An ambitious effort to accelerate Stamfordâ€™s growing reputation as a viable workspace alternative to New York City is scheduled to open in the spring.
Dubbed The Village, the 133,000-square-foot facility at 860 Canal St. is being marketed by the Wheelhouse conglomerate as an indoor-outdoor work-play environment that is designed to bring together companies representing content and media, brands and marketing, social and experiential, and finance and investment in one central hub.
â€œEverybody knows about the move from Manhattan to Fairfield and Westchester counties,â€ which has been accelerated by Covid, Wheelhouse CEO Brent Montgomery told the Business Journal. â€œWe moved to Fairfield County about six years ago and thanks to what (developer) BLT has done on the waterfront, we decided this was the right place to do this.â€
â€œWeâ€ includes Montgomeryâ€™s wife, Courtney, who is CEO of Wheelhouse Properties and developer of The Village.
â€œBLT has built these incredible high-rises and there are all these bright, young professionals,â€ she said. â€œBut it seemed like there was something missing, and thatâ€™s where we came in.â€
The Village was an abandoned warehouse before the Montgomerys bought it in December 2017. Ground was broken in August 2018 to create a campus involving coworking, office and meeting space, production facilities, a ground-floor restaurant, indoor/outdoor rooftop space with a bar and nearly 1,000 feet of walks around the marina.
â€œWeâ€™ve stayed pretty much on trackâ€ with the construction schedule, she said. â€œThere have been some delays, but parts of the building should be done by mid-February.â€
Also very much playing in Stamfordâ€™s favor was the fact that ITV America, the U.S. arm of London-based broadcaster ITV, moved to 850 Canal St. in 2018 â€” as did the then-newly formed Wheelhouse Entertainment, where Brent Montgomery had been CEO for three years.
â€œWe bought it before I started Wheelhouse, when I was still running ITV America,â€ he recounted. â€œThe idea was to get a place in Stamford for ITV. When I left to start Wheelhouse, I continued to be partners with ITV.â€
Montgomery made his bones in the entertainment field with a string of reality TV hits, including â€œAmerican Restoration,â€ â€œCounting Carsâ€ and especially â€œPawn Stars;â€ the latter alone reportedly netted him over $350 million.
That Wheelhouse has hit the ground running is no secret; Jimmy Kimmel joined its entertainment division as a partner in 2018, launching his own content hub, Kimmelot, in the process. Other celebs include Kevin Hart and Odell Beckham Jr., while its investing arm, Wheelhouse Partners, works with such companies as L Catteron, Tusk Ventures and The Chernin Group.
Montgomery said that while the firm started out being about 90% entertainment-focused, it is now more like 50%. Thus was born The Village â€” as in â€œIt takes a â€¦â€
Networking plays an important part; meeting with the brain trust behind Nantucketâ€™s Cisco Brewers and Stamford-based Mikeâ€™s Organic convinced both companies to take space in The Village; it will be the formerâ€™s first Connecticut outpost. Besides those, ITV and Wheelhouse itself, other tenants include Apicii, the bespoke hospitality management and concept development company based in Greenwich Village, and a private social club â€œwhere creators and entrepreneurs mix with celebrities, athletes, musicians and titans of industry.â€
Montgomery said The Village is now about 75% occupied.
He added that other recent visitors include various business leaders, Gov. Ned Lamont and Stamford Mayor David Martin, who in a statement said, â€œStamford has always been an innovative, commercially driven city with the feel and benefits of a small town. Workspaces like The Village represent the vision and opportunity that are attracting our future workforce and residents to the community, and Covid only accelerated this movement. I look forward to The Village opening in our city and to welcoming all who recognize that Stamford is the place to be.â€
The Village also features Connecticutâ€™s first LEED V4 commercial building, which Courtney Montgomery said had been in development even before Covid.
â€œThat reflects how the way we do business is changing,â€ she said. â€œWe can offer something thatâ€™s become critical for people. With our filtration and ventilation systems, we bring in 100% fresh air from the outside, so weâ€™re not just recirculating the same air throughout the building. Thereâ€™s touchless entry, faucets and doors that you operate with a foot-stomper.â€
Brent Montgomery said the project, which cost around $50 million, will bring roughly 600 jobs to the state, and noted that most of the work has been done by Connecticut-based vendors, most of them within Fairfield County.
As for whether the New York-to-Stamford migration is here to stay, he said he believes that â€œitâ€™s not one size fits all. A lot of people like the idea of their kids being able to play outside in a safer environment, where you can teach them to ride a bike. In the city, most people donâ€™t even have cars.
â€œWhy not move out here than put up with the commute?â€ he continued. â€œI also think youâ€™re going to see more employers allow their employees to work off-site and not have to be in the headquarters five days a week â€” theyâ€™ll be more willing to split the difference.â€
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