Head of the Harbor moving forward after ‘harmonious’ discussions

Michael Discala and
Michael Discala and Mayor Harry Rilling shake hands after signing the agreement for Head of the Harbor.

NORWALK, Conn. – It took teamwork to finally lift the last of Norwalk’s long-delayed development projects off the ground, Norwalk leaders said Thursday.

The mutually laudatory phrases occurred as Head of the Harbor South LLC managing member Michael F. DiScala and Mayor Harry Rilling signed a stack of papers under the watchful eyes of the press. They said conditions have finally been right for the past several months allowing them to work out the Option to Purchase agreement approved recently by the Common Council, which allows the development to move ahead – way ahead, as Discala said he hoped construction would begin in the spring.

“I would like to thank the mayor and all the various department heads, working very closely together, in harmony, I might add, for the last several months in order to bring this project to where we are today,” Discala said.

“This has been a dream of mine since coming to office and here we are,” Rilling said.

Here’s the synopsis offered in the press release for the occasion:

“The intended project calls for the construction of two structures on the site containing 60  residential units and 6,000 square feet of office space, landscaping, pedestrian sidewalks, a waterfront boardwalk, a public plaza, a gazebo and pedestrian connections between the development site and historic Mill Hill.  In exchange for the public property totaling .5 acres, the developer will bring to the site a minimum of $660,000 of public improvements and provide the city a public easement over Smith Street and 15 on-site parking spaces for the city’s exclusive use, which are to be assigned to the Historic Commission. Under the terms of the agreement, the city also addresses certain improvements to the city-owned retaining wall on Wall Street.

“Under the Agreement, the developer has 90 days from the signing of the agreement to file with the Zoning Commission all applications necessary to complete the project and any required zoning modifications and three months to obtain such approvals from the Zoning Commission. Upon the requisite portion of Smith Street being successfully abandoned, the necessary utility relocation being completed and the developer evidencing their construction financing, the public property will be conveyed.  It is anticipated that the project construction period will be 18 to 20 months from conveyance.”

For more on the project read this story.

“It’s been a long time, but all good things take time,” Discala said. His company was asked in 1988 to begin the redevelopment of Wall Street and redid the trolley barn, he said. But then attention shifted to SoNo for a couple of decades.

“We are pleased with the various projects that are on the approval process, including ours,” Discala said. “We think that the Wall Street area will be a very unique and sought-after product for people to live, work, play. It’s a great area and we also like the synergism that we are creating between ourselves and the historic Mill Hill project, which is a gem for Norwalk and one of the best-kept secrets. Tying these projects together will enhance not only the Mill Hill experience but our project and all of Wall Street. So this project is a win-win for all of Norwalk.”

An artist’s rendering of the river-side of Head of the Harbor.

“This is what I consider to be a great day for the city of Norwalk,” Rilling said.

Discala said the cost of Head of the Harbor South is in the neighborhood of $15 million. Financing is very conventional, he said.

There were no references to spinning plates, as there are in another Wall Street project.

“Banks have actually approached us with interest. We were just waiting for final approval,” Discala said.

Construction should take 18 to 20 months if all goes well, he said.

The holdup for the project involved the design several years ago, but recently it’s been about parking. “That was really the last hurdle,” Discala said.

“We are excited that we have resolved our issues,” Historical Commission Chairman David Westmoreland said. “… The departments really pulled together – DPW, Planning and Zoning and the Redevelopment Agency. We were able to work things out pretty well. Mike Discala has been great from Day One. We met and shared our visions for the properties and found they were in alignment right away. It’s been and will be a good partnership going forward. Like Mike, I would like to thank the mayor for his leadership on getting everybody together and resolving all the issues. It’s been a really good process.”

“I think one of the keys was getting everyone to the table and talking, making sure we had regular meetings and moving everything forward,” Rilling said. “I think that proved rather successful.”

“It did,” Discala said.

The artist's rendering of the street-side
The artist’s rendering of the street-side of Head of the Harbor.


6 responses to “Head of the Harbor moving forward after ‘harmonious’ discussions”

  1. John Hamlin

    This is a wonderful step forward, and whatever it was that worked here should be a model for approaching future (and some current) development projects to get them moving. It’s also great to see a residential-office mixed use project that appears to be so appropriate for the area. Nice work on everyone’s part.

  2. Bill

    Great to see Norwalk let markets work and no one was crying because we didn’t bend over backwards enough to subsidize housing for poor people.

  3. LWitherspoon

    How is it that Discala can finance and build 6000 square feet of office space as part of this project, but the proposed Mall at 95/7 includes zero office space because, we are told, building office space is a money-losing proposition in Fairfield County right now?

  4. ACW

    The office space if for the M.F. DiScala & Company corporate offices and will not be rented to a 3rd party.

  5. Mike Mushak

    Great news!
    Bill, this project will have 10% workforce units just like all other projects in Norwalk are required to do. It will also have a public access walkway along the river, to better view the barges being unloaded across the narrow river. The better view will be looking downriver actually from the gazebo that was in one plan I saw. . The 6,000 of office is minimal, about 77 feet by 77 feet, the size of a small Walgreen’s maybe. ACW explained what it was for above.

  6. Bill

    And workforce housing is exactly why Norwalk will never rise above being fairfield county’s blue collar worker hub. If we actually tried to attract white collar residents with decent schools and lower taxes, we might become an affluent town, instead we subsidize housing for people who shouldn’t live here and it drags the entire town down, including our schools’ test scores.

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