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Norwalk Redevelopment considering loan to ‘incentivize’ Wall Street anchor

Norwalk Redevelopment Agency members look over concept drawings for the proposed Wall Street design center.

NORWALK, Conn. — A long-vacant Wall Street storefront could become the home of a design center, with financial assistance from the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency.

Auctions LLC is proposing to rent 30,000 square feet at 84 Wall St. to create a multi-vendor, multi-price point design walk-in center that could offer “Everything from kitchen appliances, cabinetry, counter tops, window coverings, fabrics, definitely floor coverings, marble tile, certainly furnishings of a name nature,” Geoffrey Walsky of the Fairfield County Antiques and Design Center said to the Redevelopment Agency last week.

Walsky and partners Travis and Kate Worrell are looking for help; RDA Executive Director Tim Sheehan said that would be a fit-out loan and a line of credit to help the business cover lean months as it gets going. No hard dollar figures were mentioned.

“We are looking for assistance from Redevelopment mainly because we think that Wall Street is tremendous opportunity that has been underdeveloped,” Walsky said. “We think that we can become a major anchor to that street and the revitalization of that area and would like to make sure that we’ve got the city’s and Redevelopment’s backing if we move forward and take a tremendous leap of not just labor but time and opportunity.”

The Worrells are the owners of Westport Auction, which auctions high-end items from estate liquidations, Walsky said. Fairfield County Antiques and Design Center, on Willard Road, is “basically a portioned warehouse to the tune of 100 unique dealers, furniture, accessories, art,” which opened in December 2013 with 50 percent occupancy and was entirely full – with a waiting list – one month later, Walsky said.

Together, the three own Atypicalfind Auction for online estate sales and bi-weekly sales in the design center, he said.

Walsky compared the Wall Street business plan to the New York Design Center at 200 Lexington Ave. in Manhattan, which he said has 100 businesses offering home furnishings and antiques at high-end and middle price points.

“What we are proposing to put together at 84 Wall St. is very similar in concept, add a little bit more urban and friendly feel,” Walsky said. “Then if you are familiar with the Design Center, it is open to the street and the public but it’s a little bit more of a ‘by appointment only’ type scenario. So we want to create more of a walk-in, walk-out, high-traffic center.”

The New York Design Center, at 45 miles away, would be the closest competitor, he said. There are antique dealers in Stamford, but that’s not the same thing; this would be a multi-dealer setting.

The three partners are selling to international and national buyers with their high-end auctions, and their antiques business stretches into Massachusetts and Long Island, Walsky said. Then the estate sales get the lower end.

“We are hitting every single shopping price point. So we think because of our connection to all of these buyers that we will be able to draw and market very well on behalf of the number of vendors that we try to bring to that space,” Walsky said.

There’s also an idea to have a WeWork concept of communal office space, as well as a café restaurant, he said.

Walsky handed Redevelopment Agency commissioners a packet that described the proposed business in more detail.

“You can see that the fit-out costs associated with this are significant,” Sheehan said. “So one of the issues that we have been talking about is structuring a loan to deal with fit-out costs, and ultimately what they have negotiated with the property owner is that they have rent free for the first year. So at the end of the day as they are bringing people in to rent out space (those businesses) would be paying rent and that would be the source of the debt service repayment.”

With Wall Street going through a transition, “We are looking to structure some sense of safety net relative to the business, so that the business has got an ability to get its legs about it until it gets to stabilization,” Sheehan said. “Then ultimately at stabilization the agency would have the ability to leave the stage, for lack of a better word, and allow business to grow on its own. This concept and the importance of the business presence on the street are the reasons why the agency can see us looking at this very seriously.”

The proposal is expected to be considered next month.

“We appreciate the interest in the Wall Street area, and it’s part of our mission with regards to economic development and redevelopment,” RDA Chairman Felix Serrano said.

In a letter to Redevelopment, Mayor Harry Rilling said the plan makes sense and would fit into an area that is expected to continue to boom with new apartments.

“I have met with this group of experienced business persons, listened to their plan and believe that a focus on the home design sector in the Wall Street area is a solid positioning strategy that will help attract more businesses and revitalize the Wall Street neighborhood. Additionally, the site has stood vacant for a number of years and its occupancy will support continued interest and growth in this area of Norwalk. … This enterprise will balance nicely with the existing concentration of home design, appliance and furnishing retailers that currently call Norwalk their home including the Connecticut Design Center, Axel Interiors, Klaff’s, Clarke SONO and Lillian August, to name a few.”

Comments

2 responses to “Norwalk Redevelopment considering loan to ‘incentivize’ Wall Street anchor”

  1. Rod Lopez-Fabrega

    Revitalizing and ‘incentivizing’ Wall Street is a task that is long overdue. Promises, promises from various administrations in past years. However, I wonder if the applicant’s characterization of what they plan as comparable and second only to the New York
    Design Center is a fair one. The NYDesign Center is an entire, New York building with many floors and over 100 suites, each presenting complete lines of their offerings in the home decorating sphere.

    What is more, the applicants seem to need hard cash help from the city to see them through the first stages after they move in. That is not suggestive of permanence.

    At any rate, not intending to seem negative, I wish them well. Almost anything is better than what is there now.

  2. Michael McGuire

    This is exactly what Wall Street needs! The Wall/Main area has large floor-plates of inexpensive space – home furnishing retailers need large floor plates of inexpensive space. This is an easy fit.

    The Wall/Main/Belden area has a great potential to be the premier home furnishing district in Fairfield County. Anchored by Lillian August and this new design center the potential to infill around these anchors with like kind retailers is enormous. Its placement in a walkable historic downtown setting just adds to the potential.

    This will bring jobs and vitality to this area. When considered along with the Globe theater suddenly Wall Street’s future looks bright!

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