Developer behind Darien’s controversial 3 Parklands project considers website, restricted work hours

DARIEN — Now that the Planning and Zoning commission has approved the redevelopment of an office building at 3 Parklands Drive into multifamily housing, the project’s developer is addressing the backlash among neighbors who have repeatedly questioned the project’s scope.

Robert Gillon, the owner of Parklands LLC in Darien, purchased the 34,000-square-foot office building in Darien in 2005 after moving in as a tenant in 2001.

He brought the project to the Planning and Zoning commission in early 2020 with the intent to convert the building into a larger multi-residential complex that would have fallen under 8-30G, the state’s affordable housing statute.

Under that statute, municipalities cannot object to a housing development unless there are significant health or safety concerns.

“I could have done six stories and 80 to 100 units under 8-30G,” Gillon said. “I decided not to do that. And I decided to build something I thought was more in keeping with the neighborhood, with gables and bays.”

Gillon said construction on 3 Parklands will likely begin in early September and take around 14-16 months to complete. With that timeline, he said, new tenants could be ready to move in by the 2023 holiday season.

The 3 Parklands projects will have 60 units, ranging from studios to two-bedroom units. Studios will cost around $1,900 a month. One-bedroom units with added dens will be $3,500 a month while two-bedroom units plus dens will go for $4,200, Gillon said.

The project will also include eight units designated as affordable. Studios and one-bedroom units will cost roughly $1,200 while two-bedroom units will cost around $1,400 a month, Gillon said.

Gillon acknowledged that his immediate neighbors — including those on bordering Fairmead Road and the Residences at Selleck’s Woods, a recently-built senior care facility — have valid concerns about the project.

The 2018 construction of the senior care facility, which he proposed to redevelop but sold to the facility’s current owner who oversaw the construction process, caused a host of problems for nearby residents from drainage issues to undue noise, Gillon said.

This time around, Gillon said he will work to keep the line of communication with neighbors as open as possible. He and project manager Ken Woodfine are considering holding regular meetings with the senior care facility and other neighbors to inform them of the project’s status and give them the chance to air their concerns, he said.

“We’re available now, seven days a week,” Gillon said. He said he is also considering putting up a website to apprise neighbors of the latest building updates.

Hours of construction will be limited to a schedule, pending feedback from the senior care facility, he said.

To mitigate traffic congestion, Gillon said he would move the stop sign at the end of Parklands Drive closer into Old Kings Highway, to aid in driver visibility turning out onto the highway. They will also put in a crosswalk to slow traffic down, Gillon said, and are considering hiring a flagman during construction to guide traffic.

Gillon said he was blindsided by the commission’s abrupt call to slash the number of units to 40 during its last meeting on Feb. 15.

If that had happened, Gillon said he would have either appealed or pushed through a 100-unit building under the state’s 8-30G decision. Anything less than the 60 units that were ultimately approved would not have been financially feasible, Gillon said.

“I'm not trying to be hard nosed about it,” Gillon said. “I'm just saying it's got to make economic sense.”