Boom Town

Cornering the Market

RMS Companies, a developer who’s almost single-handedly transformed downtown Stamford into an upscale place to live
by putting up hundreds of high-end apartment buildings in the past several years, is getting its shovel ready again.

New plans call for a 122-unit rental building that will wrap the corner of Washington Boulevard and Rippowam Place, where a low-slung row of stores sits today. The $50 million building, RMS’s first mixed-use project, will also feature a ground-floor, high-end restaurant, whose operator has not yet been chosen, says Randy Salvatore, RMS’s president.

The development, which awaits a name, also still requires building permits. “I don’t normally get that excited about different projects, but [for] this one, the location is so great,” says Salvatore, who’s completed eight projects in downtown Stamford, including Hotel Zero Degrees and the Moderne, though he has since sold two of them.

Despite concerns that Stamford is getting ahead of itself with downtown housing, Salvatore adds that he’s still bullish on the city’s rental market, based on how quickly he leased up his Verano, at 750 Summer Street, over three months earlier this year.

Meanwhile, many of the stores at the corner site, which at one point included a nail salon, fabric store, Polish deli, florist and pharmacy, have either packed their bags or are planning to soon. Their one- and two-story brick buildings will be razed, though shopkeepers remain optimistic. “There is really no end if we are keeping the same customers,” says Elizabeth Brakoniecki, a technician at Slavin’s Pharmacy, which is relocating down the block.

Strawberry Fields

A tree-shaded sweep of land near downtown that was once the stuff of condo dreams will remain green and open. In September, the city purchased Sacred Heart Academy, a vacant school complex on ten leafy acres on Strawberry Hill Avenue where a magnet school is planned to ease overcrowded classrooms elsewhere. Sold by the Sisters of St. Joseph, the property, which contains fields and several structures, cost $9.75 million,
which will be covered through a bond issue.

To bring the red brick, 41,000-square-foot main building up to code, and to expand it, the city also needs to spend about $55 million, officials say, though its source is unclear as of this writing. But if state lawmakers certify the former Catholic school as a public school, which could happen after the legislature convenes in January, Hartford would be on the hook for most of the tab, officials add.

Ultimately, under Mayor David Martin’s plan, the school would become an interdistrict magnet, like the Academy of Information Technology & Engineering, whose 800 students would include some from neighboring towns.

The city may have gotten a deal on the property, which includes soccer fields, a convent and a rambling red barn once the home of Stamford Theatre Works. Sacred Heart closed in 2006, though Greenwich’s Stanwich School leased it for a few years afterward. In 2012, it was assessed at $10.3 million; assessed values in Connecticut are 70 percent of market values, which suggests Sacred Heart might have fetched $15 million.

With the deal, some neighbors say they’re breathing a collective sigh of relief; several developers had made offers on the property before the recession. For its part, the mayor’s office says preserving relatively open space was an additional goal. “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the city of Stamford to preserve part of Stamford’s history and character,” Mayor Martin said in a statement

 

 

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