Downtown Darien Baywater Corbin Project Unanimously Approved Tuesday

After a long process and much community input and discussion, the downtown Corbin redevelopment has finally gotten the green light.

By a unanimous vote of 5 to 0, the Corbin Project was approved at Tuesday’s Planning & Zoning special meeting.

The Corbin Project is a mixed-use redevelopment of downtown Darien proposed by Baywater Properties. It has a 7.17-acre site area spanning from Corbin Drive to the Bank of America building on Post Road.

The project involves demolishing all buildings within the Corbin area and building a mixed-use development with retail, restaurant, office and residential uses; creating new off-street parking and internal drives; creating new public plaza areas; and  performing related site development activities within a regulated area.

Baywater’s plans for the area include 117 new one- and two-bedroom apartments and an increase in retail office and office space.

Existing office space would grow from 45,961 to 81,200 square feet while retail space would increase from 52,579 to 81,730 square feet. Another 16,910 square feet of restaurant space would be added to the ground level of the project.

The dozens of new apartments proposed for the downtown area are designed to appeal to adults without children who may be looking to downsize from a larger house.

P&Z members reviewed a final draft of the project at Tuesday’s meeting.

According to Planning & Zoning Director Jeremy Ginsberg, the application has some work in the flood zone. This work is going on next to the Goodwive’s River, which is the stormwater quality basin.

In regard to parking, commission members said any shared parking agreement has to be filed in the land records.

Ginsberg added that the local traffic authority is the arbiter of the location and signage of any on-street parking.

“It’s not the commission, it’s not the applicant,” he said.

It was also noted that there are no public streets that are part of this project; it involves all private streets.

On the topic of soil testing, it was noted that the applicant didn’t submit soil tests for the area under the existing buildings. A remedy to this, according to Ginsberg, is when it gets to that point, soil testing will be done and the matter will be addressed from based upon the results.

As a part of its obligations to local zoning, Baywater Properties must provide at least a dozen affordable apartments in conjunction with its downtown redevelopment, the Corbin Project.

However, rather than setting aside units in the project’s site area between Post Road and Corbin Drive, Baywater is proposing a separate assisted living facility for adults with disabilities that would be located on East Lane.

“This has been a long and complex process, but I’m confident Darien will be pleased with the final development,” said Planning & Zoning Chairman John Sini. “The applicant and the town have found a unique way to diversify our affordable housing stock by creating a zone that allows affordable housing for adults with special needs,” he said.

Baywater Properties Principal David Genovese said he is excited about the receipt of the final approvals required from the town for the project.

“We have been working on the project since 2005, and acquired the first properties in 2007,” Genovese said. “Our efforts to seek zoning and other land use approvals took over three years and required an incredible amount of work by our team and the various volunteers to Town of Darien boards and commissions.”

He added that last year, Baywater “significantly” changed the approach to the project. “We also took a long pause to reconsider the impact of internet retail on our bricks and mortar stores, as well as the potential impact on the retail landscape of the SoNo Collection Mall being built in Norwalk. We believe that the end result of all of the work and analysis is an even better project than the one we first proposed in 2015 — one that will have significant, positive impact on the quality of life of Darien residents.”

The goal is to begin construction in the spring or summer of 2019, with the completion of the first phase of the project targeted for the fall of 2020. Genovese said he hopes to complete the second and final phase of the project in 2022.

Baywater will be constructing 12 units of housing for adults with developmental or intellectual disabilities on East Lane.

Genovese said he is grateful for everyone who has shared their thoughts on the project over the years.

“We called the website for the project ‘Your Downtown Darien’ because while this is our project, it is, in fact, your downtown. We take very seriously our responsibility to create a great place where you can shop, dine with friends, live, work, or just pass a sunny afternoon on a bench reading a book.”