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CT Construction Digest Wednesday May 24, 2023

Stamford gets a 13-story apartment complex on long-vacant Dress Barn site after narrow vote

Jared Weber

STAMFORD — The Zoning Board has narrowly approved plans for a 198-unit apartment complex on a long-vacant Broad Street parcel, the latest residential development approved for Stamford's central business corridor.

The project — proposed by prominent Stamford developer F.D. Rich Company — passed in a 3-2 vote, with the board's two newest members, Gerald Bosak Jr. and alternate Racquel Smith-Anderson, opposing the development. Chair David Stein and board members Rosanne McManus and William Morris voted in favor during a special meeting last week, which board members planned to help address a backlog of applications.

The approval paves the way for a 13-story apartment building at 128 Broad St. The plot is bisected by Gay Street, a small street that provides access to the Bedford parking area. The design by architectural firm Perkins Eastman builds over top of the intersecting road, while carving out a path for cars and people to the parking area through the building's ground floor.

Among the apartments will be 17 below-market-rate units, in accordance with the city’s affordable housing program. The subsidized units will include three studios, eight one-bedrooms, five two-bedrooms and one three-bedroom apartment.

Stein said he thought the vote was a "good decision."

"That is a location that has been vacant for many years and finally is getting an attractive project, which provides additional housing as well as below-market-rate affordable housing units, so it fulfills several needs,” Stein said.

Smith-Anderson said she believed the proposal was "a bit too out of character for where it's being proposed."

"I just think (13 stories) right there — it could be revisited. And I hope the designers do revisit it," Smith-Anderson said. "I also had concerns about access for the restaurateurs who use the alley in the back, although it later came out that at least they agreed to their whole easement."

There was little debate about the proposal at the board’s May 18 meeting, as members parsed through 30 site-specific conditions for the project’s approval. The vote was the board’s closest margin since January, when it approved Curaleaf on East Main Street as the city’s second hybrid cannabis retailer.

Easements will ensure nearby businesses retain access to the rear of their properties. Officials asked the developer to provide multiple documents mapping easements and development rights before they can be issued a building permit.

The apartment building will have 215 total parking spaces, including 113 self-parking spaces and 102 valet spaces. The valet operation will be fully staffed, with attendants working 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

In addition, the building will operate a shuttle to and from the Stamford Transportation Center every 15 minutes on weekday mornings and nights, from 5 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. City officials will review the service after one year to see if it's being used enough to their liking.

The last building that stood on the parcel was a three-story brick building constructed in 1883. The building cycled through several uses including the Loudesbury-Soule shoe factory and the flagship Dress Barn, according to a 1985 Stamford Advocate article. It survived much of the city's urban redevelopment — where F.D. Rich turned the industrial New England downtown into a corporate hub, largely through eminent domain — before being slated for demolition in 1985.

The new apartment building was the second high-end housing development approved for Downtown Stamford this year. In late March, the Zoning Board gave the green light to a 471-apartment development along the Rippowam River, about seven years after approving a general plan for the project.

An eight-story, 228-unit apartment building, approved in July 2021, is under construction at Broad and Greyrock. And another application awaiting the board's consideration would supplant a Landmark Square office building with 400 new high-end apartments in a 320-foot skyscraper.

Newtowners who’ve run 2 developers out of town in the last year object to a new plan for 300 rentals

Rob Ryser

NEWTOWN — First, Newtowners ran a Manhattan developer out of town who wanted to build an 8-acre trucking warehouse on wooded land near Interstate 84’s Exit 9. Next, residents successfully objected to another developer’s plans for 200 apartments at a property next door.

Now a third developer has proposed 300 apartments for the same 100-acre site where the trucking warehouse failed last summer, prompting residents to decry, “Here we go again.”

“I don’t see how you can entertain this all over again,” said Michael Ricciardi during a public hearing last week before Newtown’s Planning and Zoning Commission. “We spent a year with this between two developers who tried to turn this place upside down.”

Fellow neighborhood resident Mary Wilson agreed.

“This is the third proposal in a year that’s been proposed for Exit 9. Here we go again. Now we got another 300 units and how many cars going in and out?” Wilson said. “I don’t think putting in more housing does anything for the town.”

Wilson and Ricciardi were referring to a request by New Jersey developer Sterling Properties to rezone 70 of the 100 acres in question on Hawleyville Road from light industrial to residential, in order to build a 14-building complex of one- and two-bedroom apartments with rents ranging from $2,300 to $2,900.

Wayne Zuckerman, speaking for the development company his father founded 60 years ago which now owns and manages 7,000 rental units in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, told the Planning and Zoning Commission, “We feel this is an excellent site for multi-family in the town of Newtown.”

After six residents at last week’s public hearing objected, several members of the commission appeared exasperated, saying, “The property owner has a right to develop the land.”

“This time last year we all remember what happened with the Wharton proposal where hundreds of our residents gave over 15 hours of testimony and virtually everybody was vehemently opposed to the project,” said commission member Gregory Rich during a May 18 public hearing. “If we approve this zone change, and then (the developer) comes in with a specific development plan for us to consider, what is going to be acceptable to us as a town? The owner of the property has a right to development.”

For those who don’t recall the groundswell of Newtown opposition to Wharton Industrial’s plan to build an 8-acre warehouse with 55 truck docks on Hawleyville Road, the community protest was unlike anything town leaders had seen in recent memory. After two months of street demonstrations, petitions, and forcing Newtown to rent out auditoriums to hold the public hearing crowds, a vocal group of 200 protestors erupted into cheers when the Planning Zoning Commission voted 3-to-2 to deny the proposal in June.

There was less spectacle but the same organized resistance to a separate plan by New York developer Farrell Building Co. to cluster 200 apartments in 11 buildings on 33 acres next to the land proposed for the warehouse.

The pressure was clearly on the five elected members of the Planning and Zoning Commission earlier this year, who voted to deny the plan, then approve the plan and then reject the plan a second and final time, all by 3-to-2 votes. A veteran land use attorney said he had “never seen anything like that in my life” about the back-to-back vote reversals.

The latest proposal to rezone the 70 of the 100 acres from light industrial to residential to allow the developer to build 300 apartments, which was supported by two speakers during last week’s public hearing, was panned by most residents.

The commission continued the public hearing to its June 1 meeting.

“We can’t have this happen. It’s definitely not needed. It’s definitely not wanted,” said neighborhood resident Mark D’Amico. “It is definitely not something that area can handle.”

Commission member Connie Widmann asked D’Amico what development he would support.

“The owner of the property certainly has a right to develop the land,” she said.

Waterford approves 216-unit housing development

Kevin Arnold

Waterford ― A six-building development with 216 apartments is coming to Myrock Avenue.

The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved the proposed apartment complex named “Waterford Central” at its meeting Tuesday night after a presentation from the project’s engineer Brandon Handfield, architect John Wicko and traffic engineer Joseph Balskus.

The project proposal calls for a mix of 144 one-bedroom and 72 two-bedroom units, with 36 units in each three-story tall building. Eighteen of the units are deemed affordable.

The project will re-use an office building on the southern portion of the 27.6-acre property, which will take two parcels of land at 61 Myrock Ave. and 61A Myrock Ave. to create one piece of property.

Developer Kevin Daley, the manager of Sig Con Associates, LLC, submitted the proposal, which would be built adjacent to one of his other developments, “Waterford Woods,” at 394 Willetts Ave.

The Waterford Woods development is on 26.6 acres of land and houses 98 units, a mixture of one- and two-bedroom units. It was approved in 2021 and is currently under construction. Daley is also the developer of Waterford Parc, an apartment complex at 22 Miner Lane.

The main access to the proposed development will be provided through the Waterford Woods development using Willetts Avenue Extension. A 24-foot-wide driveway will be built and connected to the Waterford Woods driveway. There will be no access to the development using Myrock Avenue.

A total of 325 parking spaces are planned, and the project will include five freestanding garages for 35 cars. Eight spaces will be handicapped accessible.

Additional amenities such as pickleball courts, gardens and a fenced-in dog park, along with grills and picnic tables, were included in the proposal.

All the recreation amenities will be available to the residents of both Waterford Woods and Waterford Central.

The proposal says the buildings will blend with the previously approved architecture of Waterford Woods, with varying roof lines, finishes, textures and colors that will blend into the surrounding area along Willetts Avenue.

The development will be landscaped, including planted trees. The nearly five and a half acres of wetlands on the property will not be disturbed during construction. The site will be served by town water and sewer.

A traffic impact study was conducted in October 2022 and concluded the surrounding area can accommodate the increase in traffic from the project with the proposed widening of Willetts Avenue to include a northbound left-turn lane, and a shared left-turn, straight and right-turn lane.

The study found that there will be an additional 85 trips in and out of the development during the the peak morning hour, between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. on weekdays, and 107 trips at the peak evening hour, 3 to 4 p.m. on weekdays.

Conn.'s Zlotnick Construction Tackles Projects Large, Small, In-Between

George Zlotnick started his company, Zlotnick Construction Inc., in 1948 after returning from World War II. He was a member of the Elite 17th Airborne Division that jumped behind enemy lines on March 24, 1945, in Wesel, Germany, as part of Operation Varsity. The largest airborne assault in history.

Zlotnick started his construction company in Mansfield Center, Conn., constructing small outbuildings such as chicken coops for local farmers, and, in a measure of diversity, he also had his own chicken farm, which was managed by his wife Zenia who was named "Poultry Woman of the Year" in 1955.

In 1957, much of the farm was destroyed by the first recorded tornado in Connecticut and had to be rebuilt with the help of family and friends. By 1958, the construction side had grown enough that Zlotnick Construction was incorporated. In 1972, his eldest son, Gregory, graduated from the University of Connecticut with an engineering degree and began his new role as CEO and president of the company.

The late '70s into the '90s was a period of great growth for the company. Zlotnick Construction became the general contractor of a number of fast-growing firms, including Dunkin Donuts, Burger Chef and Staples, and completed major commercial projects for companies such as First National Supermarkets, Pfizer, Foxwoods, Cigna and Pratt & Whitney.

Under Gregory's leadership, the company largely built its reputation on excellent work and strong business and personal relationships.

Today, the company continues to handle projects for massive corporations such as Walmart, Costco, BJ's Wholesale and Price Chopper. One of the projects that it has spent the largest amount of its time on with a constant presence over the past several years is a wholesale nursery called Prides Corner Farms located in Lebanon, Conn.

The nursery, which has been in business for approximately 30 years, incorporates 750 acres and contains approximately 70 mi. of greenhouses. The past decade has represented an astounding growth period for the company, which now distributes strictly wholesale plants, including annuals, edibles, trees — just about anything green that you can imagine — across the entire northeast, south to Virginia and west through Ohio.

On the day CEG visited, Zlotnick Construction was working on a 40-ft. by 280-ft. slab of concrete with a 280-ft. trench drain with seven down spouts for future plumbing where a cover would be installed over the slab. Projects like this can be small in scope compared with others, but there is always a project under way.

Projects Large, Small … and in Between

"Zlotnick Construction varies widely in the size and scope of projects that they address," said Gregory Zlotnick Jr., the founder's grandson, and current vice president of Zlotnick Construction. "The size and scope of each project dictates how the company approaches each one. Depending on the size and schedule of a given project, we may opt out to tackle it ourselves and put it out to bid.

"Over the years, our company has gained a good working knowledge of most all aspects within the construction industry. It puts us in a good position to oversee a project yet hire experts in the individual fields to execute the work."

"Here at Prides Corner Farms, the work that we have done has been spread out over 600 acres, and multiple locations.," Zlotnick said. "There are miles of hoophouses and roadways that we have been involved with helping maintain and construct."

"Besides ponds and roadways, we've installed thousands of feet of drainage to properly drain the areas around the greenhouses and reclaim as much water as possible for their irrigation systems" he added. "Additionally, utility lines have been laid throughout the complex and in the winter, we help keep the facility plowed out. The growing season is year-round, so the greenhouses need to stay accessible throughout the winter months. In a snowy winter, we are very busy helping with snow removal."

Zlotnick Construction's relationship with Prides Corner Farms started approximately nine years ago.

"Prides owner was innovating the methods that they used to load and unload their trucks," Zlotnick said. "Their plan involved a large concrete pad and new loading docks. We did a large part of the project for them. The existing slabs were removed and hauled off site and structural fill was brought in. The relationship continued to grow and shortly after completion, they had us back with our dozer grading roads followed by pond work and before we knew it, we were here pretty much full time helping with anything they needed. Since then, the relationship has been more of a partnership with each others employees working together each day.

Working With Able Tool and Equipment

Zlotnick Construction also has another division that specializes in doing makeovers and rehabs for major box stores such as Walmart. Periodically, major retailers will completely reconfigure and modernize a retail store.

"When this type of work is done, it is labor-intensive work, but it also calls for construction machines," Zlotnick said. "The challenge is you are working indoors and with environmental and OSHA requirements everything you operate needs to be zero emissions. Finding the right type and size of equipment that meets the no emissions [electric] standards can be quite a challenge.

"Over the years we have worked with Able Tool and Equipment in South Windsor, Conn., to meet those challenges. Yes, there has been a curve toward manufacturing electric machines like excavators, plate compactors and buggies, but it has been a slow curve.

"Able Tool and Equipment leads the industry in inventorying for sale and rent electric excavators, plate compactors, concrete buggies, compaction equipment, walk-behind saws and hammers. Really anything that we need we can get from a single source.

"We work closely with Bob Nason, our representative with Able Tool and Equipment. He sizes up the right equipment for each job and is an essential part of our bidding process. Our relationship with Able Tool & Equipment goes back before working with Bob Nason. We've done business with them for at least 15 years. I believe it started with some simple items like demo saws and over time it has grown. For the work at Prides Corner Farms and other projects, we just recently purchased a Wacker Neuson 6555 diesel plate compactor."

Zlotnick Construction ran into an issue a year or so ago with the construction of a new Chipotle when an engineering issue resulted in an excessive amount of water and soil being trapped on the inside of the shell of the building during the construction process.

"There were very limited options on how to resolve it and any of them were going to be expensive," Zlotnick said. "We worked closely with Able Tool and Equipment to rent a mini-excavator, a tracked buggy and a mini-tracked skid steer that you stand behind to operate to work — a solution that saved us thousands of dollars from a remediation plan that had been proposed. The remediation plan would have taken a significant amount of time to complete with an already pressing schedule. With equipment from Able Tool and Equipment we were able to complete the project in four days.

"A lot of what makes working with Able Tool and Equipment a good experience is their excellent communication. They return phone calls, they pay attention to our needs, they get us the equipment when we need it, they get back to us on pricing very promptly, it just works. When we had the issue with Chipotle, they had the equipment that we needed in our hands within 24 hours. We've had issues here at the farm where we needed water pumps now and they showed up almost immediately. I go back to the variety of items that they have at Able Tool and Equipment. They don't just have water pumps; they have every water pump you can imagine. They don't just have hammers; they have every hammer you could possibly need. They don't just have mini-excavators; they have every size mini-excavator you can imagine."

For more information, visit www.zlotnickconstruction.com and abletool.net. CEG