NORWALK, Conn. — Pinnacle at Waypointe is back in front of the Norwalk Zoning Commission with (yet another) modified plan up for approval.
The iPic movie theater and fitness facility are gone. Instead, developers have added 63 apartments to their proposal. The parking garage would be significantly smaller.
Pinnacle, sometimes called the South Block, would be the completion of the Waypointe district, a 22-acre redevelopment area off West Avenue in close proximity to Matthews Park. More than 600 apartments have been built in the complex since 2010, but many retail spaces remain empty.
The South block mixed-use development, planned for the former Loehman’s Plaza, a 4.6-acre lot on West Avenue between Orchard Street and Butler Street, was first presented in 2011. In granting approval in 2014, Zoners had expected an open, free flowing mix of retail, not “just all residential and not these big bulky buildings,” then-Planning Commissioner Nora King, a former Zoning Commissioner, said in 2017 as Pinnacle worked its way to at least its third plan approval, for a plan much different than what had been originally proposed.
That 2017 approval was for:
- 330 apartments
- 22,509 square feet of restaurant space
- 3,602 square feet of office space
- A 23,979 square foot fitness center
- A 42,826 square foot movie theater
- A 942-space parking garage
- A mostly seven story building, with five stories at portions along Butler Street and Quincy Street
The proposal now calls for:
- 393 apartments
- 14,340 square feet of restaurant space
- A 576-parking space garage
- A six-story building
Previous Waypointe projects have been shepherded through the development phase by Belpointe Capital. Toll Brothers bought Pinnacle in December, with Belpointe Capital managing member Paxton Kinol as co-investor. Attorney Jacqueline Kaufman promised a “tweak” to the plan, but said the iPic movie theater and the L.A. Fitness health facility were still expected.
Craig J. Flaherty of Redniss & Mead cited “current market conditions” as the reasons for the reduced retail space and increased residential area, in a Sept. 10 letter to Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin.
“Critical features of the prior plans remain including added on-street parking, wide sidewalks, and a pedestrian street that connects the original Waypointe Block to the Children’s Museum and Matthews park completing the long planned pedestrian plaza connecting from Merwin Street through Butler Street,” Flaherty wrote.
In 2017, Zoners and others accused Kinol of misleading the City in his gaining approval for Waypointe projects.
Pinnacle was initially expected to house a Container Store, a Nordstrom Rack and far less apartments. In 2015, a 16-lane bowling alley was mentioned. In 2017, Kinol said he had LA Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness competing to rent space.
He had also mentioned Ben & Jerry’s and CKO Kickboxing over the years.
In explaining the challenges with retail, Kinol in 2017 said the Loehman’s Plaza stores went bankrupt. Belpointe had basically bought an empty plaza and “tried to lease it for five years. We brought an application for another shopping center. We couldn’t lease it at any kind of rent that made any financial sense so we added 156 apartments on it and we tried to lease it. We couldn’t lease it and make a project that was economically viable.”
He said, “We don’t make money on the retail. We make money on the residential. And we are doing the retail as something to do for the community and the city to make the place a better place.”
In May 2018, Kinol told NancyOnNorwalk that Pinnacle’s construction would start by the end of the year and said he was actively working with iPic Theaters, although he had described them months earlier as “on the verge of bankruptcy.”
In December, he said the same general contractor was lined up but Toll Brothers “will have control over speed.” The construction drawings were done and “they can have permits and start whenever they choose. It is truly shovel ready. Environmental work restarts on site tomorrow.”
Flaherty’s letter said, “Toll Brothers Apartment Living is the apartment development division of Toll Brothers, Inc., an award-winning Fortune 500 company and the nation’s premier builder of luxury homes. Toll Brothers Apartment Living is the 11th largest multifamily developer in the country with over 21,000 units in its development pipeline or operating. Toll Brothers operates on a regional basis in the markets it is active in and has been developing residential projects in Fairfield and Westchester Counties for approximately 30 years. Toll Brothers Apartment Living currently has a pipeline of 1,632 apartment units in Fairfield and Westchester Counties.”
Zoners consider the proposal Thursday.