Decades-Long Effort Produces Norwalk’s Waypointe District
The Waypointe is a comprehensive redevelopment within Norwalk’s Central Business District. Redniss & Mead worked closely with our client, Belpointe, as well as Stanley M. Seligson Properties and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, to effectuate their shared vision of mixed-use urban renewal. The first phase of the growing project was recently completed and includes 460 apartments and 60,000 square feet of commercial floor area. It is designed to spur the creation of a lively urban core centered on a pedestrian-only street. Our team provided land surveying, site civil engineering, and zoning analysis for this complex land development involving private and publicly funded infrastructure improvements and the compilation of the 30 different parcels of land. We also provided the infrastructure improvement design to the City of Norwalk allowing the Department of Public Works to oversee its bidding, award, and construction under CT Department of Economic Development criteria. The Master Plan currently includes 190 more apartments and another 200,000sf of commercial floor area.
Fairfield County Business Journal recently published the following article:
Decades-long effort produces Norwalk’s Waypointe District
By Bill Fallon, October 22, 2015
Spanning both sides of West Avenue — with Butler, Orchard and Merwyn streets like the tines of a fork facing the Norwalk River — Norwalk’s Waypointe District is fast becoming the “city within a city” that developer Stanley Seligson, chairman and CEO of Norwalk-based Seligson Properties, has pursued for 18 years.
Phase 1 of the three-phase project includes the namesake Waypointe Residences that for the last year has been renting one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and is now more than 90 percent full. The Waypointe’s ground-floor Sedona Taphouse at 515 West Ave. is open, featuring more than 500 craft beers and an entrée called Devil’s Pass Pasta.
Waypointe Residences also now has Colony Grill, which promises a category of pizza all its own: neither Chicago nor New York, but rather a proprietary “hot oil” pizza. Salons by JC is open as well, a venue where stylists rent space, also at 515 West Ave., and where “clients will love the abundant free parking and variety of shopping and restaurants.”
The Waypointe Residences with 362 luxury apartments is next to the 98 apartments of the Tea House Lofts in the former Bigelow Tea facility. Seligson is partnering with Greenwich-based Belpointe Capital LLC and San Francisco-based Carmel Partners on these buildings. Belpointe — its principals are Brandon Lacoff and Paxton Kinol — and Seligson Properties together are also developing other projects within the district. Belpointe maintains an office within the district.
To create what Seligson terms “a true downtown,” another Belpointe/Seligson phase of the development includes the 129 units and 350-space parking garage of The Berkeley apartments, adjoining the historic Frost Building. The companies jointly own the Frost Building, across the street from Waypointe Residences, where long-standing tenants that will remain include Norwalk Hospital’s Occupational Health Services and Sleep Disorders Center.
“And we’ll keep expanding.” Seligson said.
Seligson was on the original board of directors of the Maritime Aquarium on nearby Water Street, which dates to 1988 and which has a structural garage. He called it a “most-successful anchor and a top tourist attraction.”
“This area was stale, with very little reputation and no real tax benefits to the city,” Seligson said of the Waypointe District. “At night, no one was walking here; there was nothing to do. Conversely, what you’re seeing now is well over a million square feet of mixed-use development on the West Avenue corridor.”
There is a shuttle bus from Waypointe to the South Norwalk rail depot. Seligson also pointed to another type of transportation just as telling: baby carriages.
“Now you see them heading over to Stepping Stones,” he said. “Waypointe is now creating a hub of activity and a very safe, inviting area: work, live and play.”
Seligson Properties Director Jeffrey Kaplan and Seligson spoke recently about the project and of its implications for Norwalk. They were later joined by company Vice President Michael Serrao.
“This is only the beginning,” Kaplan said. “Norwalk’s transformation is just getting legs. There is a critical mass of investment where others are going to jump on board and make this city special in their own way. The base is being built by people like Stanley.”
Seligson is a Norwalk native — “My roots are here,” he said — whose first business was a regional candy and tobacco distributor. “The distributor was small, but I grew it to be the largest in Connecticut,” he said, seated recently in the conference room of Seligson Properties’ 605 West Ave. headquarters in the heart of the Waypointe District.
“I believe in Norwalk,” Seligson said. “I was born in Norwalk. I have a tremendous affection for this city.” He cited multiple city agencies plus previous Mayor Richard Moccia, who served four terms, and current Mayor Harry Rilling as project supporters. He praised the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency and The Norwalk Chamber of Commerce for their backing, as well.
“The future of West Avenue, with its proximity to the hospital — the largest employer in the city — lends itself to great future expansion,” Seligson said.
Seligson was the original developer of the former Loehmann’s Plaza in the district. His company and Belpointe, where Kinol oversees construction and development, beginning in 2016 will redevelop the property into what is billed as a “modern retail center” called The District Center. The center has commitments from retailers including Nordstrom Rack and Container Store. Seligson also said the Belpointe/Seligson partnership is in talks with food-beverage-and-a-movie company iPic for a theater there. There is more than 150,000 square feet of retail.
Seligson said the Waypointe plan has morphed from original plans.
“We’re building something different than we had planned at the start,” he said. “We conducted market studies and found there is a tremendous need for rentals.” He said such properties have been known to drift into ownership status — such as condominiums — but most historically do not and remain rentals.
Meantime, Chicago-based General Growth Properties Inc. is before the city now with a proposal to build a regional shopping mall on a 12-acre site it owns that is circumscribed by West Avenue, Interstate 95 and Metro-North’s Danbury Line.
The mall already has agreements with Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s and envisions 80 to 100 smaller retailers, a hotel and public space.
“Will the mall be competition for our retail? I consider it a good thing, bringing more shoppers to Norwalk,” Seligson said. “The diversity of shopping opportunities will enhance redevelopment within the Waypointe District.”
Kaplan said the mall promises stores currently not available in the local retail market.
Kaplan is heartened by Waypointe District’s progress so far, saying his children alert him to the recent advances — “There’s the parking garage!” — as he drives them through the neighborhood. He called the nearby Stepping Stones Museum for Children, where he serves on the board of directors, and Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum, to the south of the district, “Norwalk’s Central Park.”
Seligson, who was tieless with a silk handkerchief in his blue blazer pocket the day he spoke, said his familiarity with the region guides him.
“Our company has a long-term view of Norwalk as opposed to someone who would come in just to do a project. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in 20 years,” he said.
The website is Waypointe-Norwalk.com.