With his Ainslie Square development in Stamford, RMS Cos. founder and CEO Randy Salvatore is taking something of a gamble.
Not in the sense that he’s undertaking such a development, per se — the Stamford-based RMS has had plenty of projects in the city — but with the way he’s doing it: Ainslie Square’s 37 townhouses and 25 single-family detached houses are being marketed for sale, something Salvatore said flies in the face of what’s generally happening around the state.
“There’s a lot of building going on in Stamford,” he said, “but there’s not much that’s for sale. It’s primarily a rental market in Connecticut in general.”
Salvatore said he was familiar with the 4.5-acre property at 159 Colonial Road adjacent to Congregation Agudath Sholom, but had assumed the synagogue had its own plans for the long-underused land — home to a school building and several baseball fields that “hadn’t been used for years.”
As it turned out, the synagogue did have plans for the land: Selling it.
“They did a very selective marketing effort,” Salvatore said. “They made it clear that it was very important that whatever came here be complementary to them.”
RMS ultimately won approval last year with its $6.2 million offer. The school building was demolished over the winter, with construction beginning shortly afterward.
Salvatore said that the houses are being completed with an eye to being occupied by the end of this year, while the townhouses should be completed by next summer.
“Nine or 10 of the homes have already been sold,” he said. “We’re really excited about that velocity.
“It’s a unique product,” being for sale rather than for rent, Salvatore continued. “There hasn’t been something like this being done in Stamford for over a decade.” He touted its loca- tion — “it’s near downtown, but it’s not in downtown, which is right down the street” — as a particular selling point.
The townhouses’ prices start in the mid-$500,000s while the single-family homes are priced at $749,000 (three-bedroom) and $819,900 (four-bedroom) — though Salvatore said those numbers have already been changing.
“We’ve been able to make two price increases in the past three weeks,” he said. “Interest is so strong — I haven’t seen it like this in a long time.”
Designed as a “neighborhood within a neighborhood,” Ainslie Square will also feature a clubhouse containing a fitness center, meeting room and fireside lounge as well as an outdoor heated pool.
Salvatore said that while RMS has a number of projects around the state, it’s particularly bullish on Stamford.
“The urbanization here has really been something to see,” he said. “You’re seeing it around the country now, but Stamford was one of the first in Connecticut to start down that road.”
At the same time, he continued, the city’s diversity has emerged as one of its strengths. “We’ve seen it here (at Ainslie Square),” he said. “We’ve been getting inquiries from everyone from millennials to empty nesters to first-time homebuyers and people with kids.”
RMS expected such a draw, he said, by providing diverse options at the property, consisting of 37 three-level townhouses, featuring three bedrooms and 3.5 baths totaling about 1,900 square feet; 10 four-bedroom, 3.5 bath single-family homes of approximately 3,000 square feet; and 15 three-bedroom, 2.5 bath single-family homes at 2,400 square feet. All homes come with a two-car garage.
Salvatore noted that RMS’ commitment to Stamford also includes the 116 apartment units in the six-story building at 900 Washington Blvd. being leased to UConn Stamford students. “That’s really been a success for UConn, which makes it a success for Stamford,” he said.
One of RMS’ main projects outside the county at the moment involves converting four vacant lots surrounding Hartford’s Dunkin’ Donuts Park into luxury housing and retail space. RMS’ successful refurbishment of that city’s Goodwin Hotel helped its Dunkin’ Donuts cause, Salvatore said.
That three-phase project, involving the construction of 800 apartments and 60,000 square feet of retail space, will cost just above $200 million, with most of the financing coming primarily from private funds.
Salvatore noted that RMS is hardly alone in finding development projects around the state — which, he said, belies the popular impression that Connecticut as a whole is moribund.
“There’s a confidence issue for Connecticut right now,” he said, “which has been a real obstacle in attracting some people and companies here. And that’s fueled by something like all the reporting there was about GE leaving Fairfield, which was what, 200 jobs? Meanwhile you have Infosys coming to Hartford and promising 1,000 jobs, but that doesn’t get the same kind of play.”
“There are a lot of good things about Connecticut — it’s just that the story isn’t being told properly,” Salvatore said. “There isn’t a ‘real’ crisis here — it’s more of a public relations crisis.”