Milligan offers to build 2007-era POKO Phase II

A 2007 rendering of “POKO Phase II.”

Updated, 7;12 p.m.: Additional information. Updated 7:34 a.m., 7:51 a.m., 10:05 a.m.: Copy edits, information added

NORWALK, Conn. – The Wall Street Place battle continues, with developer Jason Milligan announcing that he’s willing to build “POKO Phase II” as agreed to years ago, and city officials noting that he has presented no formal plans.

“As ill-conceived as Phase II may be, and with the understanding that there are probably better options for Wall Street and the city, I am nevertheless willing to proceed with the development as approved,” Milligan wrote in a Thursday afternoon email to Redevelopment and the City.

“We still do not know what Mr. Milligan is proposing because he has not presented formal plans,” Mayor Harry Rilling said in a statement issued Thursday evening. “Until that time we cannot speculate on his intentions.”

Milligan’s Wall Street Opportunity Fund on May 31 bought “Phase II” from Richard Olson of POKO Partners, under the legal entity ILSR Owners, LLC, prompting “surprise” from Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan and threats of a lawsuit.

“The city is willing to work with any property owner of Phase One and Phase Two, as long as it is within the bounds of the {Land Disposition Agreement},” Rilling said in a June 1 statement. “To ensure these contractual obligations are not disregarded we are considering all of our options – including litigation. This is not personal, as any party who sought to buy this property is bound to this agreement.”  The Land Disposition Agreement is an agreement between the City, the Redevelopment Agency, and the original developer laying out requirements for the developer.

Phase I has been stalled since 2016 and Citibank has foreclosed on the property. The City and Redevelopment Agency have been working with Citibank to get construction restarted, discussing a new proposal being developed by Citibank’s chosen developers, John and Todd McClutchy of JHM Group.

The Land Disposition Agreement “required approval by the Redevelopment Agency before ownership of the {Phase II} property was transferred to ensure any new owner had an established plan and the means to complete the project,” a June 1 press released from the City explained. Milligan met with Rilling and other city officials on May 31, misleading them to think he hadn’t yet closed on the properties when he actually had, both sides agree.

The City subsequently announced that it had filed a lawsuit against Milligan and Olson, seeking $5 million as a pre-judgment remedy.

Milligan said Friday that he has not yet been served papers and mentioned Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola.

“I don’t understand why I have not been notified about any lawsuit,” he said in an email to NancyOnNorwalk. “The big question is what the hell is the city doing? What is the goal of Mario’s lawsuit if he ever files it or shares it with me? Do they want to enforce the LDA? I will build exactly what they have approved… No lawsuit required.”

The lawsuit is outlined on the state judicial website.

Milligan, in a Wednesday letter to the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, requested that the “existing development rights” granted to POKO Partners for Phase II of Wall Street Place be transferred to him. He quoted the LDA’s requirement that the Agency “not act arbitrarily, capriciously, in a discriminatory manner, or otherwise in contravention of law” in choosing a new redeveloper and said, “Please let me know the next steps so that Wall Street Opportunity Fund can start developing Phase II as soon as possible.”

The LDA is dated 2007 and calls for a parking garage with 276 spaces as part of Phase II.

The Zoning Commission in 2016 allowed POKO to have less parking on Phase I, with the expectation that this violation of the Zoning regulations would be cured by putting more parking on Phase II, which at that time was owned by POKO.

Phase I cannot be built in compliance of the Zoning regulations without additional parking on Phase II, more than was agreed to in the 2007 LDA.

The LDA states that Phase II will feature 96 apartments, 7,276 square feet of retail and 9,445 square feet of live/work space on the ground floor, while mentioning that live/work space is not permitted under the Zoning regulations.

“It is my opinion that the Poko project and all its various phases and amendments is not possible to be built as written, and I hoped that once someone with fresh capital and ideas entered the equation that the city and RDA would welcome them with open arms,” Milligan wrote Friday to NancyOnNorwalk. “That has not been the case which is why I have agreed to build Phase II exactly as it was approved. You have the details of the Phase II improvements that were approved. I hope to hear back from Tim Sheehan soon about the next steps to moving forward.​ I am very open to working with the city and the RDA.”

Since the May 31 meeting, Milligan has been told to communicate only with Redevelopment Agency Attorney Marc Grenier and Coppola.

“We have always been and continue to be willing to sit down and discuss this development with him, but Mr. Milligan needs to agree to that meeting with all parties present. Instead, he insists on having multiple side conversations with city employees, which is counterproductive to moving this project forward,” Rilling said Thursday in a statement.

Milligan has made numerous appeals to Common Council members and other city officials seeking to discuss the project, despite the request from city officials.  He has also regularly made his case to reporters, slamming Rilling and Coppola.  After city officials announced litigation, Milligan said in a June 18 e-mail to NancyOnNorwalk: “Rudderless Rilling is a {sic} dumb as a box of rocks! He is a nervous, spineless, coward.”

“I have spoken and corresponded with Mr. Milligan many times since Mr. Olsen {sic} conveyed the subject properties to him,” Coppola said Thursday in an email. “Mr. Milligan has suggested that he has many ideas regarding the POKO development, however, he has not submitted any actual plans for any proposed development to the Redevelopment Agency or City.”

“I am not going to comment regarding the pending litigation,” Coppola said.

“If legal action is taken against me or any of my companies then it will force me to take steps that are not my first choice and it makes it much harder to have meaningful & productive discussions,” Milligan wrote to Grenier, Sheehan and Coppola on Thursday.

“It is not hard to start a lawsuit and I may need to start one myself very soon,” Milligan wrote in a Thursday email to NancyOnNorwalk. “It feels like the city is acting in a vexatious, arbitrary, capricious manner. They are treating me completely differently than other parties in very similar if not exactly the same circumstances. The question is why is the city treating people so differently??”

Milligan to RDA SKMBT_C22018062814210


15 responses to “Milligan offers to build 2007-era POKO Phase II”

  1. Non Partisan.

    It appears this administration is only concerned with building the greatest number osubsidized apartments it can get

    They do this to the exclusion of the grand list, mill rate impacts, and tax paying home values.

  2. Enough

    Well I was hopeful for no more apartments. So much for that.

  3. carol

    just say yes mr.mayor and lets get on with it

  4. Jlightfield

    Phase two and three of Wall Street Place was as flawed and ill conceived in 2004 as it is today. The CBD needs a path forward for business development that would activate the ground floor retail buildings that Milligan acquired and preserve the historic streetscape of Wall Street.

  5. Rick

    ground floor retail buildings. right a new mall and one where toys R us like Wall st stands a chance on any retail at this point.put d a dunkin in and call it a day.

    time to show the door to Rillings cheerleaders

    over a dozen accidents and calls to Belden , post office and court house over 24 hours says a driving school on the first floor may work.

    GGP stock holders are probably wondering if Norwalk was a good choice , its news is hooked to the shareholders site.

  6. Jason Milligan

    “We still do not know what Mr. Milligan is proposing because he has not presented formal plans,” Mayor Harry Rilling said in a statement issued Thursday evening. “Until that time we cannot speculate on his intentions.”

    “The city is willing to work with any property owner of Phase One and Phase Two, as long as it is within the bounds of the agreement,” Rilling said

    Harry-No need for further speculation. I will build the phase II plan that was created by the RDA & the City. The plan that the Council and YOU signed off on.

    I own the property and I am willing to work “within the bounds of the agreement”

    So please drop your frivolous, vexatious, arbitrary & capricious lawsuit and lets get to work!!

  7. Jason M.

    Harry-This is a flat lie!

    “We have always been and continue to be willing to sit down and discuss this development with him, but Mr. Milligan needs to agree to that meeting with all parties present. Instead, he insists on having multiple side conversations with city employees, which is counterproductive to moving this project forward,” Rilling said Thursday in a statement.

    Name the time and place. I will be there. Bring “all parties”.

    The truth is, You have ignored all of my calls, texts and emails!

    You are pulling the same sneaky moves you pulled with the library. Remember the meeting we had 1 week after I bought the People’s Bank property where I told you I had development ideas? I pointed out the lack of parking for the library and suggested that we collaborate to get me apartments and the library parking. After 1 hour with you and Liz Stocker, you asked me with a straight face to give free parking to the library indefinitely. I explained to you that was not possible, and told you that if you did not want to collaborate that I would be pursuing development plans on my own. 1 year later you sued me, after I had spent hundreds of thousands getting an approved project.

    Flash forward to today and we seem to be following a similar path. You are given the opportunity to engage early on. An opportunity to collaborate. Instead, you choose lawsuit.

    On May 31st after weeks of reaching out to you to discuss the future of Wall St, we finally had a meeting set. Instead of discussing Wall st potential in a small 1 on 1 setting you brought 4 attorneys and several other people. The meeting was nonstop threats.

    We did not talk about the future of Wall st.

    Since that meeting on the 31st I have done everything imaginable to try to get a meeting to nip this disaster in the bud. You seem hell-bent on following a similar path to the library. You have ignored every one of my attempts to talk, and you have given Mario complete control of the situation. Of course, the guy who never misses the chance to plunge the city into litigation has done it again…

    Why? To what end? Can you tell the people what you hope to achieve? I have been talking with the people and I will continue to.

    The lawsuit will add time and money to any possible solution. We can get to the same solution without a lawsuit, but you have to engage and stop hiding. You are the supposed to be the guy in charge.

    As for a meeting with “all parties” Just name the time and place. Next council meeting?

  8. Another Opinion

    Norwalk’s residential brand is clearly devolving into the abyss with simultaneous disregard from city government. . . the mayor and city attorney should stand up on behalf of neighborhoods fighting an elder care facility charging $6,000 per room, a car wash business and a halfway house rather than something that can be resolved with a meeting. I can not understand the priories here.

  9. John E Tobin

    The entire project, which never should have been approved, needs to be scrapped. Close the book on this sorry chapter and start over.

  10. U.S. Blues

    I wish everyone would just stop thinking that Harry is for Norwalk, at he would do the right thing, stop his habitual lying to the public, stop being the … in office screwing up every single major development that lands us in court paying millions of dollars over and over and over again because he was too lazy to read, too tied to his donators, or just a stubborn …

    Harry is here just like most people who hate their job… to collect a paycheck and another pension paid by everyone but selected by fools.

    Edited to remove a vulgarity and insults, which are not allowed under the comment policy.

  11. Marty mcfly

    I am getting my DeLorean warmed up…. Norwalk is dead byyy.or. rather adios

  12. Al Bore

    If the city approved it, it is with out thought and should not be built. Norwalk is a city that lacks planning and zoning and any type of thought, just a rubber stamp for the out of town developers that contribute to the election fund. Things are approved to serve the betterment of the developers not the the city of Norwalk. Mr. Milligan seems to care and have a plan and if nothing else it can’t be any worse than the eyesore that is there now. Let’s try something else and please do not build what the city approved they have no clue what smart development is. Start over leave the city out of it. Stop the overbuilding which equals overcrowding which equals the city of Norwalk. We have very little quality of life left here.

  13. Enough

    I agree with John tobin

  14. Rick

    What sham The Hour writes like it was hired by city hall.

    When did the city agree no large plans for Manressa to improve the grand list

    100 people decided what for the city?

    Jason you cant be that bad as city hall is painting you.

    Edited to remove an instance of character assassination by innuendo, a violation of the comment policy.

  15. U.S. Blues

    Just really looking at the photo for the first time… are you kidding me? Looks like a concrete prison! THIS is what was envisioned for downtown Norwalk?
    Deplorable. Disgusting. Unattractive.
    Thanks god it’s failing.

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