16-story Apartment Tower OKed for Stamford, Conn.

Mar. 1--STAMFORD -- The final design for a 16-story apartment tower off Summer Street won unanimous approval last night from the Urban Redevelopment Commission, clearing the way for construction to start this summer.

The 184-apartment tower, the second of four planned buildings in the Park Square West development, is to be built on land the URC will sell to Boston 184 development company Corcoran Jennison.

The first phase, a 143-unit apartment building on the eastern side of Summer Street with ground-floor retail and a pedestrian tunnel to Atlantic Street, opened in 2001.

Last night's vote marked a new start for a project delayed and forced into redesign by a lawsuit that blocked the city's attempt to seize the nearby Curley's Diner for the $150 million housing and retail development.

"A lot of water's gone under the bridge since we first selected your group," URC Chairman Stephen Osman told Corcoran Jennison President Marty Jones. "I have to compliment you for sticking with the project."

Corcoran Jennison intends to start construction this summer and finish by spring 2009, Jones said.

"We've always felt that Stamford and this particular site did present a great opportunity," she said. "We didn't think it was going to be so long."

The $50 million second phase, designed by Herbert S. Newman and Partners of New Haven, will go up on the west side of Summer Street, north of several commercial buildings that face West Park Place. It will include 11,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space facing Summer Street and on a new internal roadway south of the Crown Majestic movie theater.

The development will include 37 units -- 20 percent of the total number -- reserved for renters who earn less than 50 percent of the area median income. Of those, 23 would have permanent rent restrictions; the remaining 14 would be rent-restricted for 30 years. The one- and two-bedroom apartments would range from 738 square feet to 1,078 square feet.

The Zoning Board approved the project last month, but the URC and Corcoran Jennison were still negotiating final design and contract details.

Those details included redesigning the pedestrian bridge between the URC's existing parking garage and the apartment building's garage to make it more transparent, adding more windows to one side of the apartment building and moving above-ground electrical transformers to a less conspicuous location.

The contract with the URC requires the developer to start design work on the third and fourth buildings, planned for vacant land surrounding Curley's, soon after construction begins on the building approved last night.

In 2002, the state Supreme Court ruled the city could not seize the diner, owned by sisters Maria Aposporos and Eleni Begetissince 1977, because the city's decision to take it by eminent domain was based on an outdated 1963 finding that the property was blighted.

Corcoran Jennison and the URC had to redesign the project around the diner and the 5,700-square-foot lot it occupies. The third and fourth buildings are planned to include more than 200 additional apartments and about 20,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Stamford Advocate, Conn. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.