Major residential-retail development proposed for Route 7

A rendering of part of the development proposed for Route 7 by Wilton Heights LLC.
A rendering of part of the development proposed for Route 7 by Wilton Heights LLC.

A sizeable development combining residential and retail is being proposed for the Crossways property at 300 Danbury Road at the intersection with Route 33 in Wilton.

Wilton Heights LLC, a partnership of individuals from Fairfield County, filed plans Wednesday, May 9, with Planning and Zoning for 74 residential units and 15 retail units on the 7.4-acre site. With a downtown-type design, five buildings would house apartments above retail within 1,000 feet of the Wilton train station.

According to Paxton Kinol, a spokesperson for Wilton Heights LLC, he expects the two-bedroom, two-bathroom rental units would appeal to both millennials and empty nesters based on what he has seen happening in Norwalk.

“In Norwalk, we have seen a huge number of move-downs from Wilton and Westport,” he told The Bulletin. “I would guess that population would rather stay in Wilton and Westport but there’s just no product.

“This is designed to be all two-bedroom for the 55 and older move-down group that wants that extra bedroom,” he said. “It’s not really a place for young families, but we might get some millennials as well. Millennials and the 60s [age group] want the same thing — an urban environment, walkability, and convenience to retail downstairs.”

According to a press release, the proposed development includes what appears to be five separate structures with retail parking in front and on the sides and residential parking hidden from view under the buildings. Some of those buildings are actually connected, so there are really two large structures.

There are two and one-half stories of residential above one story of neighborhood-type retail that will be broken into five to 10 separate businesses. Kinol said he expects most retail would be local businesses, with one anchor box that could be 9,000 to 13,000 square feet.

The second floor above the retail space would be one-floor apartments. Above them would be the same apartment layout but with stairs to an attic loft above the kitchen with access to a rooftop balcony.

Except for 22 apartments that would face Route 7, the rest would be hidden from view, he said.

According to the plans, the architecture would be historic in nature with a gray shingle-style structure at the north end of the north building connected to a white federal-style structure in the middle, which is connected to a brick mill building that runs perpendicular along the south edge of the north building. The south building includes a white, shingle-style structure on its north side and a Connecticut yellow federal-style structure on the south side connected in an L-shape. The rear of both buildings is monotone brown shingle-style to minimize the visual impacts for the neighbors through the woods in winter.

The 7.4-acre site plan includes more than three acres of wooded upland and wetland areas that will remain and become deed-restricted from future development, the press release says.

“This site plan will provide a large buffer from neighbors to the east and south similar to what exists currently,” the release says. “There is an existing 200-foot wooded and deed-restricted area immediately to the south buffering the new development from the Crown Pond multi-family homes and Wilton Heights LLC has agreed to work cooperatively with neighbors to the north to increase the landscape buffer on both sides of that property line.”

Kinol said there is some environmental contamination of the property from past businesses, which the developers will remediate.

In the press release, Kinol said, “We believe we are different than most developers in that we try to work with the town, community groups and neighbors to address specific needs in a cooperative manner. We identified two issues or needs within Wilton over the past several years and have worked with the guidance of many residents to find a site which could help address those issues.

“Those needs are (1) a lack of quality multifamily housing in the downtown area for an aging population which is able-bodied today but would like the convenience of one-story living for the future and (2) additional tax dollars from Wilton Center to offset the rising tax burden on the single-family homeowners.”

Kinol, who used to work in an office on River Road, said Wilton should “take back” from the state the section of Route 7 between Orem’s Diner and the train station.

“I used to run on the paths here,” he said. “I never understood why Route 7 was so underdeveloped. It’s unfair the state tried to make it a highway. With the town trying to build a pedestrian bridge [linking the train station to Wilton Center] that caught our attention.

“We looked, there are 12 sites available between Cannondale and Orem’s. We picked this one because we thought it was the right one for the mixed-use development the town wants.”

“We will propose some traffic-calming ideas over the coming month that will make this area much more attractive and allow for better pedestrian access while not reducing the traffic capacity that passes through each day,” he said.

“Wilton needs a better downtown,” he said. “Older people and younger people want a better downtown.”

Purchase of the property is not yet complete, although it is under contract, Kinol said, adding “as soon as P&Z is ready we’ll go.”