Baywater unveils new site plan for downtown Corbin Project

A rendering from Baywater for its new downtown site plan.

After spending roughly a year working to redesign the Corbin Project, Baywater Properties has revealed a full site plan for the downtown redevelopment venture. Baywater Principal David Genovese first introduced the redesigned project with Beinfield Architecture in December, but with the site plan now complete, local residents and town leaders will soon have an opportunity to weigh in.

The Corbin Project area spans from the current Bank of America Building on Post Road to the intersection of Corbin Drive and Old Kings Highway South. Genovese has been consistent in his desire to make downtown Darien a premier shopping destination while maintaining the small New England character of the town. With a rapidly changing retail landscape and the pending arrival of The Sono Collection, Norwalk’s $525 million, 700,000-square-foot mall, the Corbin Project has faced no shortage of challenges.

Baywater has proposed a mixed-use development with 117 new one- and two-bedroom apartments and an increase in retail office and office space. Existing office space would be grow from 45,961 to 81,200 square feet while retail space would increase from 52,579 to 81,730 square feet. Another 16,910 square feet of restaurant would be added to the ground level of the project as well.

The dozens of new apartments proposed for the downtown area are designed to appeal to adults without children who may be looking to downsize from a larger house. Realtors and town officials alike have expressed concern with retired residents choosing to move away from Fairfield County due to a lack of appropriate and available housing. Two approved projects in Noroton Heights proposed by Palmer’s Market and Federal Reality also chose to pursue mixed-use development for this reason.

While the increase in size is substantial, the redesigned site plan is significantly less dense than Baywater’s previous proposal. The Corbin Project would consist almost entirely of three-story buildings with a single four-story building setback from the Post Road; the town’s Planning & Zoning had previously approved buildings of up to five-stories based on Baywater’s old design. The first level of those buildings would be filled by retail shop and restaurants while the upper levels house office space and apartments.

Another of the goals of the project is to establish Corbin Drive as the “Main Street” of downtown Darien. Running perpendicular to the often crowded Post Road, the redesigned Corbin would have a larger emphasis on walkability to make navigating the downtown area more efficient for shoppers and the new residents. A large town green, five times the space of the Grove Street Plaza, would be created in the area alongside other pedestrian-friendly amenities like a market lane for outdoor pop-up shops.

“The re-development of the Corbin Block represents an important opportunity to reinforce Darien’s downtown as the vital pedestrian oriented center of town. Street level retail and restaurant uses will add critical mass to the shopping district,” a Baywater presentation to the town’s Architectural Review Board reads. “Residents will live in a truly walkable community in which they can commute into the city, go to the grocery store, clothes shopping or out to dinner and the movies, without needing their cars.”

Solving the parking problems downtown has been a major crux of the Corbin Project, and was a major factor in Genovese’s decision to redesign the proposal. In order to satisfy density of the original design, Baywater had proposed a two-level underground parking deck with more than 700 spaces. However, after factoring amenities like proper lighting and easy elevator access, the price came out to 50% or 70% more than what was first expected.

Instead, Baywater will build a single level underground parking facility with about 300 parking spaces, 122 of which are reserved for Corbin Project residents. An above ground parking structure with about 300 has been proposed at the current Bank of America building and would be hidden by the surrounding structures. The rest of the site would use street level parking, bringing the total parking supply to 805 spaces.

Baywater is also requesting the Planning & Zoning Commission amend zoning regulations to allow the project to fulfill affordable housing requirements at a separate location in town. To full the requirement of 15% affordable units, Baywater is offering to provide 12 units of affordable housing for seniors or adults with special needs on East Lane, along with two affordable units within the main project area. A contribution would also be made to the town’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

The Corbin Project will be subject to public hearings at the Environmental Protection Commission on July 11 and the Planning & Zoning Commission on July 17 and July 31. To learn more about the project and view the presentation on the site plan delivered to the Architectural Review Board on June 19, visit YourDowntownDarien.com.