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Norwalk Development Set to Move Ahead

NORWALK, Conn. — That pile of dirt at the intersection of Interstate 95 and West Avenue may be changing soon — in terms of the glacial pace of government and development.

The Common Council approved site modifications Tuesday evening for the District 95/7 Sono Complex that has been in the approval process since 2007. Clayton Fowler, chairman and CEO of Spinnaker Real Estate Partners LLC, said he hopes they have "shovels in the ground" by the end of the year.

"When people see something going on there, it's going to excite a lot of people and bring what we're looking for to that area," said Rick McQuaid, president of the Common Council.

The modification was variously described as moving chess pieces and moving puzzle pieces. What had been planned for the north side of the 12-acre site is now proposed for the south side. Instead of a 10-story hotel, the area next to I-95 will feature a five-story building with 232 multifamily residential units, 25,000 square feet of ground floor commercial/retail use and parking.

The overall plan remains within its original specifications, but the location of the proposed elements has shifted. "We're not diminishing, at this point, the size of the job," Fowler said. "We're just moving one of the pieces on our puzzle from one side of the puzzle to the other side."

City Councilman Doug Hempstead agreed, saying, "Basically it's moving the chess pieces around on the chess board without adding more chess pieces." This is because of the market conditions. "The rental housing market is the only thing that has the attention of banks and has the attention of investors," Hempstead said.

Councilwoman Nora King, a real estate appraiser , disputed that analysis but voted to approve the project.

Councilman Andrew Conroy said the site would probably sit there for five years if the modification were not approved. He voted for the project. "I do want to stick with what we know will help the city the most," he said. "To live here, to work here, to play here, to shop here, I think is a good concept and I think we've got to stick with that concept."

The vote was unanimous. Fowler said his company will now invest in the half-million-dollar drawing for the project, which will take three to four months. Construction will take 16 to 18 months. If it gets through zoning, the project would probably be done at this time in 2013.

The project will be discussed at the planning and zoning commission meeting scheduled for July 20.

Do you think the space next to I-95 is appropriate for development? Or would you rather it be a park?

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