WILTON – A national development corporation is looking to build nearly 400 apartments and townhouses along the Wilton Mall.
Pending the city’s change to its current code, Paramount Development is looking to purchase two lots totaling just over 13 1/2 acres on the northeast side of the mall for the more than $100 million project.
The Florida-based company has developed 200 rental apartment communities in dozens of states, said Tom Snell, a Paramount Development partner who recently met with city of Wilton officials. The focus is on high-end or luxury apartments. “What we see in the Wilton Mall is something that has some momentum. We are doing very well in retail,” Snell told the Wilton Town Board.
The current owner of these acres is the Macerich Company, based in Santa Monica, Calif., which has owned and operated the mall land since 2004. They own approximately 95 acres in all. In adjacent properties, JC Penney owns just over two acres, and LBW Saratoga – occupied by BJ’s, owns just under four more acres.
The potential project, which would take place on the northeast side of the mall past Dick’s Sporting Goods, envisions nearly 400 residential units consisting of just under 300 apartments and around 90 townhouses to be developed in phases over nearly of 14 acres of property. A swimming pool, basketball court and wine club are also planned. A joint petition has been filed on behalf of Paramount Development and Macerich with the city to change the zoning code.
“We’ve been working on it for about a year,” said David Carr of LA Group, headquartered in Saratoga Springs.
Carr said the plan is to remove the BonTon building and develop two phases of apartments and townhouses. “The mall property is made up of 101 acres. It is made up of four plots. There is one large plot and three interior plots. There’s a bunch of pad around BJ’s, and JC Penney, and around Dick’s Sporting Goods. The idea is to do away with BonTon, to develop the first phase, which would be around 250 units in four buildings, with underground parking and amenities in the ring road,” Carr said.
“If you’ve been to the mall, the retail industry has undergone a sea change – and not in a good way,” Wilton Mall real estate director Mike Schafer told the board. “In 2018 our BonTon closed, in 2020 our Sears closed.” At its peak in 2016, the mall generated approximately $95 million in sales. By February of this year, it was down to just $55 million. “This represents a sales tax loss of approximately $44 million with the retailers we lost. This is therefore a real loss of sales tax revenue for the city. Sales in the mall have dropped by half,” he said.
“As owner and proprietor, we need to reposition the mall for future growth to maintain tax revenue here in Wilton. We see the residential addition as a catalyst to help attract and entice future tenants, including restaurants and entertainment, which we frankly don’t have right now,” Schafer said. “At this time we are still in decent condition but the residential addition to the property at the end of the mall which at this time is not attracting any interest so we are looking for a zoning overlay to allow residential uses and others.
Paramount is still finalizing plans for its project. Pending council approval to adopt the rezoning, Paramount would submit a subdivision and site plan application to the planning board for review. The board raised the idea that the project could be designed as a development of planned units. If the project continues to move forward, a public hearing will be held.
City discusses how to spend funds received through US stimulus package
The city discussed how to apply the $870,000 in funding it received this year through the American Recovery Plan Act. The amount corresponds to funding from previous years. Wilton received a total of just over $1.7 million through the federal plan over two years. This funding must be targeted for use by the end of calendar year 2024 and spent by December 2026, or it must be returned.
As a result of its discussion, City Council unanimously passed a resolution to allocate $100,000, of the grant, to nonprofit organizations with acceptable applications that serve, reside, or have a branch in the City of Wilton.