I am an active, engaged citizen and stakeholder of Wall Street, yet I feel like an outsider when the big decisions by the City are being made for the area. The process and details of POKO routinely happen in secret.
Non-disclosure agreements have been signed.
Lawsuits have been filed which puts a stop to communication. There is a standing practice to not discuss potential, active or pending litigation, and lawsuits provide an excuse to ignore Freedom of Information requests.
POKO discussions often happen in executive sessions which are not open to the public.
When details are eventually revealed to the public it is usually a huge document dump with most decisions having already been made.
The latest POKO proposal is being presented to the Planning Committee on Thursday July 2nd, at 7 PM. Planning Committee Agenda & Documents here.
Below is my summary of the documents:
- Existing structure: 101 – 100% “Affordable” apartments. Only 40 parking spaces, zero public.
- New structure to replace Garden Cinema: 50 market rate apartments. 157 parking spaces, zero public.
- Total Project Cost: $106,017,189
- Cost per apartment $702,100 (Mostly Studios & 1 Br’s)
- Median Home Price in Norwalk: Mid $400,000’s
- Developer Fee to McClutchy $9.6 Million
- Money paid to the city for the former public parking lot that was donated to POKO… $0!
This proposal has a 15 year tax plan that only requires a tiny fraction of normal property taxes be paid including for the 50 market rate apartments.
POKO 2020 has 4 rent tiers:
Lowest Tier: 34 apartments (These are the only truly affordable apartments.)
- 1 Br $1083 / Month
- 2 Br $1299 / Month
- 3 Br $1501 / Month
Second Tier: 32 apartments
- 1 Br $1624 / Month
- 2 Br $1948 / Month
- 3 Br $2251 / Month
Third Tier: 35 apartments
- 1 Br $2166 / Month
- 2 Br $2598 / Month
- 3 Br $3002 / Month
Fourth Tier – “Market Rate”: 50 Apartments
- Studio $2100 / Month
- 1 Br $2650 / Month
As a point of reference in this immediate market, I just converted the former Treasure House building across the street from POKO at 5 Issaacs St into six new apartments.
I received No special tax plan. No subsidy. No government assistance. Compare my market rate rents to POKO “Affordable” rents.
5 Isaacs St. (Treasure House) Rents
- 3 Apts – 1 Br $1595 to $1695
- 3 Apts – 2 Br $2150 to $2195
Just Say No to this proposal!
A Narrative Project Proposal was in the 91 page Planning Committee packet. Here are some quotes:
- “Citibank is backing this proposal out of a genuine interest in seeing the Wall Street Place development completed in a way that will benefit the City of Norwalk and its citizens.”
Nowhere in the 91 pages is there an explanation of how this project benefits the City of Norwalk and its citizens.
- “-even the most optimistic proforma indicates a loss of the $14 million+ of the $19.5 million invested to date, assuming all goes well from here.”
Said another way, Citibank claims that in the best-case scenario they will only recover $5.5 million, and that would occur after several years of gaining approvals, lining up tax credits, grants, financing, and going through construction.
After I read that claim a few days ago, I offered to pay Citibank $5.5 million immediately.
- Citibank could get their best-case scenario number right now without having to going through the approval process and construction.
- The City could save the $4.4 million, and instead use it to help the rest of Wall Street. Or the City could buy the Garden Cinema for $3 Million and still have $1.4 million leftover to invest into fixing the streets and sidewalks.
Lastly, Citibank made this statement:
“THIS IS THE FINAL AND BEST OFFER THAT CAN BE MADE. SHOULD THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT NOT BE ACCEPTED THE BANK WILL BE FORCED TO CONFRONT THE ECONOMIC REALITY OF HAVING TO SELL THE ASSET.”
Just Say No, and Citibank will sell the asset. Norwalk saves $4.4 million and will get a much better project. Also, Garden Cinemas can be saved…
Editor’s note: Jason Milligan’s offer to purchase “POKO” includes a stipulation that the Land Disposition Agreement for the property be abolished. The Common Council has the authority to void the Land Disposition Agreement, a legal agreement that is part of the foundation of the lawsuit filed against Milligan by the Redevelopment Agency and the City.