The Commons at Noroton Heights — Public hearings open for development
Federal Realty has unveiled its site plan for The Commons at Noroton Heights, the second and larger of two major redevelopment projects being proposed for the neighborhood.
The Commons would be a mixed-use development, replacing the portion of the shopping center that includes Stop & Shop and Walgreens. Federal is proposing a total of 122 one- and two-bedroom apartments for The Commons and plans to add about 30,000 square feet of commercial space. The development would introduce two three-story buildings with retail and restaurant space occupying the lower level and residential space on the second and third floors, as well as two single story retail structures. An underground parking deck would also be added to provide additional spaces for residents. Citibank, Chase and Equinox gym will remain in their current locations.
Darien’s Planning & Zoning Commission opened public hearings for The Commons site plan on Tuesday night, allowing representatives for The Commons to provide an overview of different aspects of the development. The commission passed amendments to the Noroton Heights overlay zone last year, limiting the scale and density of the proposed redevelopments. Improving the overall character of Noroton Heights and guiding redevelopment is listed as a priority in the Town Plan of Conservation & Development, the commission’s guiding document.
Before Federal Realty purchased the site area for the project, the property was primarily owned by Thomas Golden Realty Company. Beginning in 2007, Golden worked with the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission to define an overlay zone for eventual mixed-use development. Central tenants of the zone include encouraging affordable housing, reducing reliance on cars in the area and mitigating flood water management on Heights Road.
Both proposed developments, the Noroton Heights Shopping Center anchored by Palmer’s Market and The Commons, build on the “Golden plan,” aiming to make the area more pedestrian-friendly and welcoming to the public while respecting the nearby residential neighbors. The Palmer’s development was approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission last month with 57 new apartments planned along with another 4,100 feet in retail and restaurant space.
At The Commons, Federal plans to install pedestrian walkways going through the property from Noroton Avenue to Edgerton Street and from West Avenue to Heights Road, as well as several walkways within the new shopping area. An outdoor plaza would be placed at the corner of the Heights Road entrance providing a public meeting place and outdoor seating for a restaurant. The developers also showed plans for a public park on Noroton Avenue which helps satisfy the project’s requirement for open space.
Landscaping and lighting at the development has been designed to provide a buffer between the development and the surrounding neighborhood and limit the impact of the project. Sidewalks and pathways leading into Noroton Heights will be redesigned to provide easier access for the surrounding community as well.
In an effort to tackle the flooding problems in the area, Federal plans to install several culverts and an underground tank capable of holding four acre feet of water, or approximately 174,240 cubic feet. An engineer for the project said the new drainage system in the site area should reduce incidents of flooding by about 45 percent, though major five and 10-year storms would still cause some backup.
Public hearing for The Commons will continue next week, with representatives expected to report on the proposed parking, traffic patterns and pedestrian safety. Town peer reviewers will be also be on-hand to respond to the Federal’s storm drainage and traffic plans. P&Z Chairman John Sini said that Public Works Director Ed Gentile should also be on hand to help discuss the town’s own strategies in improving flood mitigation near Noroton Heights. Darien has also commissioned its own transit access study for Noroton Heights in an effort to improve parking and commuter strategies in the area.