NORWALK, Conn. – The developer of an apartment building on Connecticut Avenue says there’s no truth to a social media allegation that construction was ordered stopped.
No such order has been issued, said Jason Enters of Norwalk-based EDG Properties. That account was confirmed by Dean O’Brien, executive assistant to State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25).
Two multi-story buildings are planned for 71-75 Connecticut Ave.: one will offer 33 apartments and the other 14,800 square feet of medical office space. The property backs up to Interstate 95, a sliver of land that the late Frank Zullo, during a 2015 discussion with the Norwalk Zoning Commission, called a remnant parcel from the construction of Interstate 95.
“Way back when,” the city looked into buying it from the state but it was too expensive, he said. A concerned citizen bought it to keep it from becoming a used car lot or a gas station, he said. A “Mrs. Hakimi” bought it and “had it for many years.”
The 1.24-acre parcel, which stretches from Stuart Avenue to Fairfield Avenue and is across the street from Lowe’s, was sold to One Norwalk LLC in 2004 for $28 million, according to the city’s land records. This may be an error, as NoN’s 2015 story says it was sold for $56 million; at the time, there were two listings, one for 71 Connecticut Ave. and one for 75 Connecticut Ave. Now there’s one.
Norwalk Communications Director Josh Morgan said it would take time to research the land records and determine the accuracy of the online information.
In 2013 ownership was transferred to Norwalk Medical Center for $0, records show. In 2018, EDM 2 LLC bought 71 Connecticut Avenue for $1,550,000.
In 2015, Zullo’s clients won Zoning approval for a 22,400 square foot (gross), three-story medical office building. Enters’ EDM 2 LLC won approval for the current plan in 2018. In May, he declined to be interviewed about the reasoning behind the switch from the previous plan medical office space to a mixed-use development including 33 apartments along with medical office space.
Enters said Thursday that only one of the buildings is under construction, due to site staging constraints. The residential component is being built and EDG Properties has a foundation permit for the medical building. Digging is expected next month.
Apartments will be available for rental in April, Enters said. EDG is already accepting applications for the workforce housing apartments.
Attorney Albert Vasco, speaking to the Zoning Commission in September 2018, said there would be “mostly one bedroom and five two bedrooms” apartments in the 37,000 square foot four-story building on the easterly side; it’s three stories over a parking area. The 7,000 square foot medical office building has two stories but is only five feet lower than the easterly building.
All the apartments face Connecticut Avenue and there’s a corridor on the I-95 side of the building, architect Ray Sullivan said. Each unit has its own terrace and four workforce housing apartments are provided.
A high retaining wall is needed along the back due to the grade change. Sullivan compared this to the wall built between Head of the Harbor South and Mill Hill, a development that Enters was involved in.
The buildings were originally planned to be further apart but Eversource has a utility easement that forced architects to move the medical building more to the center of the property, Sullivan said.
A “series of transactions over the years” between property owners and the State limited where the curb cut for a driveway could go, Sullivan said. It “happens to be midway between two (traffic) signals” and the “sight lines are excellent,” according to traffic engineer Mike Galante.
Current building code requires “extensive air sealing,” making building so tight that machinery is required to bring in fresh air, Sullivan said. EDG built 587 Connecticut Ave., and, “I was in one of the units facing 95, as it was being built. I closed the windows, and I was surprised how quiet it was.”
“Then the other thing that occurs is, is their extensive code requires for sound protection inside, so we get a lot more kind of sound absorbing material,” he said. So not only will the apartments face Connecticut Avenue instead of the interstate, but the building will be “tighter” and have higher quality sound ratings.
Last week’s Facebook post asked readers if it was true that the State put a cease and desist on the project because “builders didn’t get the proper paperwork.”
One reader immediately said it was true.
Enters told NancyOnNorwalk that it was “completely false.”
“We have had no contact with the State and our permits are all active,” he wrote Jan. 13. “Work continues as usual. Somebody called us today telling us there was a rumor and it was the first we ever heard of it.”
Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin said Tuesday that he hadn’t heard of any issue.
O’Brien said Tuesday that he’d reached out to the Connecticut Department of Transportation and, “They have no interest in this area, nor do they have any record of being involved. They don’t feel there’s any encroachment there, either.”
Information added, 1 p.m.