POKO still awaiting Citibank financing

NORWALK, Conn. – Questions remain about POKO Partners funding for Wall Street Place as the wheels continue to turn slowly.

The Norwalk Redevelopment Agency will get an update from RDA Executive Director Tim Sheehan Tuesday, but the facts all seem to be laid out in a memo Sheehan prepared for the commissioners.

Sheehan said POKO had provided information on Oct. 13. He listed highlights:

• POKO is continuing to work with Citibank on updating the existing term sheet for a $21,696,000 construction loan for the project.  POKO indicates that after the meeting between Citibank and the mayor, they completed the requirements needed for Citibank to make a more formal financing commitment to the project.

• POKO has executed the pertinent documents for the $5 million Urban Investment Grant (UIG) and is in the process of scheduling a closing date with the Department of Economic Development (DECD).

• Affordable Housing Component – The Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) awarded to POKO are being marketed to two investors who have shown interest in purchasing the credits at a level acceptable to POKO. LIHTC equity to the project represents $8.64 million.

• A meeting was held Sept. 5 with the mayor and the heads of various agencies and city departments to facilitate the project.

• Demolition work is underway. A zoning permit was issued. POKO is working toward securing a building permit.

• Architectural and Engineering – A new architectural team was brought into the project, Kitchen and Associates.

• POKO is seeking RDA assistance to coordinate street parking issues and the reconfiguration of the traffic islands with the Traffic Commission and the First Taxing District.

On Aug. 13, POKO was granted an extension to its 10-year-old Land Disposition Agreement with the city, to include benchmarks: By 150 days after Sept. 1, the company’s financing must have been closed up, it must have obtained the required permits, an environmental assessment of the site must have been completed and any subsequent mitigation plan must have been completed and approved.



14 responses to “POKO still awaiting Citibank financing”

  1. TheNorwalker

    I hope I live long enough to see the completion of this project! Remember the “Hole” next to the Stamford Mall, will we have 20 years of a open “Hole” on Wall St?

  2. Nancy

    I think the Stamford Hole is still there, as is the Reed/Putnam field. Let’s hope for success. There is certainly demand for it.

  3. Michael McGuire

    If this project fails to get out of the ground the City is 50 percent responsible if not more. Unfortunately it will fall on this administration. However, the seeds of failure for this project were set under the Knopp Administration and the CC that was in power at this time. Reason, the POKO project was, and remains, so loaded down with social do good add on policies that it might not fly. And neither side is willing to readdress the LDA to unload some of these crippling requirements. POKO wont because Norwalk’s format to revise the plan is so cumbersome and costly it would financially kill the project. The City won’t for fear of being sued by POKO for changing the game.

    This is another clear cut reason why Norwalk needs a professional planner to head up P&Z. A professional would have seen that the POKO project was tenuous at best at a number of points in the process. I requested and was provided with a pro forma from the POKO project 3 years ago – at that time it was clear to me that this project was destine for troubles. It was, and remains, a house of cards.

    Had the CC been aware of the challenges the LDA imposed on the project’s success we likely would not be in this situation.

    The losers in this case are all the Norwalk citizens and the businesses and building owners along Wall Street.

  4. Tony P

    @MichaelMcGuire, completely agree – nothing left to say.

  5. anon

    @McQuire, ditto and agree. The Knopp administration and Common Council at that time developed a plan that is quite possibly un-fundable. All bureaucracy and political correctness, no business sense.

  6. Gordon Tully

    I agree with Mike McGuire’s assessment.

  7. Norwalker1

    That parking lot behind that we gave them is the real problem.

  8. John Hamlin

    @McGuire — right on target.

  9. Jlightfield

    @mcguire your conclusion about why this project has been so difficult to get off the ground is somewhat misplaced. This was and still is a redevelopment project, conceived by “credentialed planners.” Zoning at the time, approved the requested zone changes by redevelopment that removed a regulation that limited the size of each housing unit to one bedroom or less. This was not a projected loaded with social do-good requirements, it is simply a typical mixed use development that the developer chose to finance using affordable housing incentives that were available at the time.

    The problem for constructing new developments in downtown Norwalk, are similar to those in SONO; outdated infrastructure, compact lot sizes and high construction costs. Unlike SONO, the City has chosen not to invest in economic development in the downtown, and further allows property owners to neglect basic responsibilities of maintaining their properties.

    Unfortunately the Redevelopment Agency’s ability to offer technical assistance to property owners is limited due to not having the staff on hand with expertise in how to actually get things done. The technical assistance to developers has proven to be a bad deal for the city if one simply looks at the ROI on the 95/7, Waypointe, Head of the Harbor and POKO plans. Millions of dollars spent on plans that have resulted in what?


  10. Michael McGuire

    Jackie – I’m not sure what your comment relates to. I’m talking about the City getting the right skill sets so we don’t drop the ball with future developments.

    Looking forward for any and all future developments the City needs to first and foremost select a developer with the financial backing and wherewithal to make the development happen. Its very questionable in POKO’s case.

    The only way for the CC to confidently know which developer, and development, has the best chance of success is to have the advise of a FULL-TIME qualified City Planner on staff. Otherwise how else can the CC make informed decisions, in real-time, over changing market conditions.

  11. Jlightfield

    Mike I’m simply pointing out that the plans that you are indicating are flawed came from the Redevelopment Agency, which it bears pointing out is not a city department. When you have a non city department “negotiating” on behalf of the city with itself, you have a blatant conflict of interest. That is the fundamental problem here, not as you’ve pointed out a bunch of social do-good.

    The redevelopment strategy is seemingly is to create big projects that end up being too complicated for anyone to get off the ground. Not a bad way to collect fees as a revenue source, but clearly hasn’t exactly worked in Norwalk’s best interest.

  12. R. Guardrail

    There is no redevelopment. Norwalk has 2 epicenters: one is an avenue of saloons, and the other is a hodge-podge of derelict buildings.

  13. Nancy

    …all sitting right in the middle of, and surrounded by some of the most affluent retail shopping in the country!

  14. Michael McGuire

    Jackie – The issue is not about who created the plan. There were multiple plans from various developers. The issue is the City selected the developer who loaded up the project with the most social do-good schemes. If RDA created the plans who was advising the CC at the time? That’s the piece that’s always missing.

    That’s why we need someone to provide the CC with sound, grounded, unaligned advise on the risks associated with each development plan. This is not hard to do. I think we can agree on this.

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