Consultant to review Central School development proposals for Stratford

STRATFORD – The city’s redevelopment agency has ordered an appraisal of the old Central School property as the sale of the land to a developer nears conclusion.

The appraisal will be given to the two developers vying to acquire the property to give them the chance to reassess the financial terms of their proposals, agency chairman George Perham said at its monthly meeting this week.

A consultant hired by the city will then assess both.

“He’s going to review them and make a recommendation to us from a financial perspective,” said Perham, identifying the consultant as Brian Bidolli, the executive director of the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, who will be paid between $ 1,000 and $ 1,500 for work.

“We might be a little over our heads trying to analyze every nook and cranny of the financial stack,” Perham said. “Then we can make a recommendation to city council at some point in the near future. “

The agency has approved spending of $ 3,000 for the assessment, which will be performed by George Shawah of Bridgeport-based Baldwin Pearson & Co.

Two developers – Romano Brothers Builders and Spirit Investment Partners / Kaali-Nagy Properties – presented their plans to develop the property in August after the agency eliminated two other companies from the conflict.

The agency pitched a “preferred developer” to council last year, but the city did not move forward after the developer’s plans for a 132-unit apartment development were widely considered.

The Romano proposal includes a total of 154 apartments with a 10-year tax relief claim valued at $ 6.8 million, and a proposed purchase price of $ 1.54 million for the property.

Spirit’s proposal includes 160 apartments and a purchase price of $ 750,000 – but with $ 500,000 of that amount applied to building the public park at the site, for a “net” payment of $ 250,000.

The Spirit / Kaali-Nagy proposal also includes a tax allowance, but for a term of 17 years – more than the maximum of 10 years contained in the city’s current tax incentive ordinance – with an estimated value of 7 years. , $ 4 million.

Perham said he was eager to see the consultant’s recommendations. After the developers made their proposals in August, he said the agency may end up asking the two developers to present their concepts to city council, which has the final say on what happens.

“The closer it gets, the more exciting it gets,” Perham said Tuesday. “I think we have something really good for the city. “

At the end of the meeting, City Council member Greg Cann, D-5, the only member of the public who regularly attends redevelopment agency meetings, said he appreciates the agency’s work and that the proposals seemed “solid”, but residents who heard about the project did not give any of them overwhelming support.

“Comments are coming from many sources: not enough public space,” Cann said. “It’s a self-contained village that doesn’t merge with the rest of the city center, and it’s overpriced and doesn’t benefit the city, and no retail.”

He asked if there could be “flexibility” to address these concerns.

Perham noted that none of the four developers who responded to the city’s request for proposals were overly interested in the retail prospects on the 3.6-acre property off Sutton Avenue and East Broadway.

“No one saw any benefit to the city or to himself from doing retail business of any kind,” he said.

Director of Economic Development, Mary Dean, said bringing residential development to the site “could grow (retail) significantly in the center.”

Perham noted that both projects also had open space, but that at the end of the day, “everyone has to make money.

“The city has to make money from taxes, these guys have to make money from renting units,” he said. “That said, at the end of the day, the audience will have a little time to express themselves. The two companies are more than willing to hold a public awareness meeting. They are very open to it.

Cann said after the meeting that he was still concerned that the city would “give” ownership to either developer with tax breaks, as well as a “lack of genuine open space for the public, as the two proposals are designed as self-contained self-housing, ”which he said could increase the costs of the school and the city’s public safety.

The property has been vacant since the old school was demolished in late 2018, sparking mixed interest from developers when the city issued requests for proposals in the past. A renewed effort to sell the land has generated more interest this year.

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