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POKO on track to demolish Norwalk Wall Street buildings, leaders say

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This Wall Street building would be among the first to go if POKO Partners begins demolition to make way for Wall Street Place, as Ken Olson says it will.

NORWALK, Conn. – Expect demolition on Wall Street soon, according to Ken Olson of POKO Partners.

Both Mayor Harry Rilling and state Sen. Bob Duff (D-25) concur: Physical action on the long-delayed Wall Street Place development will occur within a few months.

Rilling said in his State of the City address last week that Wall Street Place would get moving within six months to a year.

“I’m more bullish.” Duff said. “I give it three or four months. I just think that he’s going to be getting ready to go soon, that a lot of the pieces of the puzzle are coming together and that things have lined up in a way that I think it will present itself to get going sooner. Now maybe the mayor has information I don’t have, but I’d like to be optimistic and say that it’s going to start sooner than that.”

“I think they’re both right,” Olson said. “We’re still waiting for designation of low income housing tax credits, which we expect to have hopefully within the weeks but either way we expect to begin demolition no later than the middle of the second quarter. We’ll start pulling demo permits before that and commence demolition. There’s a fairly lengthy financing process that needs to go on regardless of whether or not I get the low-income housing tax credits, so that could slow us down a little bit, but that’s the expectation. I think the mayor was giving me a lot of room, which I appreciate, but we’re expecting to commence demolition certainly within the second quarter. Demolition and foundations are almost a nine-month process, so vertical sometime after that.”

That’s problematic, Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan said. The deadline laid out in the Land Disposition Agreement will fall well ahead of the time the project could possibly get built, which means the RDA would have to grant an extension.

“We’re all hopeful that the applications (for funding) are successful and that the financing will finally be in place to commence construction. If that’s the case, I think that the appetite to look at a possible extension relative to the performance measures under the Land Disposition Agreement will have a greater opportunity to be considered.”

Wall Street Place is planned as a combination of affordable and market-rate housing. Olson is waiting for word from the state on a Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) 9 percent tax credits application and a Competitive Housing Assistance for MultiFamily (CHAMP) funding application through the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development.

The CHAMP component, also known as Flexible Housing Program (FLEX) funding, was always intended to be the last piece, Olsen said.

“The struggle that we had was in the market; at the time, it was very very hard to get the market rate financing,” he said. “The affordable is the easier part to get financed. We have actually all of the financing necessary to do the market-rate piece. We don’t have yet the low income tax credits. So that is what we are waiting for. We expect those to be made in the next three, 12 weeks, plus or minus. Assuming we get one, that would be fantastic, but even if we don’t we’re going to start demolition soon and I expect to move the project forward,” he said.

There are people who say that Olson’s plan to put expensive automated parking under his development held the project up, as the exorbitant price tag made financing the project more difficult.

“I think one of the issues that is a difficulty for the project is the garage, from a financing standpoint,” Sheehan said. “… When you look at the cost of the garage construction, that is a killer. It’s a big piece of the puzzle.”

Olson stood behind the parking plan.

“We’re building a very high-quality product.,” he said. “That makes the project a little more expensive. We have some really cool things as part of the project that nobody else has. So the automated parking facility is one. We are expecting to use small plant co-generation. The design of the project is a much different type of project than other people build typically in these communities, so it’s going to be made of steel instead of wood frame. It’s just a very, very different kind of building.”

Duff said Wall Street Place is built on the idea that people want to live in central cities, in places that are convenient to live in.

With an election coming this fall, he stressed how much money has come to that part of Norwalk, including $1.5 million to the Globe Theater on Wall Street.

“Wall Street has received $6.5 million from the state of Connecticut in addition to the $5 million that the Waypointe development has received as well, down the road (on West Avenue), he said. “So this area is extremely important to the legislative delegation, to Gov. Malloy and the lieutenant governor. We know that having a vibrant theater in this area, where there is going to be a lot of housing, is going to be extremely important to attract people to live here. We think this area is not going to be like SoNo, where it’s a destination, but this area is going to be more where it feeds on itself, where people live here and shop here and work here and play here, and everything is really here for them. So it’s going to have a different feel than, say, SoNo will. I think that’s great. So it’s just a matter of really getting those shovels in the ground, getting it moving along and watching this area come back to it’s glory that it had really before the 1955 flood.”

There’s still the hurdle of an extension from the RDA and continuing extensions from the Zoning Commission.

“The ask is going to be more favorably considered if he can demonstrate that he has the requisite funding in place,” Sheehan said. “If there are gaps, that’s going to be problematic.”

Comments

20 responses to “POKO on track to demolish Norwalk Wall Street buildings, leaders say”

  1. John Hamlin

    So they tear down the buildings and then we have vacant lots for years? Let’s hope not.

  2. EDR

    Considering this is the most complicated deal in terms of financing that has ever been attempted in the city perhaps Mr. Sheehan can figure out a way to assist? Is that not his job? Seems there is a lot of talk in the RDA but have they actually gotten anything done?

  3. jlightfield

    Norwalk suffers from two policy directions that are at odds with each other. The first is the minimum on-site parking requirements in the urban corridor.
    .
    As Stamford is discovering, the younger demographic that has moved into the substantial multi-family housing in its downtown are coming without cars. This trend is of course, nationwide, and reflects the additional lifestyle shift of a aging baby-boomer population.
    .
    But the zoning requirements serve essentially as creating private parking options that reduce the market for public parking.
    .
    The second is that Norwalk as a city, is in the parking business. The need to maintain a market for municipal lots would suggest that a limit of private parking options be pursued.
    .
    These policies work against each other. Norwalk has to pick one or the other.

  4. spanner

    This is great news,having Rep Duff making sure the removal of asbestos and other harmful materials at the State level per permits and State depts are streamlined is comforting.Having the Mayor with his task force making sure the residents protection will be taken into consideration is even better.

    We all look back to the old police station where the first bricks were handed out then asbestos and pcbs were found and that project was slowed down for months.It also cost the city much more.

    convenient safe cities to live in is key to development, the millions of dollars before the election may just cover the services Norwalk has given the new Avalon,Maritime condos and all the other new buildings Norwalk has seen built in the last couple of years.

    Guess this permit stuff that was recently talked about won’t happen soon enough for all this new building.

    This is great, while the rest of us commute by rail we pay for this project while money for the rail has been sidelined for election time hoopla.

    I’m sorry this sounds so political at a time the city needs money for its problems the commuters need a dependable mode of transportation,residents need a safe clean city.

    Himes was told yesterday Ct isn’t a destination any more because of its problems and taxes ,anyone talk to Jim today?

    Jims comments yesterday isn’t painting the same kind of picture that was delivered from our leaders on this project.Be nice of everyone could be on the same page for a change,it would build confidence among the voters for the next election.

  5. Bill Dunne

    Jackie… There’s a nationwide trend among younger people to do without cars? I take it that that means that a smaller proportion of today’s younger demographic owns cars than the proportion of the younger demo that owned cars 10 years, 20 years, 30 years in the past. Interesting if true. I would guess that that statistic would correlate closely with how well the economy is doing.

  6. Bruce Kimmel

    I agree. We have to get our act together regarding parking. Parking, parking, parking — that’s all we end up talking about and debating, while redevelopment proposals languish.

  7. anonymous

    Confused, headline says leaders on track to demolish Wall St but it sounded like each one was hedging their bets. The stories each told don’t mesh.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @anonymous

      Look again. They say they are on track for demolition: the developer says sooner, the mayor says later, the senator says somewhere in the middle. The hedging comes when they talk about building. There are a lot of sites in the city that have been leveled in years gone by, only to sit as the “bomb sites” we know, such as the erstwhile 95/7 site and the Main Avenue site coveted by BJ’s.

  8. Benthere Donethat

    Been there. Done that.

  9. EveT

    For once I agree with Bill Dunne: the statistic that shows younger adults owning fewer cars is a reflection on the ability to afford a car and the things that go with it like insurance, gas, parking…

  10. Dennis DiManis

    So we’ll have a 1,000-capacity restored theater funded with taxpayer $ and featuring high school band concerts, local theater groups, and Girl Scout ceremonies…surrounded by vacant lots.

  11. spanner

    @Bruce Kimmel maybe you could figure out if the city could use the empty parking lot off of MLK or as you comeout from under the bridge in Whistlestop.It sits empty it would make a great farmers market,art and craft flea market area right next to the train station parking garage and would generate dollars.It sits empty ever since LAZ hand rolled parking spots on it where the old company was torn down also next to the Electric company.

    Its shame it sits empty has no use I can see only time it was ever used is when the hazardous waste was removed from the New Haven side parking lot at the South Norwalk train station.I estimate 100 spots if not more.We all talk about space has that been forgotten its not obvious if your on MLK yet its right there at the lights you take for the parking garage.

    Why should something that big exist in a city and never used?If the parking auth owns it let them give it to the city for free like they do with the Maritime garage for special people with special interests?

  12. spanner

    this clears our State reps,doesn’t look so good for Jim Himes tho

    Amtrak train No. 173 stalled twice Tuesday on tracks between Norwalk and Greenwich, the second time stranding passengers for hours. As of 6:30 p.m. the train was stalled in Cos Cob according to several passengers onboard.

    “They’re moving people from one train to the next in the middle of the track. I’m on an unventilated, immobile train that has been here for three hours,” said passenger Clariselle Ocasio of Bridgeport, just before 6 p.m. Tuesday.

    Got to love it,build a city no one can get to without a car and have no where to park once you get there.

  13. anonymous

    @Chapman appreciate you pointing out the distinction between demolition and building. Rilling, Duff should be sure that demolition does not go forward unless building portion is following right behind. Poko will hold all the cards otherwise and can hold the city hostage.

  14. Joanne Romano

    @ Spanner…how about this project? This would be so beneficial to Norwalk as a whole as well as the need to remediate properties in Norwalk. Bridgeport got it right! I personally have followed this from day one, was at the ground breaking, have been following its progress and it will be something that we could all be proud of as we feed our own and put our veterans back to work.

    http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11458889.htm

  15. more housing? how congested are you going to make norwalk? what about the schools? as if they couldn’t go downhill anymore, they will be coming apart at the seams.
    *
    Good luck with that.

  16. Jlightfield

    @Bill Dunne and EveT the stats I referenced are about a combination of things but mostly attributed to the desire of millennialis to choose cities over suburbs and car-less lifestyles over car centric. Affordability does play a role in that it is more expensive to own and operate a car in a city than a suburb. You can see how that has played out in a microcosm in SoNo, the car counts of the new multi family housing built are less than what was predicted as the actual demand.
    .
    The 800lb elephant in the elevator, to remix a metaphor, is the aging baby boom demographic. They may own cars, but they are driving less. It is a fact that our eyes age predictably and react slower to light/brightness changes resulting in reduced affinity towards driving.
    .
    Understanding who your demographic market is becomes vastly more important from a planning perspective.

  17. spanner

    @Joanne Romano that is so American,how I missed I don’t but thanks that has to be the best double fold solution to many problems all cities face.It makes sense,its not a handout its a great community asset.

    You know I enjoy the garden,last year Pivot House started a greenhouse program where kids are involved a few vets and resident of the Ministies.Small scale yet it reaches out to all people in Bridgepot and it works.They have a Plant propagation proram run by one of the Ministers something the farm in Norwalk would embrace unless they have it already.

    I like that site Joanne Im going back to it you know how I like to reseach things, others owe you a thankyou its going to get rid of me for a while.

  18. Joanne Romano

    @ Spanner…I’m glad you like the project and only hope more communities see this a solution to many things…feeding our with healthy products.. remediating areas that will go untouched because of the costs, putting our veterans back to work and showing our children a way to survive in a healthy environment. This is a project that can and will get government and possibly state funding and will be an asset to any community. I know the developers personally and would be happy to introduce anyone interested in a project of this kind as they are looking to expand into other cities and towns. BOOT CAMP FARMS expects to construct an additional six Urban Agriculture Centers in Connecticut over the next three years as well as a national rollout of state of the art hydroponic greenhouses, the future of food production in America. http://bootcampfarms.com/projects

  19. Billy Liebel

    Hello I used to live in norwalk growing up .Sad to see the area change do bad it could not be redone no sure of details but if it is a good thing lets roll.I remember sears , greens hollands ,parking they built a parking garage.Also Kiddy town etc .Does anyone have any old pictures of the area if you do please send away .

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