Developer proposes Stamford skyscraper to replace South End industrial lot: ‘The area is changing’


STAMFORD — A property developer wants to turn the dregs of the South End’s industrial past into the area’s newest skyscraper at 441 Canal St.

“We see it as a site which is a gateway to the South End,” the developer’s solicitor, William Hennessey, told the Zoning Board on Monday.

Heyman Properties offered 401 apartments in total, with 429 corresponding parking spaces. On the ground floor, 441 Canal will feature over 7,000 square feet of ground floor retail space. Hennessey said the hope was to attract a small restaurant, something convenient for residents “while appealing to the public”.

A few blocks to the north, other buildings executed similar efforts. The Urby luxury apartment building is home to the Roost Cafe and attached to the Ferguson Library is the Winfield Street Cafe. Both locations serve beer and wine in addition to typical cafe fare, and Hennessey outlined a similar vision for the prospect building.

The plot faces Dock Street to the north, John Street to the west and Canal Street to the east. It is half a mile from the Stamford transport hub, placing it within the boundaries of Stamford’s transit-oriented development district.

While the proposal is for a structure on four consolidated lots, the building is presented as two. In the models, the tower starts out sturdy and surrounded by trees. A public square is on one side. After the eighth floor, it splits into two sections – each of 18 floors.

The “highly stylized” retail space, as Hennessey described it, and the proposed public plaza opposite are both functions of the location. Because it’s within walking distance of the station and in such a visible location, making the streetscape as attractive as possible became a priority, Hennessey said.

The main streets of the South End all cover the proposed development site, Hennessey explained, which he said underlines the “responsibility of the developer on the site to do something a little different”. It also doubled as 441 Canal as a “gateway” parcel for the community.

Footbridges are not new to the neighborhood. The word became synonymous with development in the South End more than 10 years ago, when developer Building and Land Technology sought approvals to build the long-debated Gateway site, now Stamford’s home for Charter Communications.

Negative impact or “necessary improvement”?

Although Heyman Properties sees prime real estate, manufacturers have traditionally defined this area – as much of the South End. The site was once used as a lumberyard. The steel-framed buildings housed a bank, as well as an antiques gallery and housewares store in recent years. Nearby, industrial uses persist.

“A few hundred yards up Canal Street are the scrapyard, transfer station and asphalt plant, and across the canal is the city’s sewage treatment plant,” said pointed out South End activist Sue Halpern during the public comment session on Monday. Halpern argued that nearby uses posed threats to future residents. The environmental rehabilitation needed to build on the Canal 441 site, she said, would negatively impact air quality for the current sites.

But where Halpern saw the dangers of the industry, other South Enders saw an opportunity to clean it up.

City Rep. Terry Adams, D-3, called the proposal a “much-needed improvement” over the antique shops that previously cluttered the block and could facilitate a pedestrian connection between downtown and his constituency. And although fellow South End activist Sheila Barney expressed concerns about the general state of development in the area, she agreed the canal project could usher in a new era for the community.

“The area is changing,” Barney said. She noted that industrial businesses like waste hauler B&S Carting had moved out of the neighborhood as development encroached. Maybe more residential construction in places like the 441 Canal could bring about a cleaner South End, she said.

If approved, Hennessey said it expects construction to take around 30 months, pushing the completion date to at least late 2024.

The zoning board will again discuss the 441 Canal Street proposal and the corresponding zoning map proposed by the developer at its May 9 meeting.

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