NORWALK, Conn. — Embattled real estate broker Jason Milligan has had, in his words, “a big week.”
Milligan bought the David Harvey Jewelers building, the defunct El Dorado Club and My Three Sons.
All of the purchases were recorded Wednesday, Town Clerk Rick McQuaid said. “I believe he is now the WIZARD OF WALL STREET,” McQuaid wrote.
Milligan said he now owns nearly 40 properties in Norwalk Center, including condominiums. He’s got property on all sides of the development he’s waged war with, Wall Street Place – or “POKO,” in common terms. The half-built building he calls “The Tyvek Temple.”
His purchase of the former Leonard Street municipal lot at 23 Isaacs in 2018 landed him in a legal imbroglio, as the City and Redevelopment Agency sued him with charges that include unfair trades practices and interfering with POKO, creating damages to the city.
After the Common Council approved the new plan for POKO in July, Milligan charged that Wall Street Place phase I “will not get its crucial tax credits whilst litigation is raging.” He also predicted an “additional $1million in legal fees and all before the ultimate trial, which will likely be appealed regardless of the outcome.”
“The public parties disagree with Mr. Milligan’s estimate of legal fees and other comments regarding how he believes the case will proceed,” Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola said, in July.
Milligan’s purchase of My Three Sons includes the first floor and development rights, he said. The property at 64 Wall St.#1 has been owned by Petrini Family Investments LLC for ages; the City website is unclear on when the family acquired it. It was built in 1928 and is appraised at $1,635,750. Milligan said he paid $2,087,500.
Jerry and Jason Petrini did not return phone calls from NancyOnNorwalk.
“Jerry is staying quiet as we discuss certain things,” Milligan said. “There may be some reincarnation coming soon and you will hear about it.”
The “reincarnation” would be a COVID-friendly concept in the short term. “I/he would rather not say yet. We are discussing lots of options,” he said. “Meaning that is a big space and there are lots of ways to use in in a similar way to past uses.”
“But my ultimate plan is a hotel for the back portion,” Milligan said Tuesday. “…I have just started working with my architect on actual plans and I had a nice call with my attorney and Steve Kleppin today.”
Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin confirmed that Milligan had spoken to him about a hotel there. “The use is permitted in the zone,” Kleppin said.
Milligan said he has a hotel partner lined up for the project.
“It will likely be an extended stay hotel for now. The area needs a hotel to reach its potential but probably cannot support all daily rentals. There are a large number of people looking for flexibility given the current climate,” he said.
The hotel would be on the back half of the property, and the “front half can/will remain open during construction,” Milligan explained.
Hotel patrons would get a view of the Yankee Doodle Garage on one side and on the opposite side, a view of the mixed-use development Milligan loathes.
El Dorado, located at 26 Isaacs St., is right next to the Tyvek Temple and backs up to Milligan’s properties at 83 and 97 Wall St.
“I have lots of ideas,” Milligan said.
The property is appraised at $1,169,600. Milligan said he paid $1.5 million for it.
Milligan announced his purchase of the former David Harvey Jewelers at 51 Wall St. on Monday. He plans “Some sort of adapted reuse. Mixed use. Some combination of retail, office, residential,” he said.
It’s appraised at $630,369 and Milligan said he paid $500,000 for it.
The jewelers will be liquidating their inventory and “having a big sale for the next 2 months,” he wrote.
Milligan bought My Three Sons under IJ Group OZ LLC, a twist on his longstanding IJ Group LLC, which owns 67 and 69 Wall St., and 37 North Ave.
“OZ” stands for Opportunity Zone, Milligan said.
The federal government created an Opportunity Zone Program in 2018, to induce long-term investments in low-income communities. Norwalk Center is in a census tract that as named an Opportunity Zone.
The Common Council recently approved extending Norwalk’s Enterprise Zone into Norwalk Center.
“I can tell you that the possibility of an enterprise zone did not remotely register as a factor in my decision to continue to acquire property in the Wall Street area,” Milligan said.
“Downtown Norwalk is part of the Wall Street/West Avenue Redevelopment plan, and is in a Federal Opportunity Zone,” Wall Street Neighborhood Association Chairwoman Nancy McGuire wrote. “Jason has acquired at least a dozen properties just like the fable about the boy who takes a little red wagons out of the kingdom under the King’s watch. He and his investors have seen the opportunity largely created by the City, state and federal governments and taken it.”
‘The City won’t work with him’
Michael McGuire owns 64 Wall St., the offices that face Wall Street. He called Milligan’s purchase of My Three Sons “a good thing.”
“He’s investing a lot of money and energy down here and he understands the real estate markets and what attracts people,” McGuire wrote. “Every property he purchases is improved nearly overnight and put back in service far better than how he found it. Wall Street needs people and Jason is creating the housing units to meet that need as well as providing innovative business with the innovative spaces.”
McGuire, on Wednesday, continued:
“True he can rub people the wrong way, myself included, but none of us are perfect, however he does make things happen. Hell, I just showed up at work this morning and he’s already clearing out the first floor of My 3 Sons. People should note that Jason only purchased the 1st floor of the building.
“Is he buying up too much? Not by a long shot, there are a lot of properties here and he only owns a small percentage of them. The real question you may want to explore/research is why the City won’t work with him. If they did the results for POKO, and Norwalk overall, could be much better than we have now, or could have in the future.”
Nancy McGuire said:
“It is clear that Norwalk residents have longed for change in Downtown for years. Despite the City’s botched POKO plan that has taken 17 years to get to an abandoned foundation, Jason’s Opportunity Fund has been the little boy with the red wagon, that has steadily and steadfastly accumulated properties.
“While council members ignored us, a number of our local small business owners attended numerous Town Council meetings to fight against the type of assemblage that is outlined and encouraged by the City’s redevelopment plan. If you take a close look at the redevelopment plan and the opportunity zone policies, you will see that the tax breaks only benefit large developers. This is the type of investment that is out of reach for most local stake holders in the Wall Street area, despite the fact that up until now, the Wall Street area was mostly made up of small stakeholders.
“We will indeed see numerous changes in property use over the coming years, and like government subsidized housing that replaces condo and home owners with subsidized tenants, small businesses who own their own buildings will be replaced by tenants who pay rent to wealthy developers who pay little or no taxes.”
Mayor Harry Rilling declined to comment. An email sent to all Common Council members generated no replies.
In voting for the new Wall Street Place plan in July, Council member Tom Livingston (D-District E) said, “I hope that we’ll be able to sit down with Mr. Milligan and be able to work towards a mutually satisfactory resolution of all outstanding issues so that this project and move forward in a timely manner.”
On July 27, Livingston explained by email, “My concern and the reason for my comment is that he has stated that he intends to try to hold up the project through litigation, be it the existing litigation, zoning appeals, or otherwise. I continue to believe that we should see if there is a way to find a mutually satisfactory solution to this litigation so that we can get this project moving forward as soon as possible.”
Milligan has pointed out that POKO’s neighbors would have legal standing to challenge the project in court.
Is he buying any more properties?
“I have multiple offers out there and one additional under contract that is set to close by the end of the year,” he wrote. “I am constantly making offers.”