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CT Construction Digest Monday June 10, 2024

After bargain acquisition, owners breathing new life into long-neglected Windsor industrial/office complex; major warehouse expansion planned

David Krechevsky

Forgive Chuck Terrio if he was a little skeptical about the new owners of 175 Addison Road in Windsor.

Terrio has been the property manager for the site, which includes both office and industrial space, for 31 years, long enough to have worked for all four previous landlords.

“I’ve seen it sold for $67 million all the way down to $9 million,” he said.

He’s also seen a number of renovation plans over the years, most of which didn’t come to fruition.

A quick tour of the complex in mid-May, however, demonstrated that things are different this time, with Terrio expressing his satisfaction with the newest owners: Bradford Wainman of Glastonbury-based commercial real estate investment firm Hollister & Moore LLC and Steven Inglese of the New Haven Group.

The duo bought the site, which was appraised at $43.2 million, for just $9 million last year. Not only are they following through with over $1 million in renovations, they also have applied to the town of Windsor for a special use permit to add two 150,000-square-foot flex warehouse/manufacturing buildings on the property.

Changing hands

Located just 15 minutes north of downtown Hartford, 175 Addison, formerly known as the Addison Corporate Center, sits on 78.6 acres. It includes a 400,000-square-foot, one-story flex/industrial building attached to a 200,000-square-foot, four-story office building. The property also offers 2,200 parking spaces.

The complex was built in 1974 by Aetna Life Insurance Co., which sold it 30 years later for $23.75 million. Just 23 months later, in October 2006, it sold for $64.4 million.

Ten years after that, in November 2016, it was sold again, this time for $41 million to Addison Property Owner LLC, whose principal is Julia A. McCullough, of Mackenzie Realty Operating Partnership.

The region’s commercial office market, however, has changed dramatically since then, in part due to the pandemic. At the end of the first quarter of 2024, 23.7% of Greater Hartford’s 30.4 million square feet of office space was vacant, according to real estate firm CBRE. That was up from a 16.35% vacancy rate recorded at the end of 2016.

Windsor’s office market in particular has taken a beating. The Hartford north market, which includes the town of Windsor, had a 54.8% office vacancy rate at the end of the first quarter, according to CBRE.

The office building at 175 Addison has a 62% vacancy rate, Inglese said.

That allowed Wainman and Inglese — who each have portfolios of commercial, industrial and retail properties in Connecticut and elsewhere — to acquire 175 Addison last June for that bargain price of $9 million.

“The building had been owned by an out-of-state investment fund,” Inglese said. “It was underwater, so the value was well underneath what (the fund) paid for it.”

The previous owner had planned to redo the common areas, he said, but lacked the money to get it done.

“Because we bought the property when we did, we have the ability and the resources now to invest back in the building,” Inglese said.

They also have proposed using land across Addison Road from the building, currently occupied by 1,180 parking spaces, to erect two more flexible buildings for use as warehouse or industrial/manufacturing space, which has remained in demand despite the office market’s struggles.

“There’s expansion potential,” Wainman said.

‘Never goes dark’

The new owners said they are making the investment to renovate certain areas of the property because they see its potential. Both Inglese and Wainman say it’s the common areas, and some uncommon features, that make this complex unique.

First, it has a 10-megawatt power plant that is backed up by on-site generators, which means “the property never goes dark,” Inglese said.

“For companies that are doing engineering or high-tech manufacturing, you know that the building is always going to have power,” he said.

The power plant also means the facility can consistently provide manufacturers both chilled and heated water, which can be useful for high-tech manufacturing or bioscience lab work.

The office and industrial buildings on-site are connected by unique common areas. In addition to a cafe and dining area, there’s also a fully outfitted, 24-hour fitness center. It includes lockers, a sauna, free weights, weightlifting and cardio machines, and will eventually offer fitness classes.

It also has a centralized conference center with built-in audiovisual equipment that can seat about 200 people and be rented by tenants. The owners are also creating spaces to be used as breakout rooms during conferences.

The cafe/dining area is being renovated and updated, and will include a 24-hour market where employees of building tenants can buy food. It also offers access to outdoor courtyard areas that will feature picnic tables and Adirondack chairs.

“If we’ve got a fully operational cafe where you can get a hot sandwich, … there’s no other building in this market that supplies that,” Inglese said.

They also plan to redefine the phone booth by offering spaces for employees to have private cellphone conversations.

The Hub

But Inglese and Wainman see the property’s central common area as a gathering place for more than just dining and phone calls.

“We’re going to call this The Hub,” Inglese said of the cafe and seating area. “The whole goal is to get everyone passing through this space every day.”

To encourage that, they plan to install soft seating areas and gaming tables featuring ping-pong, foosball and shuffleboard. The decor also will encourage people to relax, with one side painted in blues like the ocean, and the other in green like the forest, they said.

“When we first bought the building, we didn’t realize how important The Hub was going to be until we looked at the overall competition,” Inglese said. “No one has that, so it’s a really effective marketing tool.”

Even small business owners or sole proprietors who can’t afford to lease space can still find a way to utilize the building, he added, because one of the new tenants will be Regus, the coworking company that rents desks and ready-to-use office space.

“There are a lot of Regus offices around the area,” Inglese said, “but if you rent here you’ve got the ability to rent our 200-person conference facility or use the gym. You’re not going to find another Regus around here that’s got that capability.”

Seeking tenants

With the renovations expected to be completed by the end of June, Wainman and Inglese are talking to other prospective tenants.

The 175 Addison complex has some holdover tenants, including Triumph Integrated Systems, a manufacturer of electronics and components for the aerospace industry that is a division of West Hartford-based Triumph Group.

Even with Triumph, approximately 135,500 square feet of flex/industrial space with 17- to 22-foot-high ceilings is still available.

Other tenants include Belcan Global Engineering, CDI Engineering Solutions, Community Solutions Inc., Cyient Inc. and QuEST Global.

Asked what rents in the complex will be, they didn’t quote a price but said manufacturers will pay one rate while office tenants will pay another.

“We can be super competitive because our basis is so low,” Wainman said.

He said most prospective tenants are waiting to see the renovation work completed.

“Everyone has always been talking about doing this renovation and it never got done,” Wainman said. “I think everyone’s kind of holding their breath and waiting to say, ‘OK, it’s for real.’”

Wainman added that The Hub concept is intended to help tenants lure workers back to the office in the post-pandemic era.

“The whole concept of having The Hub is to get people to want to come back to work, and they want to come here because there’s always other things to do,” he said.

Joel Grieco, an executive director of office brokerage in Cushman & Wakefield’s Hartford office, helped broker the sale of 175 Addison last year. He’s also helping lease the property.

By investing in renovations, the new owners are “recharging” 175 Addison’s vibe and “creating an environment where employees want to be,” Grieco said.

“Low rent, relevant and fun amenities, strong ownership, and 1 mile from the highway. For most tenants this is a compelling combination of benefits,” Grieco said.

State approves millions in funding for local projects such as Montville animal shelter

Kimberly Drelich

Major projects in the region, including a Montville animal shelter, an expanded child care facility in Groton, and improvements to Rocky Neck State Park and Harkness Memorial State Park will receive funding after the state Bond Commission approved a host of requests on Friday.

Montville animal shelter

The commission approved $2 million for Montville to build a new animal control facility to replace the current one at 225 Maple Ave., which for years has failed to meet state Department of Agriculture regulations.

When Gov. Ned Lamont signed a law last summer that will make it necessary to fix those violations, it created a sense of urgency from town officials and residents to get the project done.

With the grant, Mayor Leonard Bunnell said the town is finally “at the end of the rainbow.”

“We got what we need, and we’re going to get it done,” he added.

The new shelter, which will be built in the same location, at the town’s public works department, is expected to provide safer and more humane conditions to both animals and staff, and serve residents of Montville, Bozrah, and Salem, along with the Mohegan Tribal Nation.

Bunnell said he had discussed the project with several members of the commission. He said it’s a relief not to have to throw the project “on the backs of the town residents.”

He said had it not been for the new regulations, the town would likely have to fix the shelter piecemeal, spending a few hundred dollars at a time to clean the shelter and make repairs.

Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, gave a lot of credit to the Montville Animal Shelter Team for continuing to advocate for the project.

She said she and Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, Rep. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, and Sen. Martha Marx, D-New London, worked to get the project on the bond commission agenda.

Cheeseman called the grant a “vital local investment for the community, ensuring that the shelter can continue its critical work in providing care and shelter for animals in need.”

Community Investment Fund grants

Proposals for an expanded child care facility in Groton, waterfront improvements in Norwich, and an urban art project at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London are receiving funding under the Community Investment Fund.

“Each of these grants are focused on infrastructure improvement projects that will enhance the economic vibrancy of historically underserved neighborhoods and help these towns and cities revitalize their economic base,” Lamont said in a statement.

The commission approved $2 million toward the Thames Valley Council for Community Action’s proposal to build an expanded and modernized child care facility in Groton.

State Rep. Christine Conley, D-Groton, said the $2 million will allow TVCCA to do the planning work for the proposed facility and determine the project’s cost. The cost has previously been estimated at $16 million, and TVCCA has received a $3 million federal grant for the project.

Conley said an expanded facility will help not only Groton families, but the whole region by providing more spots for children and alleviating pressures on other facilities.

“Prioritizing accessible childcare is essential to the well-being of our community,” state Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, said in a statement. “By investing in the Groton Early Childhood Education Center, we are not only providing a much-needed space for our children to thrive but also supporting working families who rely on these services.”

Norwich received $2 million for waterfront improvements. The city had requested $11.7 million for extensive improvements and still hopes for additional funding to expand the project.

The top priority, Norwich Community Development Corp. President Kevin Brown said, remains to replace the boat fueling system at the Marina at American Wharf, which is expected to cost $400,000 to $500,000. The fueling station will be available to marina tenants and public boaters.

The original plan called for using the rest of the grant to upgrade electrical systems throughout the marina. But Brown said Norwich Public Utilities has agreed to work with the marina owners on that project, leaving grant money for proposed improvements to Howard T. Brown Memorial Park.

Ideas for Brown Park include installing a splash pad and outdoor ice skating area or building a permanent stage for the popular Rock the Docks concert series and other events. Brown said. A self-cleaning restroom, which would be locked overnight and have exterior security cameras, would be part of any improvement plan, Brown said.

Over the next few months, NCDC will seek estimates and renderings for the proposals and elicit public comment on the ideas.

The commission approved $1.6 million in state funding for New London’s Lyman Allyn Art Museum that will help fund a 12-acre “urban art park” project.

The work, expected to be complete by next summer, involves the creation of a pedestrian path, pollinator meadow, eco-friendly waterfall and filtration pond, along with a restored entrance lawn and new parking area.

The $4.5 million project’s price tag will be covered with $1.3 million in private donations and $3.2 million in state monies. Other museum ground improvements, including the construction of a 250-seat open-air amphitheater, and a refurbished 9/11 memorial garden, will be tackled later.

Military projects

Conley said $7.76 million will benefit the Naval Submarine Base for the replacement of floating piers and boat ramp reconstruction and $5 million will benefit the military, including a project for an addition to a hangar for the Theater Aviation Support Maintenance Group in Groton.

Conley said the state bonding money is a way to show support to military families and the submarine base.

The commission approved $2 million requested by the Military Department to buy approximately 130 acres of undeveloped land immediately adjacent to Stones Ranch Military Reservation in Old Lyme. Connecticut National Guard spokesman Maj. Michael J. Wilcoxson said the additional land “presents a rare and unique opportunity to expand the available training area for members of the Connecticut National Guard, while also creating an effective noise, light, and dust buffer for our civilian neighbors.”

He said the state National Guard has multiple long range development plans for the Stones Ranch site, including the construction of a readiness center. The reservation is used by the Guard as well as other branches of the military and federal, state, and municipal first responder agencies.

State parks

Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme will receive about $3 million for ongoing work to upgrade the site.

DEEP spokesman Paul Copleman said the funding is part of the agency’s Restore CT State Parks initiative, which comes in at $71 million over two years. The work at the East Lyme park includes boardwalk and beach access repairs that have been completed, as well as utility upgrades and ultimately the renovation and restoration of the historic Ellie Mitchell Pavilion.

He said the utility upgrades are currently in the design phase. The funding will cover the complete upgrade and replacement of water, electric and communication utilities throughout the park.

The commission approved $4 million for Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford for renovations to the Carriage House and mansion and for a new or renovated maintenance and office facility.

McCarty expressed her appreciation to the Friends of Harkness group, the DEEP and the governor’s office.

Food center, schools

The commission approved $1.45 million for improvements to the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut’s food center.

LEARN said it received $380,734 for the Regional Multicultural Magnet School in New London, Marine Science Magnet High School in Groton, and the transition of The Friendship School into the new Early Childhood Center to be built at 51 Daniels Ave. in Waterford.

“Smart investments in school infrastructure are investments in our children's future,“ McCarty said in a statement.

State Rep. Aundré Bumgardner, D-Groton, said in a statement that: "Key projects supporting our national defense, schools, and local food security will benefit working families and enable Southeastern Connecticut to thrive."

Day Staff Writers Claire Bessette, Daniel Drainville, John Penney, Elizabeth Regan and Greg Smith contributed to this report.

Two proposed Norwich elementary schools receive wetlands approvals

Claire Bessette

Norwich ― The first two new elementary schools in a $385 million school construction project received their first local permit approvals Thursday, with plans showing how the two schools would be situated on their properties.

The Inland Wetlands, Watercourses and Conservation Commission approved wetlands applications for the proposed new Greeneville and John B. Stanton elementary schools. Both sites posed challenges and involved disturbances of small amounts of wetlands, project engineers told the commission.

Site issues have caused both projects to exceed earlier projected budgets, but cost projections are only about 25% completed, said Alderman Mark Bettencourt, chairman of the School Building Committee, who did not attend Thursday’s wetlands meeting.

Bettencourt said the building committee is working with the architect to cut costs through changes to building designs and building materials without affecting energy efficiency systems or educational components.

The two schools should be put out to bid by the end of the year.

The proposed new Greeneville School would occupy the site of the former Greeneville School on Golden Street and other adjacent city property on Boswell Avenue, the site complicated by both wetlands and ledge. The project would require filling about 4,500 square feet of wetlands, with the creation of 3,000 square feet of new wetlands as mitigation. Stormwater runoff from the buildings and parking lots would be collected, treated and allowed to seep into existing wetlands and city drains at a slow pace to avoid erosion, engineers said.

Commission members agreed the plan would be an improvement over existing conditions, where water rushes into a city combined sewer-storm drain system.

Details of the school plans were not provided, but a color map showed a roughly backward-L shape, with a narrow enclosed walkway to the otherwise detached proposed gymnasium.

The main entrance for buses and parents dropping off children would be from Golden Street, Gregory Smolley, senior project manager for DRA Inc., the architectural firm for the two schools. A Boswell Avenue entrance would be secondary, to be used for after-school and evening activities.

The new Stanton School would look quite different from the current, elongated single-story rectangular building. The outline of the new odd-shaped building features three main areas protruding from a center segment.

David Dixon, senior project manager for SLR Consulting of Cheshire, said wetlands constraints contributed to the proposed shape of the building.

Ford Brook actually flows through the site, contained in a culvert. The existing school building is within the brook’s floodplain, but there has been no history of flooding at the site. Project officials received approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to adjust the floodplain maps for the property, otherwise one corner of the new building would be in the floodplain.

At the Stanton property, four small areas of wetlands would be disturbed, totaling a combined 4,000 square feet. But the project would create 17,540 square feet of wetlands at the rear of the property in an area that likely is a former wetland now dominated by invasive species, engineers said.

The mitigation plan would include planting native wetland vegetation.

An old, abandoned road that runs straight into the wetland from the school area would be retained, project officials said, for possible future use as an educational walking trail.

The Stanton plan also received unanimous approval.

Norwalk secures over $9 million in state bond funds to support housing, education, traffic safety

Katherine Lutge

NORWALK — The city is receiving $9 million in state bond funds, including more than $6.4 million from the state Community Investment Fund, that will aid two redevelopment projects in South Norwalk.

“Another day and another large investment from the state of Connecticut in Norwalk,” Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff said. “This round of state bonding money will provide for improvement in housing, the arts, education, and traffic and pedestrian safety. I would like to thank Gov. (Ned) Lamont and the bond commission for approving these projects and continuing to support our great city.Top of Form

A total of $3.4 million is allocated to the redevelopment of Meadow Gardens. Under the authority of the Norwalk Housing Authority and in partnership with Sound Communities, the 54 units at 45 Meadow St. will be redeveloped into 55 new units and a community center.

 “I could not be more pleased that Norwalk will be receiving more funding to assist in the expansion of several projects for which its residents can be proud, including affordable housing at 45 Meadow St.,” said state Rep. Travis Simms, D-Norwalk. 

The State Bond Commission approved the bonds on Friday in the special meeting, in which over $519 million in general obligations allocations were approved statewide, as well as nearly $337 million in special tax obligation bonds that are mostly used to cover transportation projects such as highway construction and mass transit, according to Office of Policy and Management spokesman Chris Collibee. 

Another $3 million is going toward the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency’s project to improve the streetscapes in South Norwalk, with a focus on pedestrian mobility.

“This bond allocation is another example of the state’s commitment to Norwalk,” said Rep. Kadeem Roberts, D-Norwalk. “I am excited that our city is set to receive funding that will make Norwalk an even better community for residents and visitors alike.”

In addition to the Community Investment Funds, some Norwalk projects also received state bonds.

In South Norwalk, Side by Side Charter School will receive $268,922 for an electrical service upgrade, air conditioning upgrade, staff room renovation and exterior doors as well as to address flooring.

“This is wonderful news for Norwalk and these funds will be used to benefit the whole community with new, affordable housing options, safer roadways, sidewalks and pedestrian infrastructure, access to the arts, and most importantly, upgrades to Side-by-Side Charter School to provide the best possible learning environment for our children,” state Rep. Tracy Marra, R-Darien, said in a statement. "I want to thank the governor and members of the Bond Commission for recognizing the need for these investments and supporting Norwalk's residents and students."

Located on Westport Avenue, Music Theatre of Connecticut was allocated $300,000 for a 7,000-square-foot renovation for a new dressing room, production facilities, and other improvements.

“I applaud the vital funding for the arts, housing, education, and streetscape improvements, as these investments enrich our communities, foster creativity, and improve the quality of life for our residents,” said Rep. Lucy Dathan, D-Norwalk. “I am grateful to my Norwalk colleagues for our collaborative efforts advocating for our city, and to the governor for prioritizing these projects.”

The George Washington Carver Community Center is receiving $1.2 million in funds that were previously allocated in 2021 to complete exterior and interior renovations to the center.

In all, Norwalk is receiving $9 million in state bonds.

“I’d like to thank Gov. Lamont and the bond commission for allocating $9 million to Norwalk,” said Rep. Dominique Johnson, D-Norwalk. “These projects will go a long way toward strengthening the city, and I look forward to seeing how this investment benefits the community.”

Norwalk launches $25 million revitalization of Wall Street area: 'Redesign an entire downtown'

Katherine Lutge

NORWALK — The revitalization of Norwalk’s Wall Street area has been a community goal since a flood in 1955 devastated the area. Now the city is undertaking $25 million in grant-funded projects to revive it.

“It never really made a full recovery, and I find it kind of hard to believe that it’s taken so long to get anything done there,” Mayor Harry Rilling said.

Wall Street has been a priority for Rilling since he was elected. This summer, ground will break on the first phase of a comprehensive street improvement plan.

“There are very few opportunities to redesign an entire downtown,” said Garrett Bolella, assistant director of Norwalk’s Transportation, Mobility, and Parking Department.

So far, Norwalk has been allocated $18 million in state and federal grants to redesign the streets, expand the sidewalks, add more street trees, improve lighting, and raise crosswalks.

Phase 1 will break ground on Aug. 5 on Wall Street between Main Street and Brook Street.

“That will start to give the community the first look and feel of some of the improvements that we are moving into the corridor,” said Jim Travers, Director of Norwalk’s TMP.

“While it’s not a large section, it is, I think, a pivotal section because it’s how you’re entering the village district,” Travers added.

This stretch of Wall Street revitalization will be paid for with a $2.4 million grant from the state. About $2 million was used for a contract with Waters Construction, based in Bridgeport. The rest of the funds will be used by the city for other preparation work, Travers explained.

With a 270-day contract for phase 1, Travers and Bolella are preparing for phase 2, which will span Main Street between Wall and Hoyt Street and tie in some of the side streets like River and Commerce Street.

This portion of the project will be funded by a $5.5 million federal grant.

The rest of the corridor will be completed in later phases, including the rest of Wall Street, Burnell Boulevard, and the intersection of Belden Avenue, West Avenue, and Wall Street.

Outside of the street improvements, the city is looking to revitalize the area by bringing more business and people to the area. One way officials hope to accomplish that is by installing a 15-minute free parking policy in the area.

“We worked with the meter manufacturer and collectively we wrote code that’s unique to Norwalk,” Travers said.

The entire area now has meters equipped with the free 15 minutes.

The Yankee Doodle Garage is also in the middle of phase 1 of a renovation.

“They’re doing a facade improvement there and trying to make the area more friendly to users,” Rilling said. “I know we’ve done some lighting in there in the past. I just want to make it a friendly place for people to park.”

The big white half-built building on Wall Street will soon be finished with 105 affordable units and 50 market-rate units, Rilling added.

Developer Jason Milligan has proposed a 210-room extended-stay hotel on Isaacs Street. He is also looking for a new company to lease the Bank of America building when the bank closes in August. 

The old Wall Street Theater was recently bought and renamed the District Music Hall.

“They’re very responsible and they bring in some very big names into the area,” Rilling said. “That’s certainly gonna help the area.”

Wall Street is also home to a new Norwalk Conservatory of the Artsseveral new restaurants, and businesses. Rilling said he hopes the area continues to grow.

“We’re excited about being the team that is putting our money where our mouth is and trying to make sure that we bring that area back,” Rilling said. “That’s a very valuable area in town.”

State offers New Haven $1.6 million for Route 80 upgrades

Brian Zahn

NEW HAVEN — State officials have offered a grant worth up to $1.6 million for the city to create traffic and pedestrian upgrades to Foxon Boulevard.

The Board of Alders' City Services and Environmental Policy Committee will consider a resolution Wednesday for the full board to accept the funds from the Connecticut Department of Transportation, which will create lit medians, a narrowed roadway, traffic-calming measures and improved pedestrian infrastructure on Route 80 between Middletown and Quinnipiac avenues.

The Foxon Boulevard corridor has been singled out as one of the city's most in-need areas following New Haven's adoption of "complete streets" planning policies intended to ensure motorist, cyclist and pedestrian safety.

City Engineer Giovanni Zinn said in an April letter to Board of Alders President Tyisha Walker Myers announcing the funds that the corridor has "safety needs" that can be addressed by the grant. The city will be responsible for the design and construction of the improvements by August 2025, after which state crews will repave the road, according to Zinn. The city and state will also enter an agreement as to the maintenance of the medians, including energy costs, damage repairs and landscaping.

Presently, only a couple yards of Foxon Boulevard, which has two lanes of traffic traveling in opposite directions with occasional turning lanes, is separated by a median nearby to entrance and exit ramps for Interstate 95. Most of the road between Middletown and Quinnipiac avenues is separated by double yellow lines. The section of the road with medians does not have any sidewalks. Nearby to that area is a Walmart with a bus station, but sidewalks that are disconnected from a long stretch of Middletown Avenue.

Last month, a 22-year-old motorist died in a crash with a tractor trailer at the intersection of Foxon and Middletown around 3:30 a.m. An estimated 100 gallons of diesel spilled into the roadway after a black BMW crashed into a tractor trailer's passenger side.

In an unrelated project, the city has plans to install red light cameras at the intersection of Foxon and Quinnipiac, which is also expected for 2025. The city, capitalizing on newly passed state legislation allowing for such traffic monitoring measures that paved the way for the city to adopt its own policy, will track license plates and issue a $50 fine to first-time red-light runners in the city and a $75 fine for subsequent violations.

Zinn said the city's delegation in Hartford had helped to advocate for the grant's procurement.

Stamford Redevelopment in the Courts, as Building Boom Moves North

Angela Carella

STAMFORD – A large apartment project proposed for 900 Long Ridge Road has become a test for just how much development residents will accept for the northern half of the city, near the Merritt Parkway. 

Most of the building boom of the last 15 years has increased density in neighborhoods in the southern half of the city, closer to Interstate-95.

After an outcry from parkway-area residents, members of the Zoning Board in November rejected a plan by Monday Properties to build more than 500 apartments in the mostly empty office park on Long Ridge Road. 

A month later, Monday Properties appealed the Zoning Board’s decision.

Each side now has stated its case in state Superior Court in Hartford, where the matter was assigned.

In its brief, Monday Properties chastised Stamford residents who oppose the project as NIMBYs, and chastised the Zoning Board for succumbing to their pressure.

The Zoning Board “buckled to local resistance that expressed nothing more than a generalized ‘not in my backyard’ reaction to the application,” the developer claims.

Online board hearings and meetings drew hundreds of residents, nearly all against the proposed housing complex bordering North Stamford, the city’s least-dense neighborhood.

The developer’s attorneys, Timothy Smith and Peter Nolin of Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey, wrote, “Despite the social desirability of such projects, they often provoke intense local resistance that harnesses the political process to block construction.”

The brief notes Connecticut’s housing shortage and the “social desirability of expanding multifamily housing opportunities throughout the city,” a reference to the pro-development policies of Stamford Mayor Caroline Simmons and Gov. Ned Lamont, both Democrats. Lamont said in 2020 that he wants to double the populations of Connecticut’s cities.

Monday Properties charges that the Zoning Board worked against those aims, falsely using “public convenience and welfare” as a reason for denying the Long Ridge Road proposal.

“The board’s thinly veiled decision was predicated on nothing more than discrimination against … renters,” the brief states.

Renters ‘belong elsewhere’

It says the Zoning Board amended regulations in 2021 to allow conversion of unused office parks to housing, but the “board withered in the face of local pressure, with board members stunningly imposing upon the (developer) their own preference for owner-occupied housing with the insinuation that apartments and … the renters that occupy them, belong elsewhere in the city.”

Not so, Assistant Corporation Counsel Cynthia Anger wrote in a brief defending the Zoning Board’s decision to deny Monday Properties’ proposal to build 508 apartments in four buildings, four stories each, in the 36-acre office park.

Discrimination against renters played no part in the decision, Anger wrote.

During a public hearing on the proposal, she wrote, Zoning Board Chair David Stein said in reaction to a comment from the public, “Renters are residents. They live in Stamford. They are residents just like anyone else including the owners of single-family homes. So I would hope we would stop referring to renters as transients.” 

Anger’s brief states, “Despite the attempt to characterize the residents’ legitimate concerns as bigoted NIMBYism, the record reflects that … board members focused on specific issues such as density, traffic, and sustainability, reflecting a fair and thorough evaluation process. The record shows that the decision was based on the project’s failure to meet regulatory standards and housing goals, not on any bias against renters.”

The board claims in its brief that Monday Properties failed to meet the city’s housing goals by proposing luxury rental units of limited size. More than 14,000 apartments have been built in Stamford in the last 15 years, most of them high-priced studios and one- and two-bedroom rentals.

Stamford’s master plan recommends a variety of unit types to meet the housing shortage, the brief states.

The Zoning Board determined that the developer’s proposal does not achieve the city’s goal to create more housing options because “the vast majority of Stamford’s new housing stock added in recent years has been large-scale apartment buildings … The proposed apartment types, unit sizes and unit mix generally reflect a typical development in high-density zoning districts like downtown … building the same types of housing as in downtown and other high-density areas does not support the city policy to achieve a diverse and balanced community.” 

The Zoning Board brief charges that the developer’s proposal fails to meet a regulation that says no more than 10 percent of the parcel may be covered by buildings.

“The applicant represented that the proposed building coverage was only 9.1 percent,” it reads. “To arrive at that percentage, it appears that the calculations excluded the approximately 30,000-square-foot parking garage, which is presumably why the applicant asked the board to exempt [the garage] from the total building coverage.”

Without the exemption, building coverage would be about 11 percent, the brief states.

Board ‘disregarded’ traffic data

The developer made other arguments for why the Zoning Board decision should be overturned.

The Planning Board recommended that the Zoning Board approve the apartment proposal. The Land Use Bureau determined that it complies with zoning regulations and fulfills the goals of Stamford’s master plan, the developer’s brief states. 

It also states that the traffic engineering and environmental protection departments signed off on the proposal, and though members of the Zoning Board criticized the design, Land Use staffers praised the use of materials and color, and incorporation of balconies, metal panel frames, skywalks and landscaping. 

Zoning Board members questioned the density of the project but Monday Properties said it complies with the district limit of 14 units per acre, “well short of the near 350 units per acre permitted in downtown zoning districts.” 

Traffic concerns cited repeatedly by board members and public-hearing speakers are addressed in the developer’s traffic study and subsequent revised study, according to the brief. The studies show that Long Ridge and surrounding roads can accommodate the number of trips that would be generated by 508 apartments, the developer claims.

That is countered in the Zoning Board brief, which states that the original study was revised after the developer “conceded that its traffic study findings were unreliable” and the board “rightfully viewed the applicant’s traffic experts’ credibility with skepticism and disregarded its conclusions.”

The Zoning Board claims that the city’s master plan calls for the “adaptive reuse” of office parks, but Monday Properties would reuse only the parking garage. The brief quotes board member Bill Morris, who said the regulations “are all about an adaptive reuse of office parks. And this, in my mind, is not an adaptive reuse … they’re basically just taking the buildings, knocking them down, and they’re going to put up new buildings.”

With the arguments of both parties filed as of June 3, the case is headed for mediation.

According to the state Judicial Branch website, a July 11 mediation session is scheduled in the chambers of Judge Robert Genuario in state Superior Court in Stamford.