Developer John Guedes is hoping to move forward soon with development of the Spongex and Rolfite parcels on Canal Street.
Guedes plans to turn the four-story Spongex building into 47 loft-style condominiums, and build a new 13,000-square-foot commercial building close to the riverfront on the adjoining Rolfite property.
He also would construct a new city road that would start on Canal Street south of Spongex and essentially connect to Bridge Street near the river.
His plans have been evolving, however, and he no longer plans to immediately eliminate the one-way side road that now connects Canal Street to Bridge Street. Instead, the new road would intersect with that existing side road just before Bridge Street.
This would lead to fewer “bureaucratic issues” with state transportation officials, Guedes recently told the Planning and Zoning Commission’s (P&Z) Downtown Subcommittee.
The combined two parcels border a state road (Bridge Street), railroad tracks and the Housatonic River, making development a challenge.
He hopes to replace the existing side road with a pedestrian walkway in the future.
Will get Rolfite site from the city
Guedes owns the one-acre Spongex parcel and has a contract with the city to acquire the 1.7-acre Rolfite property. The city would get an easement on the Rolfite land to extend the Riverwalk.
He plans to knock down some add-on sections to the Spongex complex, and develop only the L-shaped original building.
The planned demolition of the Chromium Process building by the city, Guedes said, removes an obstacle to making the investment in the new project.
That demolition “opens up” the area and is an opportunity to add needed public parking and continue “that park effect from Veterans Park,” he said.
In the past on Canal Street, Guedes developed the nearby 103-unit Birmingham condominiums and got Avalon interested in building a 250-unit apartment complex.
He plans to present his newest proposal to the P&Z within the next few months.
Eatery and parking
The new commercial building would be two stories, with offices on the second floor. He hopes to attract a large restaurant to fill much of the first floor.
“I have a lot of people who want a sit-down restaurant,” but they can’t commit until the space is built, Guedes said.
Some of the parking spaces for the residential units would be located near the new commercial building, across the new street from the condos. Guedes wants to provide one parking space per condo unit.
There would be 35 spaces next to the condos, and 75 spaces near the commercial building, with some of them dedicated to the condo residents.
The new condos would be mostly two-bedroom, with some one-bedroom and top-floor three-bedroom units as well.
Downtown condo market status
Guedes conceded the market for downtown condos now is weak, but he hopes that “by the time we build the market will come back.” He prefers to sell them as condos rather than to rent them as apartments.
He said constructing loft units out of old factory buildings is actually more expensive than new construction.
The environmental remediation of the Spongex property is essentially done, according to Guedes.
James Ryan, Shelton Economic Development Corp. president, said the city has almost finished remediating the Rolfite land.
Northern Canal Street sites
Guedes also discussed more conceptual plans for the one-acre Brennan and 1.2-acre Apex sites, just north of the Avalon condos. He owns the Brennan property and plans to demolish the buildings on it.
He could try to develop the Brennan site on its own, but prefers to combine it with Apex.
As with the Avalon site, Guedes wants to attract a national apartment development company to develop these properties and would need to “maximize” the number of units “in order for the economics of it to work.”
He envisions 128 living units on the two parcels. He said the success of Avalon shows there is a demand for rental housing in this area.
Too many residential units?
Some planning officials expressed concern that Guedes wants to build too many units, noting the original plan for the part of Canal Street north of the Birmingham only calls for a certain number of new residences.
“I’m not sure if the community wants that many units,” planning consultant Tony Panico told Guedes. Panico said allowing so many units could be seen as “stealing” the ability of other property owners to build units farther north on Canal Street.
Panico also said a large building could impact “viewscapes” from Howe Avenue and Wooster Street.
Other factors to be considered are the need to continue widening Canal Street and to extend the Riverwalk farther north on the water side, toward the dam.