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Norwalk Inn Plan Gets Green Light

The Norwalk Inn & Conference Center will get a third floor and the historic but dilapidated building in front of it will be renovated after the owners won approval of their plans Wednesday night from the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The Handrinos family bought the Grumman-St. John House, located at 93 East Ave., and the neighboring Norwalk Inn in 2001. It has been battling over its renovation plans ever since.

"In bare bones, it's going to mean a better screening of our property line, so it will redefine the neighborhood in that way," Peter Handrinos said of the victory. "The second part is we want to do a major historical renovation of 93 East Ave., and we want to expand by adding a third floor to the hotel."

The family bought the property with plans to demolish the Grumman-St. John House, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1986, and expand the conference center. The plan gained the city's approval, but the Norwalk Preservation Trust sued to prevent the demolition under the Connecticut Preservation Trust. Since then, plans have been held up in a contentious back and forth.

State Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, and Rep. Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, were instrumental in brokering a compromise, which led to Wednesday night's decision.

Landscaping to create a "living screen" will begin within a few weeks. Renovation of the house, which has a foundation dating to the Revolutionary War, will provide seven hotel rooms with kitchens. "We want to restore it to its former glory," Peter Handrinos said. The third floor hotel addition will add 37 rooms. The owners also plan to convert some of the existing hotel rooms into cocktail rooms.

"This approval is great news on many levels: for a family-run business that can now expand and grow, for a treasured asset in our historic district, for the economic development of our city, and for the neighborhood as a whole," Duff and Cafero said in a joint statement.

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