NORWALK, Conn. – Work on POKO Partner’s Wall Street property will resume Monday, according to Mayor Harry Rilling, after being stalled shortly after a splashy press conference to announce the long-delayed start of work inside the old Merchant’s Bank.
Rilling said he is cautiously optimistic that POKO will get under way, and confident that a neighboring long-stalled development, Head of the Harbor, will show signs of life soon.
Rilling and state Sen. Bob Duff (D-District 25) met Ken Olson of POKO Partners in the Merchant’s Bank on May 28 to announce the beginning of abatement work there and the building next door. Olson predicted that in 10 days – June 9 – the building would be closed off and workers would begin removing asbestos.
Instead, work stopped. “We had to file an abatement notice with the state. They had some questions,” Olson said last week. “We are trying to resolve those questions in the next day or two. Then they’ll be in doing the abatement work.”
Duff got it moving again, Rilling said. Issues with the Department of Health have been resolved and “We should be in the building full steam ahead on Monday,” Olson said.
POKO’s request for an extension on the Land Disposition Agreement – the time Olson needs to actually build the project – is being considered by both the Common Council Planning Committee and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency.
Asked about the certainty of financing for Wall Street Place Phase I, Rilling said, “All I know is what I have been told.”
That includes the long-awaited Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHAFA) 9 percent tax credits and Competitive Housing Assistance for MultiFamily (CHAMP) grant. “He indicates that all the normal funding is in place,” Rilling said. “I feel that things are moving forward. Hopefully things will move forward as he says they will.”
Still, “We can only do so much,” Rilling said. “We’re a city, we can push forward and make sure that we get things moving. I think we’ve gotten to a position where we say, ‘OK, it’s time to get this project moving again,’ and if it doesn’t get moving then we know we have other decisions we have to make. I think we’ve gotten it to a point where it’s either go or no. We brought it along as far as we can bring it. It’s up to the developer to belly up and do what he has to do.”
Rilling said he was having a meeting Thursday with Mike DiScala, who is behind the Head of the Harbor project planned for Smith Street. Also expected at the meeting were Planning and Zoning Director Mike Greene, RDA Executive Director Tim Sheehan and Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola.
“We’re moving forward with that project,” Rilling said. “All it takes is for people to sit down and say ‘Hey, look, get moving.’ We made some changes that nobody was even talking about. But we made some changes, all conforming uses, and we’re getting things moving.”