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-PACE) program, 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.”