New owners of Rowayton building may face parking challenges

NORWALK, Conn. – Concrete action on easing Rowayton’s parking requirements has been pushed to January for several reasons, including the plan to make sure the new rules don’t open the door to fast food restaurants and the news that the Soybel building has been sold.

The storefronts next to the Rowayton Market, at 159-165 Rowayton Ave., have been vacant for 18 years, resident Bunny Scott told the Zoning Committee last week. A. Ruth & Sons bought the building, which includes a residence upstairs, from the estate of Myra Soybel for $4.35 million on Oct. 6, according to records in the Town Clerk’s office.

“I think it’s a little odd that these people spent $4 million on this building that has zero parking. Zero. There’s just some street parking, there is just no onsite parking to this property at all,” Sixth Taxing District Commissioner Mike Barbis said. “I don’t know if they consulted Norwalk zoning but they never came to the commissioners or the guy who owns 125 parking spaces across the street – privately owns.”

The proposal being studied for Rowayton is to change the parking requirements from one space per 200 square feet of retail area and one space per 45 square feet of restaurant area to one space per 500 square feet, Senior Planner Dori Wilson said.

“What we have right now in Norwalk is not working for Rowayton,” Zoning Commissioner Nora King said.

Zoners held a meeting with Sixth Taxing District commissioners last week, Wilson said, and everyone there agreed that would work, she said, except that the zoners requested more parking counts; the studies had been done for daily but not in the evening. Sixth TD agreed to hire someone to get that information.

Rich Redniss of Redniss & Mead Inc. has been hired to work with Wilson to craft language that will not open the door to fast food restaurants, King said.

The parking needs are not just about the Soybel Building but about the entire village district area, King said. But she agreed that there should be talks with the new owners. Taxing District commissioners plan to meet with them Friday, she and Barbis said.

“I’ve done a little research on them,” King said. “They’re saavy. They’ve done some really good things in New Canaan and Rye (N.Y.) and New Jersey, a small family-owned business, so I think everyone in Rowayton is sort of looking at this as a positive.”

Barbis said the building was owned 50 years ago by a pharmacist whose family lived upstairs, over the pharmacy. Over the years, other tenants included a video store, a deli, a liquor store and a hairdresser.

“The liquor store did very, very well for a long time,” Scott said.

“The liquor store walked out one day because Myra kept raising the rent; whenever she felt inclined she would go down and raise the rent,” Scott said. “She finally went down one week and raised the rent and he was gone two days after that. Out and done. He said the next time you do it, I’m gone. And he was there for a long time.”

A public hearing on the proposed parking changes was pushed back from December to January to allow time to collect more information, including feedback from A. Ruth & Sons.


6 responses to “New owners of Rowayton building may face parking challenges”

  1. Markus Witthaut

    “The liquor store did very, very well for a long time,” that’s Rowayton for you.

  2. Bob

    In addition to Rick Franco’s liquor store, there was a pharmacy, a Dave and Nina’s deli and a hairdresser (that moved to Darien) all of whom were in that location ever since I moved into town back in 1980. Then one by one they slowly disappeared until all the stores fronts were vacant. I only hope that the new owner(s) bring them back to life.

  3. Chris

    It’s just good that there will be some business going in there instead of a dilapidated vacant storefront. People should worry less about parking. That is always the default argument. Ride bikes, skateboard, hey… You can even paddle up to the back!

  4. Don’t Panic

    It seems peculiar that zoning wants to craft parking regulations for the whole city based upon the needs of Rowayton. Wasn’t the Al Madany controversy largely caused by zoning regs designed around the needs of Rowayton?

  5. Norwalker1

    What is more peculiar…. is the fact that they paid 4.35 mil for this property (that looks like it needs another 1+ million to finish) and there is no parking. Someone said on the phone that there are 125 public spaces across the street that tenants can use? Sounds like someone spent a lot of money with no due diligence.

  6. Downunder has faced parking challenges since it opened (as Below Deck in 2003). The town of Norwalk ruled that we have to pay for parking spaces based on the amount of equipment we rent, which is prohibitive (as much as our rent!) But don’t worry about us mates! We’re in for the long run – or as long as Rowayton Market allows us to continue to rent the space. We’re excited to see some movement next door, at long last.

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