|By Elizabeth Kim, The Stamford Advocate,
Conn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 02, 2011--STAMFORD -- One the city's most high-profile development plans took a significant step backward this week after its developers were denied a zoning extension.
Thomas Rich and Louis Cappelli received approval from the city's Zoning Board in 2007 to build a Ritz-Carlton hotel and condominiums on a three-acre site near the downtown post office on Atlantic Street. Following zoning approval, developers are given four years to apply for a building permit to start construction. As a way of trying to keep the project, known as Atlantic Centre, alive, Rich and Cappelli had asked the city's Zoning Board to extend the approval and accept a phased version of the plan.
The measure failed to pass by a 3-2 vote Monday night.
"We deemed that what they came in for was not really a true phased plan," said Audrey Cosentini, the board's chairwoman who was opposed to granting the extension.
She added: "There was no intention as we could see that they were going to go forward."
Rich declined to comment on the vote. The decision will mean he and Cappelli must go through the entire land use approval process again if they wish to continue.
The two had previously collaborated with Donald Trump to build the condominium high-rise building on Washington Boulevard called Trump Parc, which opened in 2009 and has struggled to sell out.
Among the developments stymied by the economy, Atlantic Centre was slated to have a wide-ranging impact on the city's downtown.
It involved the construction of two 400-feet-tall towers that would have been the tallest structures in Stamford following Trump Parc, which tops out at 350 feet. The project called for 198 hotel rooms and 289 condominiums as well as 65,000 square feet of retail space. As part of the plan, the developers were to have purchased and restored the front portion of the city's historic 1916 post office to make way for a restaurant. The terms of the now-expired zoning approval also included a contribution of $1.2 million toward the redevelopment of Mill River Park and $4.1 million in affordable housing fees. The money was to have been paid upon completion of the project.
Laure Aubuchon, the city's economic development director who attended Monday's zoning meeting, expressed disappointment over the board's denial. She said that prior to the meeting, she had made it known to board members that Mayor Michael Pavia supported the extension.
"During the time from the project's conception to now, we've gone through the worse economic period in the last 50 years," she said. "It was made very clear by the developers that they were still very interested. They just got hit like a lot of other projects."
She said an extension would have sent a positive message to the different entities, including lenders, involved in such a large and complex deal.
Both developers, she noted, were well-known in the community. Rich, through his family's company, has been responsible for building much of downtown Stamford. Cappelli, who is based in White Plains, N.Y., is credited with changing that city's skyline. Prior to Trump Parc, Cappelli was contracted to build Avalon at Greyrock Place, a high-rise residential building. "To not recognize that is unbelievable," she said.
She later added, "I don't know how many cities would say no to a $750 million project in downtown."
Staff Writer Elizabeth Kim can be reached at email@example.com or 203-964-2265.
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Copyright (c) 2011, The Stamford Advocate, Conn.
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