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Milligan calls tenant’s plight ‘collateral damage,’ blames Redevelopment Agency

Byron Sanchez in front of Sabor Ambateño. The business cannot open. He needs a certificate of occupancy and cannot get it. (Harold F. Cobin)

Sabor Ambateño.

NORWALK, Conn. – The sign over Byron Sanchez’s almost fully equipped new bakery on River Street reads “Coming Soon!”

Don’t hold your breath.

A conflict between building owner Jason Milligan and the City of Norwalk over the design review process has put baker Sanchez, the tenant, “in the middle of everything.”

Having invested nearly $100,000 – his life savings, Sanchez says – on equipment custom made for the space in the former My Three Sons building, he can neither open his bakery, nor walk away from it.

The bakery, named Sabor Ambateño, has yet to receive a certificate of occupancy, without which it cannot operate. City officials say the dispute concerns something Sanchez has no power over – the façade, owned by Milligan.

Byron Sanchez at the counter of his unopened bakery, Sabor Ambateño. (Harold F. Cobin)

Milligan, a real estate broker, blames the City, maintaining he’s been treated unfairly, his civil rights violated by “a sudden new process” allegedly “invented” by the Redevelopment Agency.

While this latest dispute drags on, he remains embroiled as both defendant and plaintiff in lawsuits with the city. One is over his ownership of neighboring Wall Street Place, the stalled development also known as POKO, another an attempt to invalidate the Wall Street West Avenue Neighborhood Plan, approved in 2019.

The “sudden new process” concerns rules aimed at keeping the historic neighborhood feel of the Central Business District, home to the unfinished bakery and approximately 40 additional properties owned by Milligan. The rules, legislated by the Zoning Commission, were put in place to fulfill guidelines in the Common Council-approved 2019 Wall Street/West Avenue redevelopment plan, a plan Milligan contends is illegal. He has been battling the plan in court, trying to get it overturned on the grounds that the blight designation used to justify it is invalid.

Wall Street area real estate mogul Jason Milligan poses atop My Three Sons in September 2020. (Contributed)

“It burns my ass to give the corrupt Redevelopment Agency any respect whatsoever. I am spending thousands of dollars to uncover their lying and fraud,” Milligan said.

“The Agency has too much power. Their rules are vague and changed on a whim. It is impossible to fully understand and comply…”

 

‘It would be $2,000’

The 2020 rendering for Wall Street Place, above; the 2019 rendering, below. The project went through a third party design review.

Since the law was created, eight other developments have gone through the design review process, including five in the Wall Street area. Jessica Vonashek, Norwalk Chief of Economic and Community Development, said, “We believe that if Jason was to go through the process, it would be $2,000 or less. We committed as a Redevelopment Agency to be able to turn around a third-party review within a three-week period of time. And we committed at the City level to be able to work with Byron as quickly as possible to do inspections, to be able to issue a CO.”

The sticking point is a provision that makes proposed changes to a building’s façade subject to review by an architect. The provision applies to major renovation work, construction costing $50,000 or more. “The truth is that I have not submitted permits for a project at 64 Wall Street that exceed $50,000 in façade improvements,” Milligan wrote in an email to NoN.

NoN to Milligan: Why not just pay the $2,000 so Byron Sanchez can open his store?

List of 3rd Party Design Reviews_Norwalk Redevelopment Agency_2020-2021….

Hotel application denied

A rendering of Jason Milligan’s hoped for hotel.

Milligan bought 64 Wall Street, the property housing the bakery, just over a year ago, intending to build a hotel. At that point, he said, he had already completed four projects under the new CBD zoning regulations.

“The process was straightforward and getting Redevelopment signoff was easy and quick. The projects came out awesome and are fully tenanted.” But this time, he said, things were different. “I was given a different process and when I objected I was sent a 3 page pamphlet that is not part of the 2019 Redevelopment Plan. It was not ever made public and it was not shared with me in the past.”

Milligan jettisoned the hotel idea (at least temporarily) after Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin shot it down, saying Milligan couldn’t provide the requisite parking. Milligan disagreed, adding that he wouldn’t have submitted the plan in the first place had he known about the review requirement.

Byron Sanchez looks at the $30,000 hood installed in Sabor Ambateño. (Harold F. Cobin)

In a letter to Sanchez dated Sept. 15, Mayor Harry Rilling explained that after Milligan withdrew his hotel application, he submitted a new application, which was approved, “to install a single new storefront window without doors on the River Street side of the 64 Wall Street building.”

In an email to NoN, Milligan wrote: “At this point I was frustrated but wanted to get started renovating 64 Wall St. The plan was to get something more limited approved and see what new tenants I could attract.”

 

Milligan accused of violating permit

A wall obscures the construction project on the former My Three Sons property in May.

Rather than install a single new window, the Mayor wrote, Milligan “cut three holes into the side of the building, which far exceeded the scope of his approved permit. As Mr. Milligan’s construction work at 64 Wall Street exceeded the building permit description (façade improvements and new storefront), the City informed Mr. Milligan he needed to stop work on the project until the proper procedure was followed. This has been ongoing since January of 2020.”

Emails show Redevelopment Agency Director of Program Development Jonathan Hopkins first made Milligan aware of the third-party design review requirement in December, inspiring expletives from Milligan. Sanchez signed a lease in February, he said. The bakery application was submitted in August.

The building appears to have three units available. “I’m the only one who signed paper” as a tenant, Sanchez said. None of the units can be occupied while the dispute continues, he said.

The former My Three Sons building. (Harold F. Cobin)

Milligan said he paid for the bakery’s $30,000 hood, an exhaust system for the oven. “I expected to easily get the bakery approved and opened. I still optimistically expect the bakery to open,” he said Monday. “Public and political pressure will build if you present the facts.”

From Sabor Ambateño’s Facebook page.

“I also have strong opinions and genuine questions about what is considered façade,” Milligan wrote. “Lots of people say that structural components to build walls are not façade. Façade only includes that exterior shell that is presented to the public. Wiring, plumbing, HVAC ductwork in the façade walls would not be included in the $50,000.”

“Those items were not included. The larger issue is what was submitted does not reflect what has been illegally constructed,” Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Brian Bidolli said.

“We have not refused or received any application as suggested,” Bidolli wrote. “The only application the Agency has received to date was for a $21,600 facade improvement project at 5 River Street (62 Wall Street), to create one new storefront window opening in an existing masonry wall, install a single black steel beam lintel, and an aluminum storefront window system (see attached).”

64 Wall Street_Final Design Review Submission_1-25-2021 (1)

Bidolli said, “Instead of building what was applied for and approved, the applicant illegally constructed three storefronts. We have requested, but not received, any other applications matching what was built outside the permit scope. We are unable to advance a project when we do not have a complete submission. The applicant has been made aware of exactly what is required to reconcile this matter on multiple occasions.”

 

‘Spanish flavor’

Asked if he had any idea when the dispute would be settled, Sanchez said no. “Maybe a year, maybe two. I don’t know.”

Meantime, he cannot have the electricity turned on. Costly display cases are positioned in the front of the store, still wrapped in protective plastic.

“I measured everything,” Sanchez said about how he planned the layout of the store for his customers. Referring to his fellow Ecuadorians, Sanchez put his hand on the top of a display case and said, “We’re not too tall.”

Byron Sanchez with a walk in cooling unit at Sabor Ambateño. (Harold F. Cobin)

Sabor Ambateño is Spanish for Ambateño Flavor. Sanchez said the bakery would offer the usual fare plus traditional Ecuadorian bread.

Sanchez, who came to America from Ecuador in 1994, set his sights on Norwalk after considering Bridgeport, Stamford, and New Canaan. “There are a lot of Hispanics here (in Norwalk). They’ll see the name,” he said.

He owns a bakery in Ossining that he and his family run. His partner there was his brother-in-law, who died at age 44 several months ago of Covid. He left a wife and three daughters, Sanchez said.

The Ossining location is just a narrow strip, Sanchez said. The Norwalk store has a large outer room with display cases and an area for tables for customers to sit at. There’s a larger interior room where the cooking appliances and a large, walk-in freezer are located. He said he also anticipates setting up tables in front of the store.

The hood over the ovens at Sabor Ambateño. (Harold F. Cobin)

The rents were too expensive in Stamford and he was concerned that there were too few Hispanics in New Canaan.

“This is for me,” Sanchez said of the Norwalk store.

He signed a lease with Milligan, who submitted a permit he “fully expected” to be approved without issue. Work began on the space seven months ago, Sanchez said, and “I’m still waiting.”

In his letter to the baker, Rilling wrote: “I want you to know that you, your family, and your bakery are welcome in the City of Norwalk. We believe that the addition of your bakery to the Wall Street neighborhood would be a benefit for everyone. As my team has told you many times, we are eager to have you open in the new space, as soon as possible.”

That said, Rilling continued, “you will not be able to open until Mr. Milligan resolves the issue with the outside of the bakery.”

Milligan’s contractor applied for series of permits for the interior work, and at every step of the way was reminded that the CO would not be issued until the zoning issues were resolved, Rilling said.

 

Milligan calls it ‘sad’

Diagonally across the street from the bakery sits 31-39 Wall Street, another Milligan property. In July 2019, workers carrying out an unauthorized demolition at that address severed a sprinkler line, flooding the stores below. Norwalk Chief Building Official Bill Ireland said he subsequently found cut electrical wires throughout the second floor, some of which were live, and conditions that were unsafe for workers. Milligan has since renovated the flooded spaces and the stores have reopened.

Jason Milligan’s new parking lot at 20-26 Isaacs St.

In July of this year, a Milligan crew opened up a large space next to POKO when they demolished what Milligan called a “small” part of 20-26 Isaacs Street, a purchase he made in 2020. Asked about the incident, Ireland wrote: “No permits nor Intent to Demolish Application filed.”

Milligan said he had an interior demolition permit and “very recently we discovered a section was structurally unsound and quickly took it away before someone got hurt or something bad happened.”

That space is now a parking lot.

Meanwhile, at 64 Wall Street, Sanchez’s bakery, like his bank account, stands empty.

Said Milligan: “The saddest thing about all of this is that a family bakery is collateral damage.”

On that, at least, the landlord and the City can agree.

NancyOnNorwalk reporter Harold F. Cobin contributed to this story.

Correction, 1:09 p.m.: Brian Bidolli, not Bryan Baker. Photo added, Oct. 10.

 

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18 comments

Jason Milligan October 7, 2021 at 6:47 am

A clean separate permit for just the bakery sits at the Redevelopment Agency.

They have not approved or denied the permit or submitted it for 3rd party review.

I would accept any of those 3 options. Instead the Agency has done nothing but sit on the permit & complain about other things.

At least if the permit was denied I could appeal.

If the permit is denied the Agency would have to give reasons.

The permit application is perfect. Denying it will further expose a corrupt agency.

The Redevelopment Agency is the definition of Arbitrary and capricious!

What makes this more ridiculous is that the facade work is 100% done. Go see it.

2 months ago the bakery submitted another permit application independently of me. That permit has zero facade improvements included because the work is done. Permits without facade work do not involve the Redevelopment Agency.

This 2nd permit also sits in purgatory without an approval or denial. How could the Agency deny it?

There is nothing wrong with the permit. All of the other departments have signed off on the permit and the work inside the bakery.

Fire, building, health…

The Bakery could open tomorrow if the pile of red tape were removed.

Ernie DesRochers October 7, 2021 at 7:59 am

The irony here is Mr. Milligan has done more to improve this area than any elected politician or bureaucrat. This despite decades of incompetence on the part of our city leaders. This issue again proves why politics is more important to some of our leaders than the vibrancy of our community. By the way, the Mayor’s later was garbage. If he really wanted Mr. Sanchez to open the city could give him a TCO until the bigger issue could be solved. Give Mr. Sanchez a break. Let him open his business and start chipping away at getting back his $100k Investment.

David Osler October 7, 2021 at 8:23 am

I said this repeatedly and on Wall Street I completely agree with Jason I do not know what the city of thinking they are coming through South Norwalk with a wrecking ball and building whatever they want regardless of the needs of the community Wall Street the way the city has run it became a wasteland Jason is the only person to fix that effectively the city keeps on going out of their way to play games in Wall Street that benefit nobody like them back in parking you don’t have enough traffic on that road to justify it or even having meters the entire intent is to get Wall Street to recover the only thing the city has done is put together a completely useless affordable housing building that will most likely decay before it is finished built on top of what used to be free parking spots

David Muccigrosso October 7, 2021 at 8:31 am

Hah, you think that’s bad, just wait till you see “Il Fornaio” on S Main next to Evarito’s, which still has a sign saying “Coming Soon in 2019!”.

Harry’s red tape strikes again.

Jo Bennett October 7, 2021 at 8:43 am

Contrary to what the mayor says, I sincerely doubt that Mr. Sanchez, his family and business are feeling welcome in Norwalk. It’s a shame that Mr. Milligan has been able to attract so many business owners to the Wall Street area, only to have their dreams and desires sidelined by pointless bureaucracy. In this instance, the health, building and zoning departments signed off on the work. It would be a heckuva improvement to a long-languishing eyesore of a building.

Christine M October 7, 2021 at 9:24 am

This is crazy. All I know is the new storefronts on River Street look really nice, and that large space is broken up in such a way that we can attract more small businesses that can’t afford a large footprint (that go with a large rent) downtown. It looks way nicer than My Three Sons ever did.

Jason Milligan October 7, 2021 at 9:27 am

The written rules require the Agency to review the permit or submit it for 3rd party review. 6 months later they have not done that 1st step.

Can we get an explanation why my permit has not been reviewed?

Any explanation will reveal bias and uneven treatment.

I am being punished for speaking up & speaking out about a corrupt system. A system that disproportionately hurts minorities. They are the ones starting many small businesses.

The Redevelopment Agency staff lacks diversity and small business experience.

They have fancy degrees and think they are better than everyone else and it shows every time they open their mouth.

Michael McGuire October 7, 2021 at 1:38 pm

From where I sit, literally, the City’s position does not make sense. Consider that RDA’s often stated goal is the “activation” of the street. So, wouldn’t it seem reasonable that the former My Three Son’s space (at 15,000 square feet) would be much more “activating” by dividing it up into multiple smaller spaces? Clearly all the data supports smaller retail spaces (sub 3,000 square feet) are in demand while large space go wanting, think the former Sears space, or Riverview Plaza. To make more and smaller tenant spaces you need more entrances.

While I’m neutral on a hotel on this site I find Steve Kleppin’s parking argument baffling. The Yankee Doodle Garage has been underutilized by roughly 75% since I moved my office here in 2001. The purpose for building it in the first place was to foster investment and development in the area. Meanwhile right across the street POKO is given all types of parking dispensations. Odd, no?

I also spent time reviewing the RDA’s Wall-West Plan and I did not see anything about this threshold for façade review. I don’t know maybe I missed it; I was more focused on the sketchy blight claims at the time.

Regardless, the new pamphlet rules are ambiguous and allow for a lot of leeway (as in do they like you or not) on the part of the RDA. This is a great example of “Equity”.

Bottom line – this ego fueled fight sends a chilling message to would be Wall Street businesses, and yet another body blow to Wall Street.

Suggestion – Be the grown up. The City should recognize that they are 50% of this problem and let this one go. After all, the River Street façade looks 100 times better now than it did when My Three Son’s owned it.

Besides, and most importantly, ruining Bryon and his family’s life is not worth it.

Jason Milligan October 7, 2021 at 2:08 pm

Ernie,

A temporary Certificate of Occupancy would be perfect. That would let Byron open. He is unnecessarily caught in the middle of a much larger dispute.

Stuart Garrelick October 7, 2021 at 3:17 pm

Nancy,
The City of Norwalk vs Jason Milligan is no longer NEWS> If they ever resolve anything, that would be news.
If a gaggle of lawyers can’t resolve this I certainly can’t And both sides just continue a pissing contest while our downtown remains an embarrassment, probably not to be resolved in my lifetime.
My suggestion would call for the establishment of a new city position called ADULT IN THE ROOM to resolve all the city vs Milligan disputes, past, present and future.

Christopher Morales October 7, 2021 at 6:07 pm

Please sign my petition, I started this for Byron, a fellow Ecuadorian. It’s honestly sad to see this situation. He has put in so much work and money into this project. Jason has giving him an opportunity.

The city does not care about small businesses. They have proven that with the broken parking system

Can we get an explanation why my permit has not been reviewed?

https://www.change.org/p/city-of-norwalk-ct-help-us-fight-for-byron-sanchez-an-ecuadorian-small-business-owner-in-norwalk-ct?utm_content=cl_sharecopy_30759758_en-US%3A3&recruiter=1227121451&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=tap_basic_share&fbclid=IwAR2xR9KMCiNnJX9gVpk_xtgEX99z0hjswgAZvTNpSff4zCE_pVl0TQnHrYA

Nancy McGuire October 7, 2021 at 8:05 pm

The argument between Jason and the City evolves around the blighted designation of the Wall Street/ West neighborhood Plan. I am not involved with these matters., but understand that, with a blighted designation, the City can win grants from the Feds for funds to pay to developers, mostly democratic donors from other cities (and states), who in turn “win” the race as preferred developer. Then, they can build six story Soviet-style apartment blocks and win 10 years of tax breaks. The problem with this is that, in conjunction with this designation, the City assessor raised all of the values in the neighborhood. And, if you drive down Wall Street today, you may notice that almost all of the buildings have turned over. There are many new businesses, and facades are being improved. In fact, I took a walk down Wall Street today and noticed that no less than four new businesses have opened or hung a new sign with plans to open soon. Which brings us back to our baker. Mayor Rilling, Bryan, Jessica, co-mayor Lois, give the poor baker a brake and let him open. This delay does more damage to the existing business owners than you might imagine.

Tony P October 8, 2021 at 9:35 am

I love the hotel idea – and why are they complaining about parking? The garage there is empty almost all the time. Hotel would put people on the street and liven up the area.

Michael McGuire October 8, 2021 at 11:00 am

This is a great example why we need Independent Party candidates elected to the Common Council. Where are Robert and Heuvelman (our CC reps.) on this? Crickets!

No push back, no debate, no comment, not even a question, publicly silent. Worse, the RDA took over this area based on a farcical claim of blight and deterioration despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Think not? Fact (I did the math), the assessor increased the values, and not be a small amount, on 99.9% of the properties in Wall-West Plan area between 2013 and 2018. Yet we have…..deterioration? Ohhhh, that’s right, it’s like calling concerned parents of school-aged children “Domestic Terrorist” or the non-woke “White Supremist”.

This was a deliberate takeover by an un-elected, un-accountable quasi-governmental agency. Byron’s plight is just the most recent and overt result. Remember they brought us POKO – the development that keeps on screwing, Duleep – 11 years and counting. Funny, all three properties are all within 40 yards of each other. Now add in a business killing parking authority with yet again silence by Roberts and Heuvelman. Something is not right in Denmark!

The RDA is not needed here. By being here the RDA is diverting much needed redevelopment funds away from truly needy neighborhoods. Question – is that tax fraud? I don’t know, but it clearly is another example of what “Equity” looks like.

Who do you know who would push back on this? I do.

I know of a group of Independents running for Common Council. They are lead by one who will loudly start the debate and give a voice to the vast unheard here in Norwalk. They are focused on all things pro-Norwalk, not all things pro-Party.

Vote Independent on November 2nd. Time to wake the Woke up.

Carol October 14, 2021 at 4:20 pm

This hold up is unconscionable. The city needs to take responsibility for causing this, and doing nothing to resolve the problem. And, Mayor Rilling, the buck stops with you. Whatever dispute is ongoing between the city and Milligan, over what seems to be an arbitrary and bogus process change, should not prevent a tenant and business owner seeking to revive our downtown from opening, at a great personal cost to him and his family. What an embarrassment and disgrace! By the way, I‘ve lived here for almost 20 years and the corruption that seems pervasive re:zoning is hideous. Maybe we need a good audit, by an independent group, to expose all the wetland building allowed by the various boards, who have permitted developers to threaten our environment…for starters. Then we could ask them to examine all the other sketchy approvals…! In any case, someone needs to direct any and all in the city who are misusing their power to get their acts together and resolve the bakery problem at hand!

Lindsay October 17, 2021 at 5:24 pm

Bakery drama aside- That 2020 rendering for Wall Street place is AWFUL. What’s with the random blocks of ugly colors?! This neighborhood is supposed to retain some kind of historic charm and THIS is what gets approved? What a shame.

Marc Alan October 21, 2021 at 4:20 pm

Speaking as a person who is both a resident and owns a local business in the Wall Street area, who has been in this neighborhood for the past twelve years, I can still remember how desolate and utterly depressing Wall Street was when I first moved here.

Our part of Wall Street was almost entirely vacant storefronts, except for a few businesses that had been struggling for years like Norwalk Luggage, and My Three Sons, ​small b​usinesses who were waiting​ over many years​ for the Redevelopment of our Downtown.​ ​

​At this time, ​the Wall Street Theater had yet to begin construction. The Wall Street Place lot was an abandoned church. There was no Cafe Aroma. ​It was a veritable ghost town. ​

The parking lot of Isaac Street, outside of my business, was a sea of abandoned cars, broken glass and beer bottles. One of the trees in the lot was so overgrown with branches and weeds that for months we did not know that there was a homeless man living under it. Women were afraid to walk through at night.

At the end of Isaac Street, there was an illegal car garage that had existed for years without the same certificate of occupancy that Byron is being denied now. There had been an illegal Hookah bar that attracted crime​.​

Look at what’s changed ​positively ​in the past 5 years. The abandoned electrical place at 21 Isaac Street that was once scheduled for demolition is now a thriving sound stage and lighting business. The illegal car shop is now a thriving dance studio. The parking lot has been cleaned up, the trees manicured, the abandoned cars removed, and now transformed into an art park, with colorful murals that attract daily visitors.

The illegal Hookah Lounge is now Mad Lab​ Art Studio.​ The old Fairfield County Bank is now a media company called Juice. The Fairfield County bank has a new home in a smaller space next door. The shuttered red house ​on Isaac Street, ​that once held the “Treasure House” second hand store​, ​​was redeveloped to look much as it once did – still red – only now it’s ​​fully occupied condos. ​ ​There is a new smoothie shop. A new sneaker store. A new restaurant called Bistro 83.​ It was during this renaissance that​ the Wall Street Theater opened, and the Wall Street Neighborhood Association began to flourish.

​Aside from the Wall Street Theater, almost all of what I have mentioned ​happened ​either wholly, or in part, ​due to the investment of Jason Milligan into the area. ​(​​It all happened, even as he was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in his own money defending against his lawsuits with the city, and the NRA.) At least in terms of how the neighborhood has improved, I think he has done a tremendous job in all of this, and deserves far more credit than he is ever given.​ ​

​Sure Jason is a maverick who bucks against the system. He is an impatient guy, who can be his own worst enemy in terms of the press, and occasional antics. But while he may at times be a double edge sword, if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s this – Jason is a terrible adversary, but he is a great teammate. He has been a huge benefit to the area.

I would say, speaking for myself, that if the Wall Street neighborhood was as stagnant today as it had been when I moved here twelve years ago, I would no longer be living in Norwalk. I would not still be with the Factory Underground. I would not be the Production Manager of the Wall Street Theater, I would not be the Chairman of the Norwalk Arts Commission, and I would not be looking forward to the Norwalk Film Festival. As things stand now, I am fully committed to Norwalk, and I would be greatly remiss in not acknowledging Jason Milligan for what he has done to bring up this area that I am proud to call HOME.

Reading all of the comments on this article by people completely misinformed, being so critical of Jason, as to call him a criminal, and a predator, a landlord who Byron should ‘sue the pants off of,” etc., I felt it was important for me to go on record here. By all accounts, Jason is an incredibly supportive landlord, who goes above and beyond any landlord I have ever met to help his tenants.

​Which brings me to the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency. ​Consider​ing​ that ​their entire reason for existing since the aftermath of the flood of 1955, has been to revitalize Downtown Norwalk – my basic question is why is ​this agency so intent on fighting against someone who has done so much to revitalize this area​ ​​as Jason? ​ ​Aren’t we all supposed to be working for the same thing?​ What can we all accomplish if we would actually all work together? ​

Which brings me to the issue of the Norwalk Redevelopment Design Review of the Facade, that is holding up Byron from being allowed to open. The NRA contends that this design review is to protect the historical feel of the neighborhood.

Again, having been in this area for the past twelve years, I can remember how dismal the front of My Three Sons was, as it had degraded over many years. Yet compared to the front, the side of the building (River Street- where the baker would go) was utterly DISGUSTING. It was a dirty, grey cement wall, with an overgrown tree, and a black iron bar fence that looked like it was part of a prison. ​Is this the “historical feel” the NRA really needs to protect? ​

The fact is that the improvements Jason brought in removing the fence, painting the mural on the corner lot, resurfacing the side of the building – ​even with the bakery – all of this has DRAMATICALLY improved that building, and by virtue of this – the entire area. ​ ​Anyone who would dispute this could not have been ​in Norwalk long enough to remember how ugly it was before. ​​

In terms of Byron Sanchez, the one thing that gives me hope in all of this – knowing that there isn’t anyone involved in this who doesn’t want him to be able to open. What all seem to be in agreement over is that Byron Sanchez is a really nice man, a good businessman, with a strong supportive family. As an Ecuadorian immigrant, he represents the type of small business that we can all feel good about supporting.

Yet, even as conversations slowly begin that will hopefully lead to some type of brokered settlement, and in the very least, give him some type of certificate of occupancy, the real concern is that by the time this happens, Byron will be out of business. He will be forced into bankruptcy even before he has a chance to open.

​This is why our neighborhood and so many people have begun to rally around Mr Sanchez. I think it’s because we instinctively know that when Bryon Sanchez gives up hope on Norwalk, and moves his business to a new city, we will have less hope of attracting the next Byron Sanchez in taking a chance on us. ​

Bottom line: We need less empty storefronts. We need more small businesses. We need Mr Sanchez to be able to open. We need all sides to come together to make this happen.

Does it really need to be this hard?

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