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Norwalk Tin Man Stays Put as Neighborhood Grows

NORWALK, Conn. – It's been a long, tough haul, but Nancy Esposito is happy with how it worked out. Although Stanley M. Seligson Properties has all the permits necessary to go ahead with the long-awaited Waypointe development on West Avenue, Casey's Sheet Metal isn't going anywhere.

It's been designed into the complex and will remain, a relic of the past surrounded by modern four- to five-story buildings, new apartments and retail establishments. "We're thrilled," said Esposito, co-owner of Casey's Sheet Metal. "That's what we asked for from the very beginning."

Seligson is holding a groundbreaking Wednesday for Waypointe at 10 Merwin St., next door to Esposito's business and its tin man, a Norwalk landmark for decades. Doug Adams, vice president of development for Seligson, said construction will begin in October. Site work will begin soon after the groundbreaking.

Plans for Phase 1 of the 19-acre development include 325 apartments, 626 parking spaces and 43,935 square feet of retail.

Recent changes include turrets and balconies on the building on West Avenue and Orchard Street, changing it from a box-like structure to something that stands out as an apartment building. "It draws influences from older buildings in Boston," Adams said. "We added the turrets, the balconies and red brick."

Paxton Kinol , partner with Seligson, said the response to the retail brochure put out two months ago had been good. He said L.L. Bean, Legoland and Discovery World have expressed an interest because of the complex's proximity to the Stepping Stones Museum for Children and the walkway planned from the museum. But Adams said talks are preliminary, and nothing has been finalized.

The development is designed to be pedestrian friendly, with large arcades cutting through the buildings into a central courtyard. One arcade will be next door to Casey's Sheet Metal. The entrance to the parking garage will be just down the road.

Esposito sees this all as a good thing. "We do a lot of walk-in business, cash and carry," she said. "We need a prominent location." Although longtime Norwalkers come looking for the business, it can't hurt to have more potential customers and plenty of parking nearby.

Casey's Sheet Metal has been in the location for 30 years. It was originally a blacksmith and carriage shop but has been a sheet metal business for 100 years.

If Waypointe had come along 10 years sooner or 10 years later, she and her husband might have decided to move on. But they're in their mid-50s and they're staying put for another decade. "We love our neighborhood and our neighbors," she said. "We didn't base (the decision) just on finances. If we were just looking for the best deal we probably would have gone. We know we can make it here, pay our bills and survive."

Four apartments are located behind Casey's Sheet Metal. One tenant has been there for 10 years.

Esposito is impressed with the plans and how well it's designed around Casey's. Utilitarian details, such as a box for utility wiring, are placed on Merwin Street to make the old store look more natural. The sidewalks and landscaping will be consistent throughout the complex, including in front of Casey's. There had been a solid wall next to Casey's, but Kinol and others consulted with Esposito and agreed to open it up, making it look "less like a cave," with stations along the side of the property.

"Obviously there's been a lot of attention being given to having it look really nice," she said.

The construction itself will be "tough," Esposito said, but she's used to noise — a topsoil screener was next door for years. "We are prepared for the fact that we may experience some unpleasantries when it comes to the construction," she said. "We expect some disruption, that's the price we pay for staying."

Contact reporter Nancy Chapman at nchapman@thedailynorwalk.com .

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