Matto building on Howe Avenue 'rising from ashes'

Phoenix Towers

Shelton’s Planning and Zoning Commission didn’t formally approve or deny Matto Realty’s proposal for the five-story “mixed-purpose” building at its Tuesday, Aug. 11 meeting. The new building on Howe Avenue would replace the four-story building Ralph and Elaine Matto previously owned that burned down in 2014.

Both the board and members of the public agreed that the project coincides with the city’s objective to further the develop the downtown area.

The property at 434-456 Howe Avenue is owned by Ralph and Elaine of Matto Family Realty. The proposal drawn up by Ralph and Elaine’s son Joseph, a Stratford architect, not only marks the Matto building “rising from the ashes,” but also a step toward, transforming the central block of the downtown area into a model of public space surrounded by successful development, said Dominick Thomas, the Derby lawyer representing Matto Realty.

Phoenix Towers’ basement will consist of freezers for the restaurants and storage for the tenants.

The street level floor will be designated as space for five businesses, including a farm-to-dinner restaurant owned by Michele Bialek. The street level can also be easily accessed by senior citizens. The second floor will be occupied by six offices while the third, fourth and fifth floors will each house eight single-bedroom apartments.

Each apartment is heated by an individual unit that cannot be seen from the front of the building. There will be space to park 24 cars.

Traffic an issue or an upside?

Ruth Perkins of the board mentioned the importance of convenience and accessibility to people trying to shop on the street level. She added that there would undoubtedly be an increase in traffic.

Thomas responded to the concerns optimistically, claiming an increase in traffic is something the city should be aiming for.

“You want a traffic problem, we’re actually going for that. Not necessarily bumper to bumper, but we want more people to come downtown,” said Thomas. “When you bring people downtown you strengthen your businesses. When you strengthen your businesses more people want to come downtown. That’s a cycle that I can guarantee that Derby, Ansonia, and Seymour will abide.”

What exactly does the land swap do for the development plan?

Joe Matto said the realty company arranged a “land swap” with the city in order to speed up the process of building and to widen Bridge Street in exchange for a similar size property for parking.

Matto addressed some of the public’s concerns with parking.

“We didn’t really need to do the land swap from our point of view, but we were trying to accommodate the city,” said Matto. “Oddly enough when we laid out the city’s municipal parking lot behind the area that we would be getting from the town, everyone was concerned that if we took land out of the existing parking area as a part of the swap that it would result in less parking. Well, because of the way that it was configured, we actually ended up with the same amount of public parking, and private there’s an additional 17 spaces.”

Jim Swift, engineer for the project, said along with the increase in parking there will also be an increase in “green space,” which helps create a more welcoming image for the people in the city.

Project is on the brink of being approved

Thomas and the board concluded the meeting voicing their excitement for the project, as they believe it will bring an increase in business to downtown and life on the block.

The board said minor architectural details will need to be smoothed out before the plan is approved.