April 17, 2009 - NORWALK -- A turf war could be brewing over
whether there's room for two hotels in SoNo.
On Wednesday night, Norwalk Zoning commissioners approved F.D.
Rich Co.'s site plan for an eight-story, 121-room hotel at 43-47 South
During a public hearing beforehand, several SoNo business
owners expressed support for the hotel. But a representative of a
SoNo-based developer that has big plans for the Reed-Putnam area less
than a half mile to the north asked the city not to undermine its
Kim Morque, principal with Spinnaker Real Estate Partners LLC
on Marshall Street, praised F.D. Rich Co.'s investment in South Norwalk
-- the Stamford-based developer purchased about 40 SoNo properties
early last year. But Morque reminded commissioners that Spinnaker has
plans for a hotel in District 95/7 SoNo -- an office-anchored,
mixed-use development getting underway off West Avenue and Reed Street.
"On behalf of 95/7, we are concerned about the potential for
another hotel in SoNo at this time under the current economic
environment and market conditions," Morque said. "We have been actively
engaged in negotiations with a hotel owner and operator for several
Morque asked that the city "work on a comprehensive,
coordinated, economic development policy, so that the hard work and
significant investments of existing projects are not undermined."
Last year, Zoning commissioners approved site plans for Phase
One of District 95/7. The hotel would be included in a later phase of
A number of factors, including the economy, the Zoning
Commission and the Norwalk Redevelopment Commission will determine
whether one, two or no hotels are built in SoNo.
Although Zoning commissioners approved the site plan for the
SoNo Hotel, F.D. Rich still needs to find financing for the estimated
$30-million project. Further, the Norwalk Redevelopment Commission
would have to amend the city's South Main Urban Renewal Plan. The plan
currently doesn't permit a hotel in the area, according to Timothy T.
Sheehan, Redevelopment Agency executive director.
Redevelopment commissioners soon will review a market
feasibility study that addresses the question of whether there's room
for one or two hotels in SoNo, according to Sheehan.
"The study came back and indicated that a hotel would be
feasible in either (location)," Sheehan said. But "the predicate to the
feasibility is that all of the redevelopment plans are developed, in
terms of the office space at 95/7 and Waypointe (on West Avenue) ...
then your hotel is feasible."
"Obviously, the economic returns on a second hotel become more
limited. ... Introducing another hotel into the mix is only pulling the
same hotel dollar between two hotels," Sheehan said.
Mayor Richard A. Moccia and Zoning Commission Chairwoman
Jackie Lightfield distinguished between what's planned for South Main
Street and what Spinnaker has in mind for District 95/7.
"One is going to draw the tourists, and the other is going to
draw the business people, and they're going to visit all the offices
and businesses that are in 95/7," Moccia said.
Lightfield said "the limited service SoNo Hotel is truly about
hotel rooms in a dense urban area," whereas the District 95/7 SoNo
hotel would be "a full service hotel that would also have things such
as conference rooms." She reminded that several hotels operate along
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