Connecticut Boom Town
City of Stamford, Connecticut
Stamford Connecticut is in the midst of a major $6 billion building boom. Driven by business opportunity, a high quality of life, and relatively low real estate prices, new developments are popping up throughout the city – and people are pouring in to fill almost every available space.
“We are running about a 92 to 96 percent occupancy rate on most of our apartments,” says Thomas Madden, Stamford’s Director of Economic Development. “Developers just cannot build apartments fast enough.” Office space is in equally high demand, with a 96 percent occupancy rate in prime office locations in the city around the train station.
A host of new projects are underway to accommodate the increasing number of people who want to live and work in Stamford. “Approximately $6 billion worth of development is ongoing or planned for Stamford,” says Mr. Madden. This includes at least 7,600 new apartments in the Downtown and South end areas, civic improvements that will open public access to the waterfront, and new development around the city’s bustling train station. In addition, the University of Connecticut–Stamford is building student dorms and Stamford Hospital is taking on a half billion-dollar renovation and upgrade.
Located in the South End of the city, Harbor Point is one of the largest redevelopment projects underway in the United States. The massive, $3.5 billion waterfront project includes everything from new apartments and boardwalks to restaurants, offices, retail space, and marinas. “That has opened up all the waterfront access that city residents never had before,” Mr. Madden explains. The once industrial site now takes full advantage of its proximity to the sound and has become a premier destination for shopping, dining, recreation, and waterfront living. “It’s absolutely incredible when you go down at night and see everyone taking in the waterfront.”
As part of the overall master plan for the City, a series of walkways are in the works that will eventually link Stamford’s downtown with its waterfront, creating a more walkable city that takes full advantage of its outdoor resources. “We will have a connection for our downtown residents to go right down to the water.”
Stamford’s downtown is also enjoying substantial new development. Stamford’s infamous Parcel 38 – a large empty lot that was left undeveloped for years in the heart of downtown – is finally being filled. Urban Ready Living, an 11-building apartment complex with 672 residential units and over 5,000 square feet of ground floor retail is planned for the site. Construction is expected to begin later this year.
Stamford’s downtown is also the future site of Atlantic Station, whose twin 21-story towers with 650 apartments and 42,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space will remake the corner of Atlantic Street. Morgan Loft’s 175 residential units are already under construction and expected to open next year. Rippowam Place will add 118 residential units, 1,500 square feet of retail space, and 4,200 square feet of restaurant space to Washington Boulevard. Located beside Stamford’s City Hall, the new development “is going to change that entire corner going into Columbus Park.” A new walkway will whisk residents to Mill River Park, located nearby. Park Square West Phase IV will have 209 residential units overlooking Mill River Park once construction is completed. 66 Summer Street just opened in May and offers 209 residential units and 6,600 square feet of retail within a 15-story tower and 184 Summer Street with its 226 residential units and 2,700 square feet of retail space will be opening in the Fall of 2015.
Stamford’s new office buildings host a wide range of businesses. In fact, the city’s diversified economy is one of the key reasons why Stamford has become so successful. Traditionally a stronghold for insurance and finance, the city has recently become a major destination for the digital media sector. NBC Sports, Yes Network, WWE network, A&E Network, and Emcompass Digital Media are all based there, as well as Indeed.com and Kayak and around 25 smaller web companies. In total, the city is home to four fortune 500 companies, nine fortune 1000 companies, and thirteen Courant 100 companies.
Low rents are drawing companies away from the Big Apple to this Connecticut suburb. As Mr. Madden explains, “Our apartments are about half the price of New York City’s; our office space price is also about half the price of New York City’s.” Furthermore, these lower prices buy much more than most people could expect from New York City’s real estate market. “Would you rather have an apartment that looks at a brick wall, or would you rather have an apartment that looks out over water across Long Island Sound? It is really about quality of life.”
This quality of life goes far beyond spacious and reasonably priced waterfront housing to include a wealth of recreational opportunities. The city boasts plenty of beaches, nature trails, and green spaces, including Mill River Park and Greenway, a 28-acre Park and three-mile greenway that leads from the Downtown to Stamford Harbor which has begun to serve as a catalyst for residential development, corporate and commercial growth. This “mini Central Park” is providing a new model for redefining urban life and attracting both young and retired people as urban residents who want to work and live in close proximity without compromising quality of life.
As well, foodies appreciate the city’s many restaurants. “There are close to one hundred restaurants in the downtown alone, which is absolutely amazing,” Mr. Madden remarks. “They cover every type of cuisine imaginable. The City has some very beautiful, high-end restaurants that serve some absolutely amazing food, and some terrific greasy spoon spots that I absolutely love. We have a place to eat for everyone.” One of the city’s hottest new dining destinations is Paloma, a Latin inspired grill whose chef/partner is food network star Aarón Sánchez.
The Stamford Symphony is the only fully professional orchestra in southern Connecticut that plays at the 1586-seat Palace Theatre. “You have this incredible talented symphony in our own backyard.” The community actively supports numerous events, such as an outdoor concert series that takes place every Wednesday and Thursday throughout the summer at Columbus Park in the Downtown. These concerts attract so many people – between 10,000 and 20,000 people per concert – that the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has to run extra trains into Stamford on concert night. Stamford also hosts many races throughout the year, from 5Ks and triathlons to a Spartan Kids Race.
Stamford’s Chelsea Piers is one of the most renowned sports and recreational facilities in America. The massive complex has everything from an Olympic-sized swimming pool, dance studio and squash court to indoor soccer, tennis, and lacrosse, as well as an ice skating rinks, fitness gym, and batting cages. The organization has sports leagues and competitive teams as well as instructional programs for both children and adults.
Located less than an hour’s train ride from New York City, Stamford is quickly becoming a destination in its own right. Currently, about 20,000 people depart from Stamford each day via train and about 20,000 arrive. By next year, the number of people entering the city each day is expected to surpass the number leaving.
The city is doing everything it can to ensure that businesses wanting to take advantage of all that Stamford has to offer can easily make the move. For instance, the Economic Development team is currently creating a special website that will walk entrepreneurs through every step they need to launch their business in the community. “It is very hard to navigate the red tape of most governments,” Mr. Madden points out. “So we are trying to make it as easy as possible for anybody who would like to start a business in Stamford.” The website will help new businesses obtain the necessary permits and give them information on resources including various incentives, grants, and loans that may be available.
Incentives that may help incoming businesses are available through an Enterprise Zone and an Entertainment District, “which a lot of the digital media companies are taking advantage of.” Stamford also has an urban jobs program through the state that targets companies that are creating a large number of jobs. “We work very closely with the state on getting the right package for each business,” Mr. Madden adds. “In fact, I just had a meeting this morning in Westchester County with a manufacturing company looking to come to Stamford. We sat down and tailor made a package for them to help facilitate the move and get them the equipment and training that they will need to be able to expand and be successful within Stamford.”
With all the development that is taking place in Stamford, there is ample office space that is planned to be constructed for incoming businesses to occupy, and plenty of quality housing for employees. Maintaining a careful approach to this deluge of development will be key moving forward. “We are taking a very structured approach to the growth in Stamford,” Mr. Madden states. “We want to make sure that we continue to be a very livable community that caters to needs of all our residents and visitors.”