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Thread: Stamford, CT

  1. #1
    The Dude Abides
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    Default Stamford, CT

    City's Success Built on Power to Seize Land

    By PETER APPLEBOME

    Stamford, Conn.

    THE signs all over town herald Stamford as "The City That Works," a predictable enough bit of local boosterism with the added advantage of being mostly true - especially downtown, where Stamford's business district is by far the biggest success story in a state known for wealthy suburbs and distressed cities.

    There are a lot of reasons Stamford has done so well, with about 15 million square feet of office space under rent, most notably the home of the giant UBS international investment bank lured from Manhattan. But one of them stands out: Since the 1960's the city has been using its power of eminent domain, mostly in the 130 acres in its southeast quadrant, to take private property, assemble developable megaparcels and eventually turn them into the glistening, somewhat antiseptic downtown business district that is doing so well today.

    In the overheated petri dish of outrage that is American politics, there was something quite familiar about the calls for doing something, anything, immediately, yesterday, about the 5-4 Supreme Court decision last month that upheld the taking of private homes through eminent domain up Interstate 95 in New London. But as Connecticut legislators ponder calls for severe curbs on eminent domain, the experience in Stamford may say more about the issues than the overheated public debate.

    So while you can find cases of eminent domain applied in questionable ways, with New London perhaps one of them, almost lost in the public fulminating is that for cities having to compete with the vast acres of suburban sprawl, eminent domain is often the one effective way they can do it.

    The decision touched off the usual outrage over activist judges. Gov. M. Jodi Rell compared the "five robed justices" (it would be better if they disrobed?) to the king of England before the American Revolution. But skeptics say the ruling was the opposite of judicial activism, with the court declining to overturn state laws and local practices.

    "This wasn't activist judges taking the laws into their own hands," said Mayor Dannel P. Malloy of Stamford. "But talk radio has turned this whole thing upside down."

    NOT that there aren't important issues in New London, where 15 homeowners were holding out against a sprawling hotel and conference project to be built by a private developer, or elsewhere, like outside Syracuse where small business owners have fought to protect their businesses from being taken for the highly speculative DestiNY USA megaproject. At issue are cases of eminent domain not for roads or schools, but for private economic development projects promoted as having substantial public benefit.

    But officials with Connecticut cities and towns say the ones most at risk in this dispute are not homeowners, facing the infinitesimal risk their homes might be taken for a competing use, but cities facing declining tax bases and competition from suburbs with large inventories of available dirt.

    "You can't run an assembly line around some guy's porch. You can't have a building with six wings on it. Cities have to have some way to assemble rational pieces of land or there's no way they can compete with suburbs," said Michael W. Freimuth, Stamford's director of economic development.

    Robert M. Ward, the Connecticut House minority leader, says it is not that simple, that private developers can assemble properties on their own without eminent domain, and that it is never appropriate to take property from one owner, be it homeowner or business, for another. And, he said, there is a practical as well as a moral issue: Too often projects turn out to be duds.

    "More often than not the projects are failures," he said. "It's a fast, easy, lazy, unfair way of taking people's property."

    But it would be hard to prove that in Stamford, where the biggest downside may be too much traffic and growth. Michael Lawlor, co-chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said there are many issues worth reviewing - whether there should be a requirement that eminent domain be limited to properties in "blighted areas," and how to make that determination, whether there should be different standards for residences than businesses, and what proper compensation levels are. But those questions are better dealt with in a deliberative fashion than a post-ruling panic, he said.

    In Texas, for example, state senators rushed together a bill limiting eminent domain only to find, gasp, that it might apply to a proposed stadium for the Dallas Cowboys. Bowing to a recognition of what constitutes really important public uses, the proposed stadium was grandfathered in.

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  2. #2

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    Anyone have an update on new Stamford developments. Last I had heard the Connecticut place 350 footer was still not built and a new parking lot sits on the site making it look like it will never happen. any updates, i dont live up there anymore. curious

  3. #3

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    Is Connecticut Place the location opposite the UBS site, by Rt 95? If so, RBS has announced (it's a done deal) that it will place its US HQ there.

    It will move folks from Greenwich Capital and from NYC there. Initial employment at the site will number just less than 2000. The site will include what is being billed as the world's largest trading floor (UBS's trading floor currently holds that title). To accommodate the size of the floor, the road north of the site, Richmond Hill Ave, (parallel to I-95) is being moved north about 100 yds, and RBS has bought several plots of land on the other side of the current Richmond Hill Ave.

    Here's a map: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=e...,0.013057&om=1

    RBS will be on the north side of I-95, west of Washington Blvd (that curved bit of N. State St shown in the map doesn't actually exist). UBS is on the other side of Washington Blvd. The Stamford train station at Station Place, with an exit on the north of I-95, just east of Washington Blvd.

    Stamford train station is going to be very busy. This also, by the way, makes Stamford without question the second-leading I-banking/trading city in the NY area, if not the US. It's the only place outside of Manhattan where two major banks will have major front-office businesses.


    Quote Originally Posted by Scruffy88
    Anyone have an update on new Stamford developments. Last I had heard the Connecticut place 350 footer was still not built and a new parking lot sits on the site making it look like it will never happen. any updates, i dont live up there anymore. curious

  4. #4

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    Awesome. Ive figured CT place was a dead project since they paved over the lot and made it a parking lot.

    Thanks VC

    Is there any more info on the structure and what size it will be?

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by vc10
    ...RBS has announced (it's a done deal) that it will place its US HQ there...Stamford train station is going to be very busy.
    Transit-oriented development at its best. Fill up those outbound morning trains with reverse commuters.

  6. #6

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    stamford is awesome. and if midtown manhattan continues to have rents between 75-100 bucks per square foot, more companies are going to be priced out of Manhattan and straight to Stamford CT

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by vc10
    Is Connecticut Place the location opposite the UBS site, by Rt 95? If so, RBS has announced (it's a done deal) that it will place its US HQ there.
    Is the rbs you refer to the royal bank of scotland?

  8. #8

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    stamford is awesome.
    No comment.

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    ^ what does that mean? Im not saying its better than NYC or anything, but I do think its awesome. Its bettered itself so much in 20 years, it has a very vibrant nightlife. Several Fortune 500 headquarters and a beautiful location on the sound. Sits right on the interstate 95 corridor and has a major transit center for easy access to NYC and amtraks to Boston. Its about to go through another building boom. I think they have done a good job. Im actually planning on making a documentary about it. But you hear CT and all of a sudden, people start hating on it. Im curious why? Are there reasons or just gut reactions

  11. #11

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    I'm curious as to what there is to Stamford beyond glass boxes hosting the offices of corporations too timid (or perhaps too tax-sheltered) to headquarter themselves in New York. All in all, it really seems like little more than a highly built up office park.

  12. #12

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    ^ When the documentary comes out, we may find out.

    Actually, Scruffy enumerates Stamford's strengths, and they're real enough. Problem is, they're more than vitiated by the truly abominable urban design and the consistently lamentable architecture. Someone needs to completely revise downtown Stamford's zoning ordinance and its design review procedures (if there are any).

    Stamford's booming, but it's still nowhere. Reminds me of San Jose.

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    San Jose has things like a civic centre with landmark architecture and a light rail transit system. It actually seems, to some extent, like a coherent and independent city. Stamford shares no such features.

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    All true, but Stamford is still unique in Connecticut as basically the only Connecticut city of any size that isn't a failure (unlike Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, etc). No, it's not wonderful, but it's not a failure either.

    Probably the biggest thing I would change if I was dictator would be to redevelop the public housing project that separates UBS (and the new HSBC building once it's there) from downtown. UBS gives its employees incentives not to leave the building during the day (e.g. meal subsidies) but even without that, the housing project is in the way of any UBSer who might venture outside... Downtown should be extended towards UBS and HSBC.

    Quote Originally Posted by czsz
    San Jose has things like a civic centre with landmark architecture and a light rail transit system. It actually seems, to some extent, like a coherent and independent city. Stamford shares no such features.

  15. #15

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    I wouldn't call other Connecticut cities failures. Not as economically successful, sure, but that's merely one standard of measurement. New Haven is virtually subsidised by Yale but many parts come out looking fine. Plus it has quite a few excellent restaurants...not to mention streetlife period, something which is conspicuously absent from Stamford.

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