant materials on the City’s web site for all to see. Including public comments. Let’s use our collective intelligence to make a suitable decision rather than back donor politics and pitchmen.

  5. LWitherspoon

    @Suzanne

    I am interested in your view on whether Mayor Rilling’s statements on the mall as Mayor are in line with his statements as a candidate.

    I attended a debate where I heard Candidate Rilling unequivocally oppose a mall. I was therefore surprised to see him quoted as Mayor saying that he was pleased when he saw the design, and that if the mall isn’t built the site is likely to sit vacant for a long time.

    Mark Chapman and Mayor Rilling say that in spite of the above, nothing has changed, and Rilling still opposes the mall. What’s your view?

  6. Amanda

    I, too, fail to see how the big glass box will connect Wall St to Sono. And the proposed classrooms (if I recall correctly – 5,000 sq ft?) is just smoke and mirrors. That’s GGP trying to say: ‘See? We listened to the citizens.’ The leaders of our town should hold a real poll of its citizens and see how many are in favor. We do not need another enclosed mall.

  7. cc-rider

    What is the likelihood that anyone would build to the original LDA specs? If it is close to 0% then doesn’t the LDA need to be reexamined?

  8. Dorothy Mobilia

    Mike McGuire’s comments are thoughtful and compelling. Norwalkers should not reject a well-designed mall out of hand. A link between Norwalk Center and South Norwalk could be very important in finally beginning a true city consolidation process. And developers should look closely at the retail space already available in the Center. Is that where a college annex should be located? Remember, the new housing that’s in place or planned will bring thousands of new residents to the area. What are we offering them, besides a place to sleep and the Aquarium, restaurants and shorefront they must drive to? And first, before we build, we should clean up the neighborhood. Every homemaker knows she/he has to clean house of trash and blight, and provide appropriate parking, before guest invitations go out. While we’re at it, let’s look at what we already have, our 400-year heritage, including the state’s first Carnegie-endowed library, which would be a first-class cultural anchor if the city approved the concepts that adjacent parking be provided and the building enlarged to expand its present offerings for business seminars, language classes, technical training, the History Room, and so many proposals that now are only a dream in the director’s mind. But they’re not a pipedream. We are a city, and we can offer what every well-run, people-centered, city offers.

  9. Betsy Wrenn

    Before getting all lathered-up over this idea, our elected decision makers have a moral and intellectual obligation to educate themselves.

    Type “decline of shopping malls” into Google, and no less than 7 recent articles from highly respected news sources appear – including Forbes magazine’s “The American Malls is Doomed,” (8/14). Add “Wall Street Journal” to “decline of shopping malls,” and you will be rewarded with 2 WSJ articles, “Shoppers are Fleeing Physical Stores” (8/14) and “Retailers Confront New World with Less Foot Traffic” (1/14).

    And there’s more! A New York Times article (3/14) titled, “This is the Real Reason Sbarro is in Bankruptcy,” explains, “The company is in financial trouble because one of its big bets on real estate — that Americans will keep going to mall food courts en masse — has turned out to be wrong. ShopperTrak, a company that measures foot traffic at retailers, reported a 14.6 percent decline in the 2013 holiday season compared with 2012, continuing a pattern of double-digit declines.”

    Atlantic Monthly published “The Death of the American Shopping Mall” which even provides performance stats, by decades, of the top mall developers, including GGP.

    Before giving any further consideration to this development, our representatives have a moral obligation to read these articles and the many others that are literally at their fingertips. Willful ignorance has no place in Norwalk City Hall.

  10. Mike Mushak

    To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of the death of malls have been greatly exaggerated. There is no lack of stories in the press to debunk the tired myth that is flying around Norwalk that all malls are dying. Many are of course, in struggling areas of the country as reported in the PBS story linked above (see more comment on that below), but for every dying mall story there is another story refuting it. Smart investors would not be pouring billions into malls if they were dying. http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/default/article/Starwood-Capital-spends-1-4-billion-for-seven-5564953.php

    John Hamlin, I agree. The mall will generate $20 million a year for the state in sales tax, totaling $200 million in 10 years. Since Norwalk gets no sales tax revenue at all from it, $50 million was a nice round number for Norwalk to push for from Hartford in return for the generous gift we are offering them of our prime development site, funds which might go for much-needed affordable housing around town, arts and cultural institutions, historic preservation, and senior tax relief perhaps. Of course the state has already invested in the infrastructure around the site, but nothing to that degree. When we look at Hartford willing to spend $110 million to lure Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund, from Westport to Stamford in afilaed effort over teh last few years, $50 million is not that much investment compared to the potential %500 percent return they will receive over 10 years. Hartford even gave Kayak $3 million or so to move form Norwalk to Stamford, for crying out loud. Now it’s our turn.

    Suzanne, and srb, I did watch the PBS link carefully that you linked to above and which I copied again here: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/temples-american-commerce-indoor-malls-lose-shoppers-e-stores/ The focus of the story is on a failed mall in the mostly blue collar city of former “Rubber Capital” of Akron, Ohio, that has lost 10% of its population and 35,000 manufacturing jobs. Goodrich, Firestone, and General Tire all closed their factories and outsourced production overseas since that mall was built in 1975. Of course a mall can’t survive in that environment! The segment goes on to describe retail success stories in more affluent parts of the country, and how important the old adage “location, location, location” is.

    Norwalk may have lost many manufacturing jobs but we are not shrinking by any stretch, and we have a diversified economy and hugely different demographics than Akron. I respect your passion for sure, but to compare the struggling rust belt city of Akron Ohio to Norwalk CT in the heart of the Gold Coast of CT, one of the most affluent areas of the country, is simply comparing apples to oranges in a zeal to persuade folks this isn’t a good idea for Norwalk.

    Even the the obsolete fortress-style Town Center mall in Stamford is NOT closing but has survived 3 recessions and the loss of major tenants over 30 years, including the recent closing of Saks, but it’s owner, Taubman, one of the largest mall developers in the country, is adapting with new investment and radical changes to turn that hideous “fortress-style” mall designed in the late 70’s (and opened in 1982), into a more transparent and inviting structure just like the one that GGP is proposing for Norwalk. In 2007, Taubman spent $50 million blowing out Filene’s and turning it into an inviting and vibrant space, and is expected to do the same with the Saks space to open it to the street on the other side of the mall facing Veterans Park. Why would any company invest this kind of money in a mall if it was expected to close?

    In a front page article by Elizabeth Kim called “Breaking out of the Box” in the Stamford Advocate on November 28th, which I can’t link to as I am not subscribed to the e-edition which is required to link to it (I actually get the paper delivered every day to my door to keep up on Stamford’s news with great reporting, and clip out and file the articles I like as future reference as I did this one in a file cabinet, how old-fashioned I know), the future of the Town Center was described in detail from retail experts around the country. Michael Berne, the president of MLB Consulting, a national retail planning firm, said in the very last paragraph of the article:

    “Whereas malls across the country may be closing, what’s left in my opinion is in a pretty good position. The reality is that people do shop in malls.”

    And another factoid being thrown around now, that no new mall has been built since 2006, is simply reflecting the deepest recession since the 1930’s that started in 2007 and which we are still recovering from. This fact ignores the billions that have been invested in mall renovations around the country during this same time period. I have said this before: the smart investors in GGP would not be investing all their time and money in a failed business model without having done their research.

    Many cities wold kill for this opportunity, so please keep an open mind. What else will provide 5,500 construction jobs for 3 years, and the 2,500 permanent jobs with an average salary of $36,000 but going much higher for managers? We have lots of corporate and healthcare jobs in Norwalk paying much more than this, but there are many unskilled folks who could really use a job like this to help support their families. The positive ripple effect from 2,500 new jobs in Norwalk would be felt by almost every other business in Norwalk, as local economies survive on high employment.

    Hopefully the issues like traffic and aesthetics and connectivity will be worked out carefully to minimize impacts, but please keep an open mind to this proposal. The biggest issue I see now is what Hartford will do for Norwalk in return for giving them a huge cash cow in the form of $200 million in sales tax revenue over 10 years.

  11. Michael McGuire

    Regarding tax appeals undertaken by GGP or any taxpayer: A) it is a taxpayer’s right; B) Assessments and assessors, across the county, are not well versed in the valuation of large complex commercial properties. As such, it’s no wonder that that these types of properties are incorrectly valued by a local assessment authority.

    The Ad Valorem tax process hinges partly on the taxpayers “filling in” and correcting incorrect valuations. Skewing this fact to support a no-malls concept is misleading.

    Yes malls are failing. They fail for 3 main reasons 1) they are old with an outdated design, 2) they fail when they are poorly located and/or out positioned by new product, and 3) they fail when the supporting demographics of the community decline. So unless 95/7 is in bucket 1, 2, or 3 than we’re pretty safe on that front. I’d be more concerned for Stamford and Trumbull malls.

    If you dig into each failed mall cited by the naysayers use as proof why Norwalk should not allow this development you will find that each and every one of those mall failures is tied to the 3 main reasons I noted above. That is, and always will be the retail property lifecycle. The claim this as the basis for 95/7 failure is misleading.

    What our resident doomsayers don’t tell you is about the malls that are thriving and highly sought after by investors and shoppers. Those are the B+ and A malls which have the following – barriers to entry by new product (they are safe from being out positioned), surrounded by great demographics, good to great design and a superior location. Hmmmm…. Can you say 95/7.

    The LDA on the site reflects a market from the late 1990’s to the early 2000’s. To assume that it reflects today’s market is bad planning plain and simple. The LDA needs to be revised or we risk another decade of nothing with all the lost opportunity that entails.

    Consider that office is really in trouble and going through a seismic shift here in the north east. We will be saddled with a high vacancy in office for decades. Apartments – why add more to what some are concerned might be too many. And why locate them next to a freeway? Retail demand is high, so high in fact that it can support new development and rental rates are at historic highs in Norwalk and surrounding communities. It’s a simple supply and demand equation and the LDA should reflect that. The current one does not.

    Oh yeah, the downgraded rating on GGP in the stock market. I believe that’s because of its pricing to earnings. You see, that rating is not a reflection on the company itself, it’s a reflection on the pricing of the company relative to its earnings. Seems investors really like GGP stock so much they have bid it up so high it’s not a bargain. Again, skewed data.

    Finally, commercial real estate valuation and analysis is my profession. If the data supported a chicken coop I’d be advocating for that.

  12. Suzanne

    Mike, your a hoot. While advocating environmentalism and excellent urban planning out of one side of your mouth, you advocate this extremely poor idea on the other. Against the WSJ, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times and other press cited above by Betsy Wrenn you come up with….. The Stamford Advocate as advocating the “big trend” in shopping Malls.

    Tax revenue to the town? Smoke and mirrors and a big “hope” from Hartford. To quote you, Mike,

    Norwalk gets no sales tax revenue at all from it, $50 million was a nice round number for Norwalk to push for from Hartford in return for the generous gift we are offering them of our prime development site, funds which might go for much-needed affordable housing around town, arts and cultural institutions, historic preservation, and senior tax relief perhaps. Of course the state has already invested in the infrastructure around the site, but nothing to that degree.

    To have just watched the PBS link above shows just how little research is being done by Mall advocates. Tons, TONS of reference material has been provided to NON through commentator links that show Mall failure in affluent areas as I have mentioned above.

    The Norwalk Mall “advocates” so bent on this as a solution for 95/7 are blindly considering these examples irrelevant. Or, they could always do the Google search as suggested by Betsy Wrenn. Perhaps they should also provide excellent examples of Big Box Malls in THIS demographic type to counter indicate the success or failure of such a model. Haven’t heard of a single one yet (oh yeah, except for The Stamford Advocate citation of a huge developer picking up properties, not citing, by the way, the architectural style of those properties.)

    Mike, you repeatedly cite the Stamford Mall rising from the dead. However, what you don’t seem to recognize is that one of the key factors in Mall failure is building Malls nearby. Why do we need another Mall after a 50 Million in investment by another developer in a Mall very close by? Shouldn’t we be shopping there instead to support Stamford just like you support the community with your paper subscription?

    Your comment about the ‘renovations’ being done on Malls throughout the country during this recession should look at the number of Malls that have been “repurposed” and are no longer Malls at all. That is the trend for this enclosed, big box.

    You have added on an additional $10,000 to the price point for the average job according to what I have read. Construction jobs could be had on a project just like jobs for a planned idea (not a one off) much more plausible than this.

    We are not talking about the pleasant malls with open air plazas, manicured planting areas including trees and seasonal color, maybe some more natural elements as depicted on GGP’s WEB site – nope. We are getting the model of a building that is a failure and short changes Norwalk with the HOPE that we get some funds from Hartford to complete the project. No sales tax to us and, likely, few jobs provided to Norwalk citizens.

    In the meantime, we are supposed to be happy about this vibrant, connecting addition to our landscape as though a self-enclosed Mall providing the customer all the needs they need met (“shopping” at identical stores from everywhere else, check out the GGP “menu”) are going to wander about looking for a restaurant or independent business in downtown or SoNo.

    Besides this being a bad and dying idea, the central reason for any development in this area should be one for the community, of service to Norwalk. I see GGP stretching far to get their customers. Certainly the “hints” they have given us thus far do not include all Norwalk consumers (unless they are going to make Walmart, a very popular place for a lot of working people on of their anchor stores.)

    This Mall is a bad idea: any gains as explained by its boosters could just as easily be provided by another plan that has real meaning and positive effects in our community including jobs that pay for a living.

  13. Jeff Kaplan

    America’s great cities are destinations that are supported by a backbone of infrastructure that address the populations wants and needs. Norwalk’s blighted urban core is in the early stages of a renaissance. Norwalk, and this development site, are positioned perfectly along the I-95 corridor. Norwalk residents are poised to benefit from well-planned growth spearheaded by the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency and the development community. It has been said that a rising tide lifts all boats. The fact that the development community is literally pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into Norwalk’s urban core bodes well for our future. Specifically, as more investment comes, the tax burden currently on the shoulders of Norwalk’s homeowners gets shifted more and more to new residents and new businesses calling Norwalk home. It is uncommon to find a city where the developer spends this amount of time and energy into truly listening to the community before building a new project. This project will be an important fixture in our community for years to come. Next door to vital city institutions like the Norwalk Hospital, the Maritime Aquarium, Stepping Stones Museum for Children, and the Lockwood Mathews Mansion, the GGP project will be a place that people will remember, respect, and revisit. Revitalization of this parcel is coming. We have a world-class partner that is ready to work with us to build something we can all be proud of. Let’s make sure that we honor this opportunity to improve our city for ourselves and for our future.

  14. Suzanne

    LWitherspoon – Thank you for the additional information. I have heard many perspectives about this issue, Mayor Rilling’s views on the Mall, and have yet to hear anything definitive in the present.

    Clearly, you must see that I am very opposed to this Mall (for whatever that is worth. It feels like a private club has been formed with key residents included on the list and the decision has been made.)

    However Mayor Rilling feels,I would hope he would stick with his candidate debate guns. This piece of land represents so much more to the community than what is being offered.

    Though I have been knocked down about this idea, I still would like to see a multi-use cultural and sports center here, year round. Activities like outdoor movies, Lacrosse Finals, Art Shows, Skate Boarding, Ice Skating (for recreation), etc. If this Mall project is waiting for a Hartford contribution of $50 million, I cannot see why this idea would not be feasible.

    I would invite anyone who thinks this is not a good idea to check out Bryant Park in New York (a former needle park and now a vibrant draw for citizens and tourists and, yes, subsidized, but I have made the point that a landmark in Norwalk that draws people from all over is the Aquarium), Military Park in Newark, NJ, or Gaelic Park in the Bronx (as was suggested by another commentator.)

    If the Mayor wholeheartedly accepts this Mall idea, I would say he and all the rest of the Mall boosters are severely lacking in imagination.

  15. Rod Lopez-Fabrega

    For Norwalk, it’s the day after Christmas already.

    A zonked-out Santa and his elves whose lives are focused entirely on one night every year have given Norwalk too many “gifts” already:

    They’ve given us too many Big Cheapo Boxes.

    They are giving us a glittery Big Toy Box that might contain who knows what?

    They are giving us a BIG Box of expensive “luxury’ apartments.

    They are giving us a Big Box of office space.

    They are giving us a Big Box full of promises to make Norwalk “better”.

    As it is with all children, the day after Christmas, we will find that Santa and his elves were not listening to us, and all the toys they brought for us bickering siblings are not at all the ones we really wanted. Our room will just be more cluttered with stuff that we don’t need and is doing nothing to make us a happier and less quarrelsome lot.

    When will “Santa and his elves” learn to listen?

  16. independent voice

    You can forget about Norwalk receiving any revenues from the state for building this potential monstrosity. Quite simply, from a State revenue perspective, this is simply a cannibalization of revenue from already redundant retail in the area.

    It’s really amazing the propaganda and false promises disseminated by some regarding this development. Has GGP unleashed an aggressive soft dollar campaign in an effort to sway the masses? And more to the point, can Mayor Rilling advise what the ethics code/conflicts of interest policies are for city officials interacting with the GGP execs? Crony capitalism will only work to the detriment of the city and let’s keep our fingers crossed that the process will be disinfected from this.

    @Suzanne. You are a true asset to the community and really get it! I agree with much of what you’ve said and please continue standing up for what most people are thinking.

  17. Mike Mushak

    Suzanne, let’s agree to disagree. No need to get so personal like saying I am talking out both sides of my mouth. Sheesh! Lighten up!

    I am reading your examples of failed malls and they simply don’t translate to Norwalk. Michael McGuire explains it well in his comment above. Why would you suggest I am ignoring failed malls when I acknowledge it numerous times? You wave around a link to a PBS story about a failed mall in Akron Ohio, and compare Akron that has lost 35,000 jobs in 20 years and 10% of its population to Norwalk that has gained jobs and population in the same period. I said that is comparing apples to oranges. How is that being ignorant?

    As I said, for every piece of evidence you produce that says malls are failing there is evidence that says the opposite. We are a city of 85,000 people surrounded by a numerous towns with hundreds of thousands more. I don’t want to have to shop in Stamford if I don’t have to. The experts have done their market analyses and we should listen carefully. None of us are retail experts which is why we have professionals to tell us what they think. You can choose not to believe them but keeping an open mind is crucial for the city at this time.

    Your mind has closed to any possibility of this mall and that’s fine, that’s your right. But respecting others to remain open minded is part of the process. It sounds like you are angry that not everyone has closed their mind to this like you have. But we have public hearings for this and all sides will be heard. I have not heard any consensus at all on this project in City Hall so just let the democratic process play out.

    You know I did not like the huge BJ’s on the dangerous and obsolete Main Ave far from any highway exits, but this is a different site surrounded by new infrastructure at the base of many highway ramps. As a professional landscape architect with an urban planning background, similar experience you share, I have seen many more reasons to support this project at this point than to oppose it. But I am not saying I won’t change my mind in the future. Would you do the same?

    Another point: I took the $36,000 average salary for the 2,500 new permanent jobs from an article in the Hour in June. NoN may have reported the same figure as well as it was in a GGP presentation. Can’t link to it by phone at this moment but it’s there . I didn’t just deviously “add” $10,000 to whatever number you have heard or read.

    Finally, I have no idea what your description in your last paragraph above of a project that has “real meaning and positive effects” in our community would look like. I just enjoyed the new Bowlmor on CT Ave last night, after reading NON’s great article about it from the weekend. As I enjoyed the frivolity and healthy recreation and yummy Cosmo and loud music, I must say I had an experience that had “real meaning and a positive effect” on me at the time. Why does a project at 95/7 have to reach some elusive standard of “real meaning” to the community by your definition only?

    The retail industry supports millions of jobs and livelihoods and lifts people out of poverty and puts food on the table and sends kids to college and builds libraries in third world countries (it’s not all sweatshops you know), so who are you or any of us to say retail is not giving “real meaning” to all those lives including the 2,500 people who will work here permanently? Do I sense a hint of reverse elitism at work here? Meryl Streep’s great scene in the Devil Wears Prada comes to mind, when she describes the numerous social benefits of high fashion to an indifferent employee wearing a tired old sweater to work. Brilliant scene even to me who wears Old Navy circa 2006 with work boots every day. Great film if you haven’t seen it.

    The point is, we can agree to disagree!

  18. Michael McGuire

    Mike – well put.

  19. Suzanne

    It’s the Mall club! Look out! OK, so Mike Mushak, I have lightened up. But, if I mention the name Mike Greene, isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?

    Give me the opposite of Malls in this architectural style, in this demographic (which I am often reminded is key to its success) and show me where it is being developed and not either “repurposed” or torn down. (OK, a bit of an exaggeration, but most that I have read about are definitely limping.) The one example I agree with in srb’s comment above happens to be about a Mall in Akron, Ohio. I have yet to hear from you that you have checked out other examples described in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly among others, in much more prosperous areas that have failed. One example does not a trend make.

    If you used the same logic for your environmental projects, you would say that none of what you think is valid without the “experts” coming in and telling you what you think. I would say to that that, as citizens, we have a right to oppose this project. We don’t need “experts” to tell us that what few details have been released by GGP just don’t add up.

    In addition, pot, having an idea of a social/cultural/sports installation that could last for many more years than 25 and potentially create fine memories for all Norwalkers and I gave examples at least of a portion of what that idea would be like, does not make that idea bad. Why does a Zoning/Planning Commissioner have to be someone other than Mike Greene? While you have described his transgressions many times, that could easily be, although not a great analogy, compared to the number of transgressions being committed by this already decided for the Norwalk community, Mall.

    While I don’t wear Prada, I do disagree with the average income of the “average job” as described by NON in the past. $28,000 per year is not a livable wage in Norwalk, CT (unless you like room mates.) A mall might create jobs but it will be for those citizens, receiving “real meaning” courtesy of Norwalk in lieu of Norwalk taxpayers, from other communities where the cost of living is considerably less.

    You know, Mike, for someone who has been so vociferously against any number of issues, your low tolerance for someone who disagrees with you is surprising. I haven’t always agreed with you, either, but I believe the “democratic process” allows everyone to have their say. I am having my say. I don’t agree with you. If that makes me closed minded or, mysteriously to me at least, angry, then so be it.

  20. cc-rider

    Suzanne- who is going to pay GGP 20 million to buy the 95/7 property and additionally pay for the install of a “social/cultural/sports installation”? Santa Claus?

  21. Suzanne

    Mr. McGuire,

    I think it is pretty cavalier to say you are “concerned” about Trumbull and Stamford Malls with the development of a mall in Norwalk. Now, our monetary success depends upon eating, wholesale, formerly successful, like businesses, in other communities. Yay Norwalk! We win!

    To my knowledge, GGP has not released a demographic report, an issue of concern to the Norwalk neighborhoods. This is one of your three points.

    Your first point, Malls have failed due to an outdated design, speaks directly to the large, boxed in design of this proposed Mall. This design has been repeatedly cited as a failure in the many articles cited above.

    The “positioning” point? Norwalk will get its 15 minutes and then people will move on to something else new and shiny, duplicated by other malls, with the same stores.

    No question 95/7 is a great location: where are the traffic studies to show that the purported millions who will be visiting this amazing destination won’t deleteriously impact an already crowded part of the 95?

    The Nasdaq rating: in GGP’s history, they fixed their lack of value in April 2009 during one of the largest bankruptcy’s ever recorded in US history, by off loading their 2 or 300 (I can’t remember) lowest earning properties, Chestnut Hill being one of them. (That would be a Mall failing in a decent demographic where shoppers are now heading to Main Street to support original, small, individually owned businesses.) The Nasdaq links I have been providing is for Nasdaq analysts, who I presume know what they are talking about, and GGP’s rating is not that rosy.

    The rise in e-commerce rates are cutting into brick and mortar businesses rising to 12%, the Monday of Thanksgiving week end, and precipitously rising according to the NYT and Bloomberg. Retailers shipping out at zippy rates were thrilled. A Mall, in spite of the example given in one presentation that patrons LOVE to order online then DRIVE to pick the item up, is an anachronism at best.

    Mr. McGuire, I believe your data is skewed based upon your experiences with other communities. Not to be totally paranoid but I also think you have information that has not been shared by the entire Norwalk community. GGP does too. And this is a very important project in terms of its impact to our town.

    There has been a very careful public relations campaign going on to make this Mall palatable. The depressed feeling of all of us opposed to this Mall are the people who believe a decision has already been made.

    Because we are against it, we have no say or input because GGP provided the down payment. The latter is what is most important, not what is best for Norwalk and what would make it a true “destination.”

    Really? A redundant Mall? This is what will make Norwalk “special”?

  22. Mike Mushak

    I rest my case!

  23. Suzanne

    c-c rider, If you notice Mike Mushak’s comment above, he has suggested a nice number from Hartford to support the urban core development in which the GGP made Mall resides is $50 million, more than adequate to compensate development for a much simpler IDEA.

    Please note that this is just an idea but proposed because a Mall seems to be the highest and best use, according to its supporters, for this land.

    Everyone else seems to be stuck in the retail, office space or low cost housing mode. What I am saying with my IDEA is that there is a lot better ways to develop this land on behalf of all Norwalk citizens.

    What is a real landmark in Norwalk? A stand out? An attraction for people from everywhere and unique? The Aquarium whose $50 million owed Norwalk was recently forgiven.

    I am not suggesting running up such a bill to later be forgiven by Norwalk in order to exist. But, if such a number is being hoped for and, ultimately, expected from Hartford, I would suggest something other than this Mall use these funds.

    I am suggesting a lasting, inclusive and enjoyable space from which Santa Claus would have room to take off in his sleigh. Maybe from the roof of the Mall or parking facility but, then, nobody would see it.

  24. cc-rider

    Suzanne- you keep misreading Mushak’s quote. Here is the actual quote and reasoning behind asking the state for 50 million- ” The mall will generate $20 million a year for the state in sales tax, totaling $200 million in 10 years. Since Norwalk gets no sales tax revenue at all from it, $50 million was a nice round number for Norwalk to push for from Hartford in return for the generous gift we are offering them of our prime development site”

  25. Michael McGuire

    @Suzanne – this is like a long tennis match with you….in the hot sun! Ok , my serve.

    Demographics reports are readily available on-line so not sure why that is an issue here. The Stamford Norwalk MSA is one of the wealthiest MSAs in the country.

    I don’t know much about the GGP bankruptcy other than it’s is not a surprise since they make their living by being long (read very very long) on land development for major retail development. Therefore, when the plug was pulled and the credit markets seized up it would be expected that companies long on land would go under. That’s how capitalism works, it does not make GGP evil as you seem to contend.

    Internet – did you know that Amazon doesn’t make a profit. True they are plowing free cash flow back into the company to grow it but that’s a bet on the future that Jeff Bezos is right. Another interesting point is that retailers have very low margins on the internet sales, usually well below the brick & mortar returns– it’s just not profitable. The internet is just another sales channel, a glorified catalog and retailers know they have to be in that space. Ever try to return something that you got on the internet – very costly.

    Regarding “my” data being skewed. My local data comes from directly from the real estate markets in Norwalk and surrounding Cities and Towns. On the appraisal end we do over 100 detailed, in-depth analytical reports per year on property types ranging from a gas station to a 1.0+ million square foot retail centers coast-to-coast. It’s supported by a broad spectrum of industry data sources and most importantly time. I’ve worked in this space for 30 years which is why it’s so easy for me see through your spin. I don’t know one savvy smart commercial RE pro that does not consider this a good plan.

    I don’t have special hidden knowledge about this project other than my experience of seeing how good development makes good communities. I live here (Stamford now, prior 12 years in Norwalk), I work here, I own property here at 64 Wall Street. I know this project is the right thing for Norwalk because it is the last needed piece of the puzzle, the anchor, to unlock the economic and social potential of Norwalk.

    The reason I’m commenting so much on this topic is to keep Norwalk from making yet another “poor planning” mistake. Having the Wall/Main are looking like they do for decades is unconscionable but yet is accepted. This is just one example of several long term issues that keep Norwalk as the hole in the donut. I’m tired of Norwalk having this rep. We can do better than that.

    The CC members who will make the go/no go decision are not RE professionals, they have limited backgrounds in this highly complex issue and are not being well advised since the City does not have a qualified planner on staff. Hence, the comments you make do matter since you hold forth as such an expert. But if we follow your advice Norwalk remains the hole in the donut with WayPoint being added sprinkles.

  26. srb1228

    the Newshour clip was using Akron as an example. The point of the story was that the mall concept maybe antiquated.

  27. srb1228

    I may be paranoid but I have some concerns that ssome of the commentators on this blog may be receiving or potentially receiving compensation from GGP or one of its agents. If that’s the case, I hope they acknowledge such. If not I’m just another person who sees shadows where none exist.

  28. The Harsh Reality

    Let’s face it, Norwalk has been earmarked by the grand planners as a receptacle to meet the demand from the entitlement crowd. How else would one justify such a ridiculous project? Perhaps this project is part of a larger social experiment to sink Norwalk further into a doldrums. With nearly half of Norwalk public school students are already subsidized with free lunch at the expense of the taxpayer, can the city really afford more? One not be a rocket scientist to understand that flooding the labor market with more low paying minimum wage jobs will further fuel the dependence on more handouts, more section 8 housing, more food stamps, more Medicaid recipients and guess who pays the bill – the taxpayer. No wonder property values are far lagging nearby areas.

  29. John Hamlin

    While I would personally prefer a different development and am not a big mall lover by any means, I don’t see another viable proposal on the table or anywhere on the horizon, and I think the proposed mall is better than waiting 10 years for a different development — which may never get built. (I would love a Frank Gehry designed museum.). At some point the perfect becomes the enemy of the possible. So let’s see if we can get something significant from the state in exchange for allowing the mall to go forward. Mike Mushak”s $50 million figure sounds like a start — and use it for infrastructure improvements that will benefit the whole city.

    Alternatively, propose a different development and come up with someone who will build it in the next 5 years. Otherwise give up the wishful thinking if you don’t have a practical solution.

  30. sofaman

    Personal shock aside of whom I’m agreeing and disagreeing with on this matter, it seems at the very least part of the due diligence of this project would be to hire an independent analyst who has a better chance of projecting success (or not) in our particular demographic segment than the laymen here. Oh, and as for taxes, why not have the very optimistic GGP place a decade of Norwalk taxes in an escrow account?

  31. Suzanne

    Interesting comments. Mr. McGuire, since you own land at 64 Wall Street, I think you would be putting more energy into developing that area as well as SoNo with vibrant small businesses to help the economy and tax payers grow – not with the Gap but original purveyors of good products. The Mall will be providing the same thing as everywhere else with nothing original. Not spin – true.

    I am very familiar with the Amazon business plan. It has been that way from the beginning. The philosophy behind Jeff Bezos plan shows he believes in the “long burn” as a successful strategy to making money. http://www.investopedia.com/stock-analysis/031414/amazon-never-makes-money-no-one-cares-amzn-aapl-wag-azo.aspx This is something GGP might learn about, especially when it comes to pioneering new ideas in the market place.

    It is curious though that e-commerce is considered so difficult (returns which I have never had a problem with) and unappealing to the average consumer. That completely belies the fact that it is gaining in popularity quickly over brick and mortar – just like GGP, the retailers are not in it to lose money.

    Mike M., you may “rest your case!” but you did not review the attachments very carefully if you do. The architecture related to successful Malls looks nothing like the project being proposed by GGP. The enclosed multi-level model has the highest failure rate. Open malls, more like the “lifestyle centers” presented on a previous thread are what is making money.

    This may be a hot tennis match but the facts are that a short term solution to a long term challenge is being presented by building this Mall with the same stores as everywhere else. Even McDonald’s is losing market share – the fast food being presented by this Mall as the “answer” to a varied demographic such as Norwalk just doesn’t go down very well. (Oh, wait! Norwalk doesn’t really count – at least not the honest working people. This is an A-level Mall, read expensive, with a median salary of $28,000.)

    c-c rider – you are right. I did misread Mr. Mushak’s quote. But, it should be noted that this was also included as an example of possible funds being sent Norwalk’s way:

    “When we look at Hartford willing to spend $110 million to lure Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund, from Westport to Stamford in a failed effort over the last few years…”

    Without a qualifier, this appears that the State “gave” Bridgewater a huge incentive to move to Stamford without the sales tax revenues as explained by Mr. Mushak. I do not know the details but I have heard a lot of grumbling about this Governor, prior Stamford Mayor, “throwing” money at Stamford as, and this is just what I have read so please don’t misread this, a sort of monument to himself and his professional connections. This has included inducing RBS and UBS to stay put.

    While you may have great expertise, Mr. McGuire, I think you, like all of us, have something to learn about community building. This inner directed, closed in space is hardly the incentive one would imagine to “connect” Wall Street and SoNo together.

    GGP builds Malls. The type of Mall being proposed by its very nature creates an environment where shopping and eating are the entertainment and dining with the consumer experience for any other place sated before they leave the air-conditioned, muzaked, artificial space.

    Why would anyone (I mean, anyone with lots of dough to spend on the stores in this A-level Mall) be interested in making their way to Wall Street or SoNo after GGP’s Mall perfection? How is this “building community?”

    “Harsh Reality”, I really appreciate your perspective. I just don’t believe this Mall plan serves all of Norwalk’s taxpayers.

    Whether it is “spin” or not, Norwalk does not need a repeat performance that seems to be intended (or at least people are “concerned”) to put other Malls in other towns out of business. It does not need a failing idea being placed in valuable real estate with out sized expectations by GGP of its success for area wide consumers. It does not need the same choices as everywhere else for a grand Mall experience.

    This will not be a destination. It will be a disaster. As “Harsh Reality” says above, it is a plan for the “entitlement crowd”, Norwalk be…….

    And, as for the argument that a company would not spend this much money and expect to fail? Companies spend money and sell resources all of the time. GGP could up the price to cover their costs with a healthy profit at Norwalk’s expense, of course!

  32. Suzanne

    John Hamlin, your mention of a Frank Gehry designed museum reminded me of this creation in as remote a place for such a beautiful project as could be imagined:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundial_Bridge_at_Turtle_Bay

    Although it cost more (much more!) initially, this original thought, this Calatrava designed bridge, has created a great deal of revenue for the town. I ask you, if it had been an ordinary bridge engineered to cross the river, created without risk, how much would the town of Redding had realized? Probably nothing.

    An ordinary Mall in a special place – nothing.

  33. The Harsh Reality

    To further the point on how taxpayers will fund low wage mall employees to the detriment of the taxpayer, attached is a link to an article from the Toledo Blade titled, “Taxpayers subsidizing low-paid employees ”

    http://www.toledoblade.com/Retail/2013/07/22/Taxpayers-subsidizing-low-paid-employees.html

    It begins…
    DAYTON — Employees at some of Ohio’s largest companies increasingly rely on public assistance such as food stamps and Medicaid, illustrating the cost to taxpayers from an economy where low wages and limited hours are mainstays in many households.

    The Dayton Daily News obtained data on the top 50 employers in the state with workers and their household members on some form of public assistance. …

    [Editor’s note: Reprinting full or long passages of other publications’ stories is a violation of copyright]

    Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/Retail/2013/07/22/Taxpayers-subsidizing-low-paid-employees.html#oR5PbQ5kgqOjQfDy.99

    Quite simply a mall would amplify the welfare rolls and put an unfair strain to the city’s taxpayers. This simply does not make sense and time to think outside the retail box.

  34. Mike Mushak

    Deborah’s links above said little about architecture but a lot about malls thriving. That’s why I restedy case. I was also getting exhausted following the arguments!

    How does anyone here explain the huge success of the Westchester in White Plains that is an obsolete closed fortress mall? By the anti-mall arguments being made here you would expect that mall to be shuttered and full of weeds. But it’s not! As I said, for every example linked to about a failed mall somewhere we have plenty of examples nearby in the metro area of malls that are thriving, even the old-fashioned variety that are supposed to be failing according to the naysayers here. It’s all about “location, location, location.”

    Besides, Norwalk’s proposed mall is not a closed fortress mall design at all, just the opposite. It has clear connections between interior and exterior through large glass curtain walls, and shops and restaurants at street level accessed from the sidewalk (that would be OPEN AIR, go figure, in caps since so many on this site are hung up on that term as if exposing folks to the sideways rain of nor’easters like we had today and blizzards and blistering heat here in New England is some magic formula for retail success!)

    I do get the “lifestyle center” concept and that’s what GGP is proposing, a modern hybrid Indoor/outdoor mall (like the carpet I grew up with in the 70’s-that’s a joke), but seriously, their design is the furthest thing from a 70’s fortess mall surrounded by a sea of parking lots. It has some inside and some outside experiences as a balance. It’s fresh. It’s cool. It’s smart. It’s worth getting to know better and it certainly is not worthy of outright dismissal before all the facts are known.

    I also like the modern glass look. The faux historicism some are calling for to “fit in” with SoNo sounds great on paper but the reality is it would likely be dreadful, like the tacky floating casinos on the Mississippi, or that cringe-worthy project in Port Chester where Costco is. No thanks!

    Last, the comment by srb that “some commenters”on this article may be on the payroll now or later of GGP does not apply to me or any others I am aware of. If anyone is I agree they should identify that fact for clarity.

  35. Amanda

    @Mike, The Westchester is not a fair correlation as it is a destination mall for obvious reasons. It caters to the Ultra High Net Worth crowd in the surrounding tristate areas. I’ve said it several times before – by their own admission, GGP has said this will not be that type of mall. It will be on the higher end of luxury, but not discount. So what does that mean? Gap, Banana, L’Occitane, Pottery Barn, etc etc. As Suzanne said, look at their menu. It’s everything we already have in Fairifled County. Everything that is accessible within 10-20 mins.

    I certainly do not think GGP is proposing a lifestyle center. Google the “Shops at Evergreen Walk” in Windsor, CT for a lifestyle center. Very different. I think when people are advocating for “open air”, they are advoacating for a more main street type feel shopping center if that is what is destined to be on this parcel.

    The lifestyle center will easily help to open that spot up and allow Sono restaurants to thrive as it will encourage folks to WALK the area rather than drive in and drive out. And not a stop at the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. Don’t you think the “Shops at Sono” sounds more quaint for our seaside town than the “Sono Mall”?

    I don’t think the mall is the best use for this property, but if we are destined for retail – then let’s do it smart.

    We’re all entitled to our opinions on this, and this conversation has been much more civil than that of other issues in this town. I hope GGP is open minded to hearing all sides of the story. This mall/hotel/school (???) hybrid just doesn’t fit quite right, in my opinion 🙂

  36. Suzanne

    I would love to know how the purchase agreement with GGP was devised. Those who made that agreement for purchase knew what GGP did for a living. They essentially made the decision for the Norwalk taxpayer as to what would be developed at 95/7.

    Therefore, a Mall was a fait accompli and anything town residents, all of them, have to say about it was dismissed for the developer’s rights. There is no open forum and it is disingenuous, at best, for any commentator to say they have not heard a “better idea” or “give me a better idea and I might reconsider it.”

    The ideas have been decided for us, our community, our neighborhoods, our traffic, our incomes, our economy and we are all supposed to swallow it while the “experts” claim this done deal and failing idea will be good for our tax base and, somehow, good for the Norwalk resident (who cannot afford to live on the average wage being offered.)

    So, private deals or non-transparent deals or deals made on our behalf without our complete knowledge is OK in Norwalk and results in the monstrosity we have to look forward to. This is a crime against the community.

  37. cc-rider

    Suzanne- If the common council doesn’t approve the change in the LDA this development is dead in the water for GGP. Did you even read the article????

  38. Mike Mushak

    Amanda, creating a brand new main street may only compete directly with Wall and Washington. Copying the main street experience may be wise where none exists nearby, such as in suburban sprawl areas that lack any walkable areas, but we already have great walkable experiences nearby. I do not see the wisdom in creating a facsimile of our existing downtowns that are finally coming into their own with new housing and projects, but I can see the benefit of creating a unique destination that is different than the rest of the city and complements instead of competes with it.

  39. anon

    Tedious reading. @Mike and Mike, excellent points, worth repeating as few naysayers remain.

  40. Suzanne

    c-c rider, Of course I read the article. Did you? The LDA is basically going to be shredded for this project because it is an “outdated” document and really seems to have no bearing on this development at all (other than to be made irrelevant.)

  41. Bill

    Got to love the people willing to deny $5 million more dollars a year to our Norwalk public school children. Probably the same people who put their kids in private schools are don’t even have children.

    Think of the children, or do you plan on investing a billion to build an office tower there is no demand for?

  42. John Hamlin

    @Bill — problem with the “think of the children” argument is that if the mall has an adverse effect on the city and its tax base overall, which no one can really know, then there may be a net loss rather than a net gain in tax revenues over time — I think we should consider what’s best for 95/7 and for the city as a whole — too bad there are no professional city planners in the employ of the city to analyze the issues and advise the city.

Leave a Reply


Recent Comments