AP NEWS

Developer’s plans would add over 100 apartments to West Putnam

February 7, 2019

GREENWICH — Ambitious development projects proposed for West Putnam Avenue that could add significantly to housing stock on that side of town went before the Planning and Zoning Commission with barely any public reaction.

The commission is considering two separate proposals, one for 585 W. Putnam Ave. and another for 500 W. Putnam Ave., both of which would include moderate-income units targeted for use by Greenwich’s workforce. And the 585 W. Putnam development would also have space businesses — with a supermarket, a fitness center and a restaurant listed as possibilities.

The 585 W. Putnam proposal would include 67 residential units, with 14 for moderate-income residents. The existing buildings at that location, which are used for office space, would be demolished. A multilevel parking garage would also be built.

The proposal for 500 W. Putnam would add apartments and a parking garage on the eastern side of the property, near the recently completed offices there. The development would include 35 multifamily apartments: 16 one-bedroom units, six two-bedroom units and 13 three-bedroom units. Eight of the proposed units would be set aside for moderate-income housing.

The Planning and Zoning Commission made no decisions Tuesday night, and the proposals were held open for future discussion. The overall reaction appeared to be positive, but several members expressed concerns, particularly when it came to parking during construction if both projects were approved.

Both projects were proposed by John Fareri, who told the commission that his work would result in improvements to the sewers, sidewalks, landscaping and traffic flow.

Unlike previous proposals to build apartments on West Putnam Avenue, most notably at the Post Road Iron Works site, these projects have not drawn any major public criticism. Acting Chair Margarita Alban even noted the lack of a response.

“If there was going to be a public response, we would have heard from people by email and we didn’t get comments,” Alban said. “We haven’t gotten a reaction.”

Attorney John Tesei, who is representing the developer, said they wanted to move forward with a project that could attract tenants “and not have to look back and say why didn’t we think of that before.”

Commission member Andy Fox said he would prefer a restaurant — not a fitness center — in the space facing the street. Tesei agreed and said the health and fitness facility could be in the rear.

Commission member Nick Macri questioned the height of the building proposed for 585 W. Putnam, saying it would be highly visible from the road and would give the impression of five stories, not four. He asked whether the overall height of the businesses, particularly the possible fitness center, could be lowered.

“We get a lot of heat from people about overdevelopment, and I think they’re seeing what they perceive as very large buildings,” Macri said. “To them it becomes the overdevelopment. They want to know why the buildings are so big.”

Fareri also developed 500 W. Putnam to add offices and a home for Greenwich Hospital and 644 W. Putnam, which houses a CVS. Macri cited the 644 development as a cautionary tale.

“It’s got to be perfect because that building is going to be there for a very, very, very long time,” he said. “Look at 644, it’s very avant-garde and a lot of people love it and a lot of people hate it. But there’s always comment on that building to this day — and it’s been there for more than 10 years now. What we look at today will be there forever, and we have to get it right.”

The commission, when it was under the leadership of Richard Maitland, said a four-story building would be in compliance with town codes.

Tesei said there is “no neighbor opposition” to the proposed height of any of the buildings. The streetscape design and setback from the road would ensure that the development fits in the surrounding area, he said.

“This is trying to micromanage how the owner is going to fill up his space and with whom,” Tesei said. “You’re dealing with a highly experienced owner of a million square feet (of space) ... spread out in Greenwich and Westchester. I think Mr. Fareri kind of knows what he’s doing.”

Another issue discussed was pedestrian safety from nearby offices and other locations on Valley Drive to the 585 W. Putnam Ave. location. Town Director of Planning and Zoning Katie DeLuca said safety is an issue with a lot of activity in that area.

Tesei said that installing a sidewalk there would be “a sidewalk to nowhere.” But commission members suggested looking at adding a sidewalk and putting in a crosswalk at Valley Drive.

“There’s a lot of people that walk there,” DeLuca said, noting the day-care facility, office building and post office.

The businesses could be a major draw for people in the offices, Fox said.

“If you’re saying you’re comfortable having them walk in the street, we’re saying that doesn’t seem like a logical solution,” he said. “You’re trying to sell us on this being a great thing for this whole office park, which we tend to agree with, because there’s no great places to eat.”

Tesei ultimately said it’s “not a big deal” to put in a crosswalk. Alban said it would be an issue the commissioners “would discuss among themselves” as the project moves closer to a vote.

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com