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Burnt Wall Street eyesore not likely to improve anytime soon

NORWALK, Conn. – One particularly ugly eyesore is holding the entire Wall Street area back, according to Norwalk Center Task Force members.

“A lot of it comes back to the burnt building. The burnt building is killing the gateway to Wall Street because as soon as you see that, there is no reason to stop anywhere,” Town Clerk Rick McQuaid said, referring to 45 Wall St., which was heavily damaged by flames in August 2010.

Councilman Jerry Petrini (R-District D) said he is going to try to accelerate the effort to get a blight ordinance for commercial buildings, but Ganga Duleep, who owns the building under the entity Wall Street Associates LLC, said she is just as frustrated as anyone else. She cannot say when significant progress will be made, she said.

The building is within the Wall Street Historic District, and Duleep is eligible for tax credits through the United States Department of the Interior and the State Historic Preservation Office. That process is laborious and slow, she said.

She has qualified for Small Class 1 Project Emission Tariffs from Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) as part of the state’s Commercial & Industrial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACEprogram, to pay for solar panels on the roof. But mortgage holder TD Bank won’t sign off on it, she said.

“I am really in a pickle because I would like to put the roof on and get on with it, but they refuse to allow me to get the funding from the state. Now I have a signed contract and no way to go forward,” she said.

TD Bank received $689,262 insurance money to begin work on the building more than a year ago, after Duleep won a lawsuit against the financial institution. Since then, an environmental consultant has studied the building and tested it for lead and asbestos, Duleep said.

“The work inside is abatement of asbestos,” she said. “No structural work has been done, but we have shored up the building. That has been done and we were told also that we don’t need a building permit at that time. People tell me ‘it’s been a year and you haven’t pulled a building permit yet,’ but I have to go step by step by step. Without abatement I couldn’t have any contractor going in there and doing anything.”

Architectural plans were drafted by Syed Ali of SA Architects LLC and signed off on by the fire marshal, she said. She went to the Planning and Zoning Department and was told to go to the Redevelopment Agency, she said. RDA Executive Director Tim Sheehan told her that she needs to go in front of the Redevelopment Agency, she said.

RDA Senior Project Manager Susan Sweitzer said Duleep had made an “initial inquiry” within the last two weeks.

Duleep said she has completed parts one and two of the three-part process to get the tax credits. Part One is proving that it is a historic building that will be restored, she said. Part two is “nuts and bolts,” determining the minutia of the projects, such as what type of doors will be used, what type of windows.

“They want me to paint it. They don’t want it sandblasted. They pick the color of the paint,” she said. “… In order to get this application through we have to have an architect work closely with them, to decide  what kind of windows, what kind of doors, all of that.”

Duleep and her daughter, Anna, provided documents. A conditional approval for part two of the process was granted last June. The application for the CL&P component is dated Feb. 24, 2014.

There were twice as many applicants for the C-PACE/CL&P program than expected, Duleep said. She was lucky enough to win the lottery, but has been told by state officials that TD Bank is the only bank that is balking, she said.

Anna Duleep backed up her mother.

“As a concerned daughter, I don’t think I’m ever going to do business with TD Bank,” Anna Duleep said. “There’s been a lot of activity going on but it’s getting the approvals in place and getting the plans and things. To somebody walking down the street, you’re not going to necessarily see anything, although from what I understand there is some kind if remediation going on, although I have not been inside. All I can say is she is on the phone with people all the time, contractors and whatnot. I have seen some of the correspondence with TD Bank. It is something that really bothered me as a citizen of Connecticut.”

She said she is “astonished” that the bank would object to solar panels, as they would be a “value added” component. Someone is being a stickler, she said.

“I can understand why people walking by are frustrated. It may seem like there’s nothing going on, but there’s an awful lot that is happening. But the pace of following TD Bank’s rules, I guess, and then following the rules of the city, of course, and getting the proper permits and the inspections, whatever you have to do,” she said. “I mean, it’s not like we can just go to Home Depot and get paint and then go out and make it look nice.”

Norwalk BoE, Wall Street Duleep 013
The state of the interior at 45 Wall St., as of Sept. 30. Owner Ganga Duleep said not much has happened to the interior other than asbestos remediation, which must be done first.

Comments

9 responses to “Burnt Wall Street eyesore not likely to improve anytime soon”

  1. anonymous

    Solar panels? How about putting up new plywood on the windows, correctly this time, and keeping the building presentable until re-construction begins. Blaming the bank, convenient.

  2. John Hamlin

    This isn’t a homeowner whose house burned down. It’s an absentee landlord who can’t manage an investment property and has allowed a blight condition — perhaps the poster child for blight– to undermine an entire part of the city. Time for the blight ordinance to kick in and fine her by the day. If she can’t get it together to fix it, she should sell it to someone who is willing to bring it into compliance. Or perhaps the neighborhood property owners should sue her if the City won’t take action.

  3. Oldtimer

    Didn’t the bank hold all the insurance money for a long time after it was paid entirely to the bank by mistake ? Restoring a historic building would be a challenge for an experienced building contractor, much less for Mrs Duleep who may be a very smart lady, but has no experience with all the agencies and regulations involved. Some contractors keep a full time attorney on staff to negotiate the process and avoid such complicated jobs.

  4. SMH

    The title to this article is depressing enough to make me want to skip reading it.

  5. Suzanne

    “I mean, it’s not like we can just go to Home Depot and get paint and then go out and make it look nice.” Why not, as a temporary measure to make the building presentable and to not continue to adversely affect the adjacent community? It looks like 4×8 ply on the windows, mounted inside and some paint on the trim would do it. The Duleeps seem to be under the impression they cannot touch the building at all for fear of not getting the funding they require from the various government organizations. However, it seems a little bit of effort, just a little, in FOUR years, would be not just appropriate but their consciouses would require it. Come on, Duleeps, DO something about this blighted building. It is your responsibility as a property owner that is a part of a neighborhood. What you are doing just isn’t just or fair.

  6. Dennis DiManis

    Condemn and demolish it. There’s no reason not to.

  7. Diane C2

    No one complains about the blight that is the hole in the ground at 95/7 for years. Why?

  8. Bill

    So while this lady waits for tax credits so we taxpayers can subsidize her business, we taxpayers have to allow her to drive down the value of all properties around her. Thanks Duleep family, you guys really show you care about everyone but yourselves. What a joke.

  9. Michael McGuire

    Mrs. Dileep, please sell your building to someone who has the ability to renovate this building in the proper fashion. Your continued delay lowers the value of your building and your neighbor’s buildings daily. This directly impacts the quality of life in this neighborhood.
    The worst thing to happen is to neglect this building for so long the City condemns it and it’s torn down, which is not too far in the offing at this point. Rental rates on Wall Street are way too low to support new construction. Only historic preservation tax credits can save this building at this point. If you don’t understand the process call me at 203 299-0101, I’d be happy to help you get moving on this.

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