POKO beginning demolition Monday for Norwalk Wall Street Place

Gov. Dannel Malloy
Gov. Dannel Malloy joins a host of Norwalk officials Friday to mark the beginning of demolition for POKO Partners Wall Street Place. All of the buildings behind the group will be taken down.
The first of two windows is pulled out of a Wall Street building Friday.

NORWALK, Conn. – Here’s a new one for you Norwalk – a ceremonial window smashing.

Friday, workers pulled out two windows on the backside of the old Merchant’s Bank on Wall Street, a tease for the real demolition work to begin Monday at POKO Partners Wall Street Place. This came after celebratory remarks and politicking by Gov. Dannel Malloy, local officials and POKO’s partners, marking the start of the project made possible finally by a combination of government funding, private financing, and the controversial extension granted recently by local government of the Land Disposition Agreement

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Amidst all the high-spirited celebratory remarks, Malloy tossed in a light-hearted shot at local permitting procedures.

“We did have a little discussion about the fact that, in Norwalk, you need a demolition permit, and then you have to prove you’ve demolished the building before you can get your foundation permit,” Malloy said. “If we could put those two things together we could move projects along a little faster, so let’s take a look at that.”

“That’s a good idea,” said Mayor Harry Rilling, who was lauded by state Sen. Bob Duff (D-25) as having “worked so hard to get all of our projects going since he took office last year.”

POKO was recently granted an extension to its 10-year-old LDA by both the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency and the Common Council, despite many skeptical comments about the funding of the project. The $46 million development funding includes $23.7 million in conventional debt, $5 million in Urban Act Funds, $3.5 million from the Connecticut Department of Housing, $8.8 million in low-income housing tax credit equity and $4.4 million in funding from the city of Norwalk, according to a press release sent on Duff’s behalf.

Phase I of Wall Street Place, described as a sustainable, mixed-use, mixed-income development, will contain 101 rental units, 36 of which will be affordable to households earning up to 50 percent and 60 percent of the area median income, while the remaining 65 units will be market-rate rentals. Of the affordable units, 10 will be set aside for supportive housing with services provided by Homes with Hope, a local nonprofit that works with the homeless.

Phase I also will contain 16,000 square feet of retail space, 23 surface parking spaces and an automated parking garage (the first of its kind in Connecticut) with more than 200 spaces available to residents and the public.

Duff said the gathering was as exciting as the day Malloy came down for a groundbreaking for the improvements to Interstate 95.  This led to comments lauding Malloy, who is in a tough reelection battle.

“Gov. Malloy understands that we need to grow our tax base and that means increasing jobs and putting people back to work. We can’t do that without a good educational system, affordable housing – which we have here with up to 40 percent affordable housing – and a good transportation system like I-95 to make sure that we can get people back and forth to work,” Duff said.

Malloy said Duff, whose is facing a reelection challenge from Planning Commissioner Bill Dunne, inspired the action on I-95.

“We were able to get that project up and running fairly quickly – in point of fact, that project should have been done 12 years before that and has been a major impediment to the free flow of traffic on I-95,” Malloy said.

Of Wall Street Place, Malloy said, “Everyone who works in Norwalk should be able to find a place to live in Norwalk. That’s an important rule for us to keep in the back of our minds. This project will be a down payment on that.”

He lauded Olson and his crew as “a great development team that might have been knocked out in the downturn in the economy, but they stayed with this project, they have seen it through. They deserve a lot of credit. … We’ve seen a lot of projects fall apart and not get put back together as the result of the Great Recession.”

“I am nothing if not tenacious,” Olson said. “I have two words on the front of my desk – relentless pursuit – and that’s what I do, and that’s what my team does.”

Olson thanked former Mayor Alex Knopp for having the wisdom to select POKO and said Duff has been his friend through the entire 10 years, calling him a “problem solver” and referring to an “enormous lift.”

“We are very happy to be going forward,” Olson said. “We’re very happy to continue to invest a little over $45 million here, and another $100 million going forward.”


17 responses to “POKO beginning demolition Monday for Norwalk Wall Street Place”

  1. John Hamlin

    Even the Governor — at a ceremony in celebration of project’s long delayed start — can’t resist pointing out that the city’s processes are flawed and dysfunctional. Fortunately he didn’t start in on the planning and zoning approach, regs, and processes, or they would all still be standing there.

  2. NorwalkVoter

    I was there and hour later and watched as they pulled down the entire façade of the building. Very exciting to watch!

  3. anon

    @Hamlin, Malloy was doing a CYA and a ‘pass the buck’ for Rilling given the Mayor’s dysfunctional handling of the mosque situation.

  4. Norwalk4Life

    I’m still very curious as to how the Automated Parking Garage will work. I was a little disturbed that it is going to be the first in the state. Has anyone ever used one? Is there a valet involved?

  5. EveT

    OMG don’t tell me the automated parking garage is still part of the plan! Robotic parking is a terrible idea for all but long-term storage of vehicles, such as in Manhattan where space is at a premium and people may only use their car once a week. Do you really want to put your car up on a rack for a couple of hours while you shop or go to a movie?

  6. Norwalker1

    The New Wall St Theater will need parking too. Imagine 200 people trying to get their cars out of there at the same time? The Theater holds 750 +. This area needs big parking lots on the ground.

  7. Seth

    @Nowalker1 – Don’t forget about the parking garage – The Yankee Doodle garage I believe it’s called.

  8. EveT

    Hello, very few people would be willing to walk all the way from the Yankee Doodle garage to and from the movie theater, especially after dark.

  9. Seth

    @EveT I suspect that there’s no way to appease you. You wont wait for the robotic parking (good point) and won’t walk half a block either. Geez, might as well stay home. People do it in Sono all the time. Once the buildings are populated and the area comes alive it will be just a part of going to that part of Norwalk.

  10. Piberman

    Isn’t it wonderful how the Governor and Sen Duff heap praise on each other ! CT is blessed with such true “public servants”.

  11. EveT

    A regular parking garage / parking lot would be fine, just as we have in all other parts of town. Or (getting creative here), if Norwalk ever decided to revive the trolley system, the trolley line would run right by this location, which would be very convenient. (OK, I’m mostly kidding.)
    But seriously: apparently POKO didn’t want to buy enough land or build a big enough structure to accommodate the anticipated number of cars without double-decking them on robotic racks. How POKO convinced P&Z folks to allow the automated garage is beyond me.

  12. nancy

    Ridge Hill in NY has an automated parking garage. You drive in and push a button and get a ticket. When you are leaving you pay the parking fee at a kiosk on the way out. You then have like 20 minutes to leave the parking facility.

    Editor’s note: This is not Nancy of NancyOnNorwalk.

  13. One and Done.

    Don’t worry about the automated parking garage. This will be hole in the ground for several decades, if they finish the demolition. POKO is a con and the bright bulbs we have running our government still haven’t caught on to that fact. Or maybe the timely donations (using our grant money) to their campaigns has helped them turn a blind eye?

  14. jlightfield

    Considering that car manufacturers are rolling out car models that park themselves today, whether you are ready for it or not, automated parking is just the beginning of how cars will store themselves.
    But for those unfamiliar with the project, short term parking spaces are not automated, the residential parking spaces for long term use are.

  15. John Hamlin

    Automated parking — why is everyone so afraid and opposed? Ahh — it’s something NEW, and Norwalk doesn’t like anything new. Actually, I guess it’s progress that Norwalk has moved beyond fighting the automobile itself and moved on to fighting automated parking. Perhaps wait to see how it works before objecting too much? It’s like the great new recycling system that people objected to so much — turns out it’s an improvement and progress.

  16. Suzanne

    Automated Parking Systems are not new. While the US decided to eliminate most of their systems in the 60’s due to mechanical problems, a resurgence in installation of these systems began in the 1990’s as part of the package of sustainability – using less land for parking as an example. T
    The link explains that such systems continued to be installed around the world even as the US stopped installing them for the aforementioned reason and developed better mechanics. Europe and Japan, for example, do not have the land mass like the US for vast fields of asphalt.
    There is no need to be afraid of a mechanism that began conceptually in 1905 and has had the opportunity to be made much more efficient since.

  17. Dennis DiManis

    When the new bike lanes are set up, everyone that doesn’t like the parking arrangement can ride their bike instead.

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