Developer wants apartment focus on downtown
Private investment in Shelton’s downtown revitalization has skyrocketed, but one local developer warns increased apartment development in other areas of the city could deter future investors and turn downtown in a hub for low-income housing.
Al DaSilva, a city resident for more than 60 years who has invested heavily in downtown’s revitalization over the years, told the Planning and Zoning Commission this past week that he is concerned with multi-family housing plans on the table for areas outside the downtown, including recent applications for sites along Bridgeport Avenue.
“We’re at the point where the revitalization is at infancy,” said DaSilva, who presented his plans to redevelop 502 Howe Ave., present home of Webster Bank, into a five-story structure with first floor commercial space and four levels with a total of 56 market-rate apartments. His plans were given the nod for the next step in the process, designating the address as a Planned Development District.
“You hold in your hands the opportunity to continue this revitalization and see it through to the end,” DaSilva told the commissioners. “However, I am concerned with projects coming in for redevelopment or development of units outside of downtown. If we, as developers, have to compete with units on Bridgeport Avenue or someplace else, like Derby, you could see the capital dry up downtown and the possibility, if we have to compete in rent, you will see us lower rents to attract tenants and eventually you will have low income housing in the downtown.”
The commission had continued a public hearing on DaSilva’s development plan to Nov. 12. Once the hearing was closed, commissioners told consultant Anthony Panico to create a resolution denoting the area as a PDD with a vote planned for early December.
“This is an exciting concept,” said commission Chair Virginia Harger. “It is attractive, and in line with my feeling of how the downtown should look, updated and fresh.”
DaSilva’s project calls for 24 studio units, 28 one-bedroom units and four two-bedroom units. He added there will be more than enough parking spots, with an average of 1.6 per unit, and the extra parking adds to the city’s available spaces downtown.
The bank would have a walk-in ATM and drive-through ATM as well as a small office space for meetings, said Da Silva, but the location would no longer be a full-service bank once construction is complete. A Dunkin’ Donuts, with a drive-thru, will be the other tenant.
Commissioner Elaine Matto asked DaSilva if there was any chance that he could include some affordable units but the developer said a project needs close to 100 units to make it economically feasible to provide as many as five units as affordable.
"If we give three units as affordable,” said DaSilva, “that is close to $400,000 of an investment that does not give a return.”
“This project is great,” said Shelton resident Don Stanziale Jr., owner and developer of Cedar Village at Carroll’s, former home to the longtime city staple and long vacant hardware store. “We just need to keep this going.”
"I agree … we need to keep this moving and keep (multi-family housing) off Bridgeport Avenue,” said commissioner Nancy Dickal. “There will be too much competition between downtown, Derby and Bridgeport Avenue, and unfortunately, the competition will turn our downtown into an area with low income housing.”
At the Nov. 12, the commission also approved two separate downtown development proposals: Bridge Street Commons II, a new building at 427 Howe Ave. with retail and 72 apartment units, and Riverwalk Place at 356-358 Howe Ave., which will include a new five-story building with retail and 36 apartment units.