153-unit Wilton Center proposal returns with plans on ‘right path’

WILTON — A group representing KIMCO Realty returned to the Planning and Zoning Commission with a more favorable reception to a reworking of plans for a Wilton Center mixed-use development.

After the project was largely panned at a pre-application meeting in December of last year, KIMCO representatives and members of Cube 3 Architecture returned with tweaks to the design, retail element and overall feel that curried more favor with the zoning commissioners, albeit not a unanimous coup.

The plan is to use the space near the southernmost tip of Wilton Center, next to the Stop & Shop plaza and across from Schenck’s Island. Developers propose transforming adding 153 housing units while retaining the retail elements on the street-level to attract passersby — something that commissioners challenged the architecture team to incorporate before returning for another pre-application meeting.

Zoning Chairman Rick Tomasetti called the updated plans “much improved” from a planning perspective, while admitting there may still be “a ways to go” on the architectural side.

“I do think you’re on the right path, I would say,” Tomasetti said.

The plans call for two buildings. One has frontage on River Road with 87 housing units that also incorporates a commercial element with storefronts and plans for head-in car parking and a possible bicycle lane. The second would be an all residential building set back in the lot with 66 planned units.

The multi-use building near the curb is currently planned to be three-stories in the front but four from the rear, while the strictly residential building is planned for four stories. These details, like many, are subject to change as the project is still in a pre-application phase.

Nick Brown, representing KIMCO, noted that the redesign wanted to address giving the property “a more active edge” with River Road that would allow for it to “engage better with pedestrians” as they walked by.

“So that was also something we studied,” Brown said, “the importance of outdoor dining to the community and creating those opportunities with ambiance was also a priority and then focusing on encouraging that engaging streetscape.”

Commissioner Christopher Pagliaro who, like Tomasetti, is an architectural professional by trade, agreed that the renewed plans are a “step in the right direction.”

The town has pushed for a revitilzation of this area of its downtown, especially in regards to vacant storefronts — a key note that Brown said plays a role in the desire for redevelopment of the area. Wilton Center is also currently undergoing a master planning process that is expected to be completed some time this fall.

Brown said that constructive feedback is still highly valued by his group, and not all of the commissioners’ sentiments were glowing.

Numerous commissioners suggested ways to reimagine the space between the two proposed buildings where an office building owned by KIMCO currently sits, as well as some added parking.

Commissioner Jill Warren said that the group was “striking the right idea,” but called the current setup awkward. She hoped to see the possible addition of a plaza to “pull people off of the road and back into the development.”

Pagliaro discussed his desire to retain the movie theater space, which is owned by the KIMCO group and has not been open since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. He referenced the importance of movie theaters to a neighborhood where some of its school-age population recently said it travels to other towns to hang out on nights and weekends. Pagliaro said it shouldn’t be something completely off of the table, even if it takes a public-private partnership with the town.

The group will now reevaluate after the latest, more favorable response by the commissioners and look to further redesign to move to the next step in the application process.