Charter nears $9.6M buyout of Stamford zoning
STAMFORD — Telecommunication giant Charter Communications cleared its first hurdle this week in its pitch to expand its new South End headquarters, now being built just south of Interstate 95, atop the Gateway Garage.
The Planning Board recommended city approval of a multi-pronged change to Zoning Regulations and earlier plans that pave the way for the expansion. Charter’s ask calls for a nine-story building in addition to its 15-story tower, combined by a three-story block. The complex would be perched atop a voluminous garage, that too, Charter wants to expand.
Charter and the developer building the new headquarters, Building and Land Technology, are also offering a combined to $9.6 million buyout of two zoning mandates. Zoning Board members are expected to take up the matter for public hearing on March 18.
The Tuesday night recommendation, while unanimous, was not granted until hours of questioning from Planning Board members, who feared the plans call into question the future number of spaces for commuter parking near the Stamford Transportation Center.
At the crux of the parking quandary is Charter’s ask to bail from an earlier promise to house 500 commuter cars. The company wants to pull back those spaces and offers a $6.6 million buyout to do so, arguing a new nearly 1,000-spot state parking garage to rise on South State Street will cover any loss.
The problem is, it’s unclear where those commuters would go if the state is not finished with the new garage by Charter’s expected 2021 move in.
“Planning made it clear the onus is on Charter not the commuter,” said Land Use Bureau’s David Woods, the city’s deputy director of planning.
In a six-page memo to the Planning Board, Woods wrote that the city should insist that Charter and BLT create and pay for a interim parking plan “to make sure that sufficient commuter parking is available during all phases of construction of the Gateway buildings and the new state garage.
Although parking pullback is quickly proving the most controversial ask, its not the only change to earlier plans that Charter needs a city stamp on.
Charter also needs large edits to earlier plans and the zoning code for the nearly 300,000-square-foot addition it wants. It also wants a nearly 300 parking-space addition to its 1,722-space parking garage.
The 300-spot addition coupled with the 500-spot pullout had Planning Board members and city staffers questioning the parking need.
Charter’s proposed building has direct access to the train station, giving employees the ability to walk from platform to work.
“In particular for developments with direct access to the train station, the de facto increase of the parking ... is problematic and should be re-examined by the applicant and the board,” Woods wrote.
Planning, hewing closely to Wood’s memo, recommended the city look into the increase.
The board also said zoning should require Charter meet high environmental standards for its buildings and insist on landscape requirements for parking-garage roofs.
And in addition to the $6.6 million proposal in lieu of parking, Charter and BLT are offering to send the city $3 million for buyout of affordable housing mandates.
Although Charter’s HQ is all office, the zone in which it’s rising requires housing — 12 percent affordable — which the company doesn’t plan to include.
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