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A Real Recovery

Much like the effort to push a boulder up a hill, Stamford’s housing market over the past several years has struggled, gaining several inches only to roll back a few.

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While the sales market has strengthened in Stamford, fancy, gleaming rental towers continued to sprout like mushrooms after rain, as they have in the years since the recession began. “Stamford has really evolved into a twenty-four hour urban location,” says Ted Ferrarone, COO of Harbor Point, the massive mixed-use neighborhood in the South End which, once completed, will include roughly 4,000 apartments for rent. “There’s no city like [Stamford] in Fairfield County. It has great diversity, a great nightlife, a great downtown, an active waterfront and parks. People want to live here.”

To give people what they want, the Harbor Point developer, Building and Land Technology (BLT), opened the 228-unit 111 Harbor Point at 111 Towne Street last summer and the Postmark Apartments at 301 and 401 Commons Park South, a 402-unit rental in adjoining nine-and twelve-story towers, earlier this year. Later this spring will bring the opening of the 107-unit tower at 110 Towne Street, which, along with the 252-unit 120 Towne Street now under construction, will bring the awaited completion of the twenty-acre Yale & Towne complex.

But just because developers continue to build rentals doesn’t mean they don’t recognize that people signing leases today might consider purchasing that apartment tomorrow.

Many of the rentals can be converted to condos fairly easily should the market winds shift even further, says Randy Salvatore, the president of RMS Companies, whose units, like those of other developers, were built with roomy layouts and stylish extras largely for that purpose. “If I need to, I can turn my buildings around,” says Salvatore, whose units sport condo-quality stone counters and bamboo floors.

Last year saw the opening of The Moderne, a fifty-eight-unit property RMS developed at 163 Franklin Avenue. Also, after buying a property at 750 Summer Street for $3.5 million, and winning a zoning change, RMS also broke ground on another fifty-eight-unit project, where one-bedrooms are expected to rent for $2,100 a month. Salvatore says he has another 118-unit project in the works.

In 2013, other rental towers got underway from the South End to Springdale, and included some affordable complexes too.

The list includes a 344-unit rental rising at 75 Tresser Boulevard, where The Advocate newspaper was located for decades; though the building did not open last fall as planned, it’s expected to welcome renters some time this year.

Earlier this year, foundations were being poured for Summer House at 184 Summer Street, a 224-unit rental from a team that includes longtime local firm F. D. Rich Company. Slated to wrap up in 2015, the building will feature 3,000 square feet of storefront for a restaurant, dry cleaner or florist, says Tom Rich, F. D. Rich’s president, who adds that “there are so many things that the growing residential population needs.” What seems certain is that Summer House, at twenty-two stories, will be a skyline game changer.

What’s more, Malkin Properties and Jonathan Rose Companies unveiled a plan for a second phase of their Metro Green development by the train station, which would have 155 affordable units across two buildings, joining the 100 units that are already there.

A significant piece of long-anticipated real estate news to come down the pike is that the “hole in the ground” across from Stamford Town Center—a muddy reminder of both the urban renewal era and failed development schemes—is poised to get 700 apartments, arrayed in a circle of six-story buildings.

Other pieces dropping into place on renewal parcels, about five decades after Stamford razed its aged downtown to make way for corporate highrises, include 66 Summer Street from Trinity Financial, a Boston developer. The $46-million project will feature a fifteen-story, 209-unit rental tower, says Maixuan Phan, a project manager for Trinity, plus 6,600 square feet of retail, which is slated for a restaurant. “It’s clear that there’s urban vibrancy here, which is attractive,” Phan says.

Though this Summer Street development most recently contained a parking lot, the site, next to Bow Tie Cinemas, is also part of the footprint of Park West Village, an earlier development that never completely came to fruition.

But it wasn’t for lack of trying. In the 1990s the city tried to seize nearby Curley’s Diner through eminent domain, though the state Supreme Court ultimately put a stop to it, ruling in the diner’s favor.

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