Site plan approval given for Stamford’s ‘hole in the ground’

By Crystal Kang

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The 4.3-acre “hole in the ground” in Stamford’s downtown in a file photo. The 4.3-acre “hole in the ground” in Stamford’s downtown in a file photo.

Stamford’s storied eyesore, a 4.3-acre excavation that came to be called “the hole in the ground” and was so marketed, has remained undeveloped for more than 20 years. But recently, the city’s zoning board approved site plans to turn it into a multimillion-dollar residential project.

“It was a fairly clean approval and there weren’t a lot of conditions that needed to be satisfied,” said Norman Cole, Stamford’s Land Use Bureau chief. “The next step is securing the financing and doing architectural drawings for the buildings.”

Last year, co-developers Stamford-based F.D. Rich Co. and Hoboken, N.J.-based Ironstate Development Co. bought Parcel 38 at the intersection of Greyrock Place and Tresser Boulevard after two years of negotiations. The desired plan was to build an economically viable project that would be set at a fair price for the city’s residents.

RB Stamford Associates L.L.C., an entity of F.D. Rich Co., and Ironstate had submitted site plans to build a 672-unit residential complex on the undeveloped parcel.

The project is planned to consist of 11 apartment buildings, including 272 studios, 273 one-bedroom and 127 two-bedroom apartments. Ten of the buildings will be connected in a square-like shape with one building jutting out of the middle. The site also will feature a 5,090-square-foot public café at the street corner with outdoor seating. The 83,000-square-foot outdoor area will include a pool, chess board, fire pit and green space.

With zoning entitlements and approval by the city’s Urban Redevelopment Commission in place, the application process for Parcel 38 has “gone smoothly,” and the community has been “generally supportive of it,” said William Hennessey, attorney for the project.

The project has been submitted to the Office of State Traffic Administration and the developers are hopeful it will be approved before Labor Day, Hennessey said.

Thomas L. Rich, CEO of F.D. Rich Co., said he could not give an exact figure of the construction cost, but the total development budget, including land, construction and soft costs, is “north of $100 million.” The project would create about 500 jobs, he added.

Parcel 38 is currently the largest construction project in Stamford, but it certainly isn’t the only residential development that’s booming in Stamford’s downtown, Cole said.

“Stamford is in the middle of a major housing development boom,” Cole said. “This is an important property in the downtown, but it’s by no means the only housing we’re building downtown. We have something approaching 415 units in construction on lower Summer Street. We’re finishing 350 units on Tresser Boulevard. There are three large housing projects already. There’s a 650-unit housing project on the post office property two blocks west of hole in the ground. Quite a lot of housing is being built downtown.”

In the past five years, Stamford has been undergoing an urban renewal effort and it has seen an upward trajectory in residents moving into the area with more activity centered on housing, Rich said. Stamford’s proximity to the Metro-North and Amtrak lines as well as highways has been an added bonus for the city. Its growing night life — with restaurants, bars, movie theaters and cultural amenities — is also pivotal in shaping the city’s downtown.

Over the years, policy changes and various administrators have increased flexibility in the city’s zoning and created special tax districts that have paved the way for development projects like Stamford’s hole in the ground to emerge, Rich added.

F.D. Rich has built much of downtown Stamford, including Stamford Town Center mall, Landmark Square and the Stamford Marriott Hotel & Spa. It has developed more than 50-million square feet in half the states in the nation, including Stamford, for 46 years.

“None of this in Stamford could’ve been done without continual strong public-private partnerships working together to revitalize the urban core of this city,” Rich said. “We’ve been at it for 50 years now. Finally, we’ve arrived at a place where it’s a nice city.”

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About the author

Crystal Kang
Crystal Kang, a Chicago native, is former a reporter for the Fairfield and Westchester business journals. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and her work has appeared in news outlets including CNBC.com, Allstate Corporation’s investor relations website, and an NPR-based radio station in Urbana, Ill.

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