Land rich and penny poor, USPS and church yield to Stamford apartments


STAMFORD  First Presbyterian Rev. David Van Dyke stood before the Zoning Board Monday night and explained why the church wants to sell three acres of its land for a 175-unit apartment development.

“Like many mainline denominations in the Northeast, we have struggled with declining numbers,” he said of the dip in the people attending church. “We have been struggling with a budget deficit for two decades… We used to have three full-time clergy. Now, it’s just me.”

His iconic church, shaped like a fish and designed by architect Wallace K. Harrison, who designed the United Nations’ building, is in need of lots of deferred maintenance. His parish, while small, is still active and wants to launch new missions for the 21st Century. He also wants an endowment to support the church. So, the Presbyterians looked at their nearly 10 acre parcel on Bedford Street and agreed to sell more than 3 acres to a developer for apartments.

And Monday night, the Zoning Board held a public hearing on the plan to erect an apartment building on Morgan Street, going over the design and hearing concerns from residents mostly about traffic.

The hearing was continued as was the hearing on Atlantic Station, a 650-unit apartment high-rise development that involves an agency in a similar predicament to the church, the U.S. Postal Service.

Rich Cappelli and Associates want to build two high-rises on Atlantic Street and incorporate the old Atlantic Street Post Office into the development as retail space.

Like the church, the USPS is land rich but penny poor, posting a $354 million loss in the three-months ended Dec. 31, 2013. It has undertaken an aggressive restructuring as Americans use the mail less and electronic services more. One of the things the Post Office has in abundance is property, which it hopes to unload through sales.

However, the Post Office faces difficulty on that front. Like a church, the post office’s property is not just one man’s to hold. It is everyone’s and many of the facilities are historic. The Atlantic Street Post Office is one of them, having been built nearly 100 years ago.

When the USPS went to sell it, it ran into a problem. To expedite the sale, it characterized the Stamford deal as a relocation of service, but then closed the facility without designating a new location. It also took Cappelli’s bid, which was lower than a competing bid from a group that wants to turn the building into an art center.

That sparked a lawsuit from a California-based group trying to preserve old post offices, the competing bidder and a former post office box holder at the Atlantic office. An injunction has held up the sale of the post office to Cappelli.

On Monday night, Cappelli’s team of lawyers and architects explained to the Zoning Board that the group is ready to go forward with building the North Tower of the project until the remaining issues get hashed out. That would be a 325-unit high rise.

Like First Presbyterian, the hearing was continued after people spoke against the project, mainly objecting to the closing of the Post Office and the plan to remove a 1939 addition to make way for a road around the building, which would give access to the apartments.



Categories: General
Rob Varnon

6 Responses

  1. Debra Art Center Proposal says:

    Not only is Stamford a Developers town (Bad developers who don’t even know the styles of the National Trust Buildings that they are ready to
    demo) But they are allowed to present for approval, first in the Planning Board (Oh,and where are there studies that all of the proposed housing in needed?), why are they allowed to go against the Master Plan and why are they allowed to hear a proposal that isn’t owned by developer AND is under a Federal District injunction!
    Then the Zoning Board picks up and is on it’s third meeting as the plans continue to change. There go your firework dollars!(No fireworks for the Developers Town).

  2. Debra Art Center Proposal says:

    After working tirelessly on this project (as the Founder of the Center for Art & Mindfulness) for two and a half years (all non profit)lol…
    The Developer town is certainly ringing true. Why is Stamford vacant in the evenings and weekends? There is nothing to do. Cultural enrichment is a “RADICAL PROGRESSIVE” person’s vision that seems to never occur to the masses. Truly sad

  3. CKReed says:

    I got involved in politics to push back on nonsense like this. Our boards will cave, our mayor is in the pockets of the developers… No hope! Move why you still have the chance!

  4. Beth says:

    No one wants to PAY for the infrastructure required to support those extra people. I get it: Taxes are high, and confidence that our city government is spending money in the most efficient and effective way is low. (For now…this mayor might change that, but he’ll have to stand up to unions…not likely.) More apartments means more people spending money here to support local jobs, paying property taxes, etc., but there’s an immediate cost that is NOT immediately recouped.

  5. mc says:

    I hate to say it but I have little sympathy for car people in urban centers. The whole idea of urban living does not include cars. We tried that in the 50’s and lost many cities to the idea of the suburbs. I say build them and make em tall. Take the trolley in the South End and expand on it. Cars and malls (Town Center) need to go back to the burbs.

  6. Stamford Resident says:

    The Post Office site with 650 apartments: That is a traffic nightmare waiting to happen. Have you spent any time on Atlantic Street during rush hour near the Post Office? Between the huge buses, corporate vans, traffic gets backed up because there is little space between North State Street and Federal Street. Then you get traffic that backs up from I-95 and its a bigger nightmare.

    Say “NO” to this development.

    There is no way in HELL that the infrastructure can handle additional traffic, people, more school kids, etc.

    We need to halt new development unti this city comes to grips with its overbuilding and NO improvements to the roadways, schools, services, etc.