Column: Stamford reconfigures development for a new century

By Westfair Online

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The city of Stamford continues to lead the Fairfield/Westchester region in developing projects that promote the concept of “smart growth” in cities.

This mixture of new development takes advantage of mixing land uses by creating a range of housing opportunities and choices. It provides walkable, bikable neighborhoods that offer a real alternative to the typically suburb-commuter lifestyle.

There is a combined $6 billion in new residential and commercial developments within three-quarters of a mile surrounding the Stamford train station, which now connects the city’s growing downtown with the emerging Harbor Point project. The new development puts Stamford at the epicenter of the “work, live and play” lifestyle that many people now seek.

Stamford already enjoys a high concentration of Fortune 500 companies, but new companies are being attracted by the growing younger workforce that is emerging as a result of the increase in the number of apartments that are being constructed. The median age of Stamford is 36 years, which is a full four years younger than the rest of Connecticut. The city is the home for leading employers across multiple industry sectors, including banking, insurance and reinsurance, office equipment, pharmaceuticals, consumer products, media and information technology, and retail. These new developments help strengthen the existing strong and diverse commercial, industrial and retail business base in the city that sees a daytime population of more than 225,000 people.

The $3.5 billion, 82-acre Harbor Point is a transit-oriented, mixed-use development along the Long Island Sound consisting of more than 2,360 new apartments, office space, dining and shopping establishments, a community school, several marinas, publicly accessible waterfront areas via a waterfront boardwalk, and more than 11 acres of parks and public spaces. The project also provides a free trolley to the residents of Stamford that makes a continuous loop connecting the downtown and Harbor Point area. When completed, the project will add more than 4,000 new apartments to the city.

One of the apartment buildings that highlights the city’s commitment to the smart growth initiative is the preservation of the historic Yale & Towne Lock Works factory buildings. These buildings were preserved through community collaboration that helped to guide the development decisions of the project. These buildings were ultimately preserved and upgraded to modern standards and retrofitted with the greenest technology and converted into The Lofts at Yale & Towne.

Downtown Stamford has also seen the opening of nearly 900 apartments over the last several years and will see the start of construction over the next year of another 1,000 apartments. Summer House, 184 Summer St., a 22-story, 222-unit apartment building is set to open in the coming weeks; and 66 Summer St., a 14-story, 209-unit apartment building, opened last summer. The apartment buildings boast a Walk Score of 95, with connections to Stamford’s Restaurant Row, The Town Center, Mill River Park and popular downtown events such as Alive at Five/Jazz Up July and the farmers market.

A new anchor for downtown is the development of the 31-acre Mill River Park and 3-mile greenway that connects to Stamford Harbor. The park is transforming the heart of Stamford and is providing a new model for redefining urban life and attracting young urban residents who want to work and live in close proximity without compromising quality of life. Mill River Park and greenway helps to provide the natural balance to the city’s urban environment that will dramatically improve quality of life for Stamford as a whole and particularly for the many new residents.

Lastly, to provide health service to these new residents, Stamford Hospital is undertaking a $500 million expansion and upgrade. This is no ordinary expansion of a hospital. Out of collaboration with the surrounding community and more than dozen organizations, the Vita Health & Wellness District was created. The district to the south of the hospital was created with the goal of improving the health of the West Side neighborhood. One of the many highlights of the project is Fairgate Farm, which is celebrating the start of its fifth growing season this year.  An area where blighted housing once stood now is a thriving urban farm.

Thomas Madden was named city of Stamford’s economic development director in 2014.

The Land Use Law Center and Westfair Communications, parent company of the Business Journal, will co-host a March 24 luncheon and panel discussion of smart-growth development featuring former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening on the Pace Law School campus in White Plains.

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