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Rumored Connecticut Ave. project stoppage found to be baseless

The construction at 71-75 Connecticut Avenue, at 2 p.m. Jan. 13. Work on a second building should begin next Monday, Jason Enters of EDG Properties said. (Harold F. Cobin)

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 construction at 71-75 Connecticut Ave., as seen March 30 from Fairfield Avenue. (Nancy Chapman)

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.

The construction at 71-75 Connecticut Ave., as seen April 20. (Nancy Chapman)

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.

The construction at 71-75 Connecticut Avenue, as seen Jan. 13 from the other side of Interstate 95. (Harold F. Cobin)

20 comments

Skip Hagerty January 20, 2022 at 5:47 am

This project is a perfect example of what is wrong with Norwalk. There will be 33 apartments and offices on little over an acre of property on maybe the busiest roadway in the city. This property is smaller than many West Norwalkers’ backyards. Let’s face it, the city has become one large apartment complex with unbearable traffic. Men like Rilling and Bob Duff should be very proud of how Norwalk, once a great hometown, has become an overcrowded city of transients with no real connection to the community.

Linda Riddick January 20, 2022 at 10:02 am

I think it’s going to be beautiful I live the space where the apartments are located and would love to know how to apply for the two bedrooms can you please give the information I’ve been waiting to hear something and this is the first that I have ever heard anything I would appreciate anything you can share about how to get on the list to be in one of your new apartments I will be one of your best tenants .Thank you thank you

Kenneth Werner January 20, 2022 at 3:32 pm

Norwalk desperately needs more affordable — or, at least, more less-unaffordable — housing. Not everybody can (or should) have a one-acre back yard. Norwalk needs to offer housing for people at all income levels. This development has on-site parking for the 33 apartments, which is a tiny fraction of the parking across the street at Lowe’s. The apartments will not contribute significantly to Connecticut Avenue traffic. Skip, your one-acre back yard in West Norwalk is safe!

Skip Hagerty January 20, 2022 at 9:22 pm

Ken,
You either missed the point or are simply trying to virtue signal. The point was simple. Norwalk’s infrastructure can’t support all these apartment buildings (affordable or not). They are being shoe-horned into any piece of property regardless of how small. With that said, have you lobbied for some of the surrounding towns to shoulder some of the housing burden?

Mike Mushak January 20, 2022 at 10:13 pm

This is smart development, building much-needed housing on an empty lot near stores, restaurants, the cultural attractions and open space of Mathews Park (just a five minute walk away), transit (local and regional busses stop right in front), and just a few blocks from Norwalk Hospital with 2500 employees which is one of our city’s biggest employers. Oh, and only a few blocks from the SoNo Collection, where 2800 people work. The more housing we provide near these huge employers, the more cars we potentially take off 95. That is smart planning.

This excellent article (thanks Nancy and Harold) states how quiet the apartments are, with hallways facing the highway. I know for a fact that they will also have great views from that hallway, clear across Long Island Sound to the far shore 12 miles away. Nice way to get into and out of your home, with a great view, no?

As Norwalk grows and our population ages, this kind of fully-accessible housing will fill a real need, as older folks downsize and free up their houses for young families which is a pattern we see happening already. And to be only a few blocks from an excellent regional hospital offers some real peace of mind to many folks, including me who lives in this same neighborhood as this new building. Oh, did I mention it’s across the street from Lowe’s? No need to get in the car to get a light bulb!

Also, this type of sleek contemporary-looking housing is perfect to help retain younger folks just out of college as well as attract new talent from out of town, just the type of folks our growing corporate businesses are looking for.

And don’t forget the enormous buying power on local businesses these new residents will have, helping our small business community grow and prosper and retain local employees.

This includes all the businesses in the shopping center right across the street, (DaVinci Pizza is a favorite of ours), the ones right up the street on Stuart Ave (Blue Cactus is another favorite), and a few blocks away on Cedar Street (Old Post Rd Liquor store is another favorite.) Oh, and let’s not forget Speedy Donuts, a real local favorite! They will all benefit from increased business from this project.

And now cue the old lies told by a former mayoral candidate and her reactionary NIMBY crowd, that apartment buildings like this don’t pay taxes and are a burden on our city. Nonsense. The folks living in these apartments and most of the other buildings built recently (230 East Ave by the East Norwalk train station comes to mind) not only will pay property tax through their rent, but they are paying more per square foot than single family homes, all while using much less city services than those homes sprawled across miles of suburban streets that need expensive plowing and paving and individual trash collection, not to mention the miles of underground and above-ground utilities. In dense buildings like this, there’s none of that huge burden on taxpayers.

Finally, don’t believe the old lie the NIMBY reactionaries love to tell that these new apartment buildings fill up our schools with kids. More nonsense. It’s the single family homes still supplying most of the school age kids in Norwalk, whose taxes never cover the real cost of education those kids at about $14k each per year. Based on research out of Rutgers (Demographic Multipliers-CT), we can expect the 28 1-bedroom units in this new building to generate 0.04 child per unit, or 1.12 child for all 28 1-bedrooms combined. The 5 2-bedroom units will generate 0.25 child per unit, or 1.25 child for all 5 2-bedroom units combined. That’s a total of 2.37 children for the entire building, or let’s say 3 to be generous, which will cost taxpayers 3 x $14k or $42k total. This calculation assumes that these children would be new-to district, which they may not be as folks move around Norwalk all the time. So as I said, these numbers are conservative.

Now let’s guess, for arguments sake, that the two new buildings on this site (including the yet to be built medical office building) will be valued around $15 million, again on the conservative side as property and development costs were quite high here. The assessed value of 70% of that would be 10.5 million, and with a mill rate of 23.315, the total property tax (excluding car and “real property” tax like office equipment) this property would generate $244,807 in new taxes per year to the City of Norwalk. If there was one car per unit, that would be 33 cars, assessed at an average of $8500, x a mill rate of 30.543, for a total of 33 x $259.61 or $8567.13 collected for all the cars owned by folks living here.

So combining property and car taxes (and still excluding office equipment which is unknowable at this point but we could bet would be substantial in the large yet-to-be-built medical office building), the total tax collected annually would be $253,374, minus the cost of educating the 3 children ($42,000, assuming new-to-district which they may not be) for a total of $239,374. And thats for a building that uses little other city services compared to a single family home that needs all that additional expensive taxpayer-funded plowing and paving and trash collection and utility maintenance, before we even talk about all the kids they have in our schools!

In other words, its the apartment buildings subsidizing the single family homes in Norwalk, not the other way around as some loudmouths would want you to believe through their relentless renter-demonizing propaganda, motivated in part by a hefty dose of thinly-disguised racism and classism. You can just see it clearly right in their own frequent self-incriminating words, where they claim renters are “not real residents” and a “burden to the homeowners”. Its absurd I know, but most of these same folks also believe the election was stolen and the 1/6 rioters were just tourists. They can believe whatever they want, but it still doesn’t make it real.

So I say to this new building and its new residents who will move in soon: “Welcome to the neighborhood, you’re going to love it here!”

Tim R January 21, 2022 at 7:15 am

This is definitely not the most aesthetically pleasing location basically RIGHT OVER I95 pinched between a very busy corridor of Route 1 with no place for children to even ride a bike safely. But hey, Call it whatever you want spin it however but how and what do the morons from Jan 6 have to do with this building, Gaslight Gary.

Steve Mann January 21, 2022 at 8:00 am

Comrade Skip apparently hasn’t read the grand list to see how many one-acre backyard owners pay taxes to support the city. Bernie would be proud!

Patrick Cooper January 21, 2022 at 12:33 pm

I guess since Josh has left, someone else needs to take the job of chief propogandist for Monopoly Harry and his HTC. I mean, does anyone buy what this guy is shoveling? Yes, I am certain the residents of this apartment complex will be delighted with their daily visual of grid-lock and road rage (Fridays from mid-May to September are a real treat), and the fragrant aroma of burning diesel. All for the same monthly price as a 30 year mortgage on a $300,000 home, without the equity.

Now literally no one in Norwalk takes this guy seriously, but you should. Because what he does – as part of the grand plan of the HTC – is called “Gaslighting”. Psychologists use this term to refer to a very specific type of manipulation, where the manipulator (landscaper in this case) is trying to get the residents of Norwalk to question their own reality, their own perceptions. Gaslighters may also try to convince their victims that they’re mentally unfit or too sensitive. By saying – if you disagree with me – you are a NIMBY. It’s a favored tool of extremists.

Of course, virtually every point made in his comment is a distortion and misrepresentation of the facts, and his thesis is apparently more apartments everywhere only benefits the freeloader single family homeowners. If you don’t accept that – you are just not as smart and sophisticated as the self-important plan-man.

Mike Mushak January 21, 2022 at 5:18 pm

I love the defensive NIMBY reactions, right on cue! I challenge Patrick Cooper, Lisa Brinton’s right hand man, to provide verifiable evidence that any of my calculations are false.

In fact, ever since I easily refuted his big lie that his taxes had increased under Harry Rilling, with a quick online search that proved his taxes actually dropped 10% while Harry had been mayor (oops!) he’s been a little sensitive.

In fact, in just one of post here on NON a few years ago, I proved that ALL the folks claiming their taxes had gone up under Harry Rilling had actually seen substantial tax reductions under Harry’s professional leadership and smart planning efforts, that have increased the grand list while also increasing investment in our schools and roads.

That list of tax liars included Lisa Brinton herself, who was running for mayor and refused to acknowledge her taxes had actually decreased on her million dollar mansion in Rowayton, even when the truth was put out right in front of her. Talk about chutzpah!

These folks think they can lie with impunity but I’m happy to set the record straight. And they call that “gaslighting”, lol. It is in a way, but it’s really just shining a bright light on their blatant “gassy” lies.

Blowing hot air is all they’ve got. Go ahead Patrick, prove my numbers wrong.

Patrick Cooper January 21, 2022 at 8:03 pm

@MM – No math lessons for you. Done this already. But that’s a new policy for me – post Covid. I have another too.

Speaking of – your memory is off. The argument was pre-Covid (December 2019), so much has changed since then – including a boat load of Covid Relief funds. And a wave of New Yorker’s and Westchester folks fleeing what we are quickly becoming.

I’m also shocked that you referenced this argument – because – you don’t really shine here. Your effort to denigrate me boomeranged and allowed me to use your own process to confirm what everyone already knew. Like I said – your math – you never show your work. I did in these comments.

https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/happy-holidays-norwalk/#more-86142

This was a really good article to see Norwalk pre-Covid. The issue that lead to our back & forth was related to anonymous posters. It’s one thing we agreed on. John Levin was amazingly lucid, considering it was Festivus.

But I’ve come to see how I am incorrect in that position, about anonymous posters. They must be allowed. Because it dawned on me of late – maybe these people work for the largest employer in the city. The city. Or maybe they are just moderate democrats. And they simply cannot put a name to any criticism, they know how things work. Harry, and the HTC. Gaslighting.

Jason Enters January 21, 2022 at 8:32 pm

Mike Mushak-

I thank you for your time to write thoughtful and educated comments here even though you know what the responses will be.

When we did due diligence on this project our mindset was exactly as you stated. A long standing vacant lot that could contribute to the urban fabric of Norwalk. Of course a good portion of Norwalk is suburban in nature, but this area is most definitely part of the urban environment. It was with this mindset that we programmed the potential project and analyzed the financial aspect of it. Interestingly (and we own other multifamily in Norwalk so we have comparable statistics) we came up with a very similiar number for our future tax obligations upon completion of the project. When we bought the site, the tax obligation was about $30k a year so we, as did you, assumed a substantial increase in the tax basis for Norwalk.

I try not to get involved in these back and forth NON exchanges, but in this case I feel it is important to point out the many things you correctly pointed out.

Yes, we felt it was a beneficial project for the area and for affordability of apartments in Norwalk. Yes, we have great views of the sound from the 3rd and 4th floor hallways. Yes, the taxes produced are going to be substantial. Yes, the tax basis will be 50% more than a typical single family home. Yes, we hope our future tenants will take advantage of the walkability of the location. Yes, we went with a modern look to give the feel of a new and aesthetically different feel from traditional “cheap” apartment construction. Yes, we hope there will never be the need for the 104 parking spaces required by zoning. And yes, we hope the small medical office building will be a positive resource for the Norwalk Hospital based on its proximity. There is more but I will let your words speak for themself.

We are a small company and my partner and I put our own hard earned money into each project. We do not have outside investors or funds. As such we carefully evaluate each project from the perspective of long term ownership and how we will be perceived and contribute to the community. We have huge “skin in the game” as people like to say. It will be easy for people to critizise those words but they are our reality. So I once again thank you for your understanding of the process and being willing to take time to support it.

Paul January 22, 2022 at 6:16 am

Question. Where are the dog owners taking their pets?? Mathews Park?? Where dogs arent allowed……….Oyster Shell??? where dogs arent allowed. I hope there is some green spaces within this complex.

Tysen Canevari January 22, 2022 at 7:24 am

Mike Mushak should apply to be Harry’s new chief of Communications. He can do no wrong. I love the line about these apartments provide a beautiful view of long island sound. Typical. Lets keep creating more free housing so the taxpayers can pay the rent. Stop trying to blow smoke at us saying it cost taxpayers nothing. Who pays the section 8 rents? The boogie man? LOL. By the way Mike. What does Poko (The Tyvek Temple provide)?

Bianca February 28, 2022 at 10:49 am

This was very informative however, I have been unsuccessful in finding a link/website where I can obtain an application for the workforce housing program. Can you please shed some light on where one might go to apply?

Thanks a bunch 🙂

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