GRANOFF: The Need for Apartments in Greenwich

Submitted by Rich Granoff, Founder of Granoff Architects. Granoff designed The Mill and The Modern

The Town of Greenwich recently updated their Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD), which clearly spells out the need for a “more diverse housing stock”. Single family homes make up the bulk of housing in Greenwich, which last year topped a whopping $3 million average price. There is a huge demand for apartments in our town, whether it be affordable units, market-rate rentals or luxury condominiums.

Affordable apartments allow our workforce of teachers, firefighters and policemen to live in the town that they serve and be closer to their jobs.  

Market-rate rentals provide an alternative to owning an expensive home, keep some residents from leaving town and allow newcomers to try out living in Greenwich.  And luxury condominiums provide much-needed homes for empty-nesters, young couples and part-time residents.

Recently-completed apartment buildings in Greenwich have proven to be a huge success, renting or selling before construction is even completed. These include:

J Lofts:  Apartment building on Old Track Road with a mix of market-rate and  affordable apartments.  100% occupancy since it’s completion 5 years ago.

The Mill: Two office buildings were converted to 57 market-rate rate rental apartments on Glenville Rd., overlooking  a waterfall on the Byram River. Most of the apartments were rented prior to completion of construction. There is now a waiting list.

The Modern on Field Point: 12 luxury condominiums recently built next to Town Hall. All were sold, at record prices, shortly after completion of construction. Most of the buyers were longtime residents who sold a home in Greenwich.

Given the demand for these apartments, why have there not been more built? There are two reasons:  First, property values are so high in Greenwich that it causes a financial barrier for most apartment development.  Second, the underlying Zoning of these properties does not allow sufficient development rights to make a project feasible.

The State of Connecticut has an “8-30g” statute that mandates our Town must have 10% of its housing stock be Affordable. Recently landowners and local developers have started using this statute to propose new apartment projects.  To note, these apartment buildings will have 30% of their apartments deemed Affordable, while the 70% balance will be market-rate. The NIMBY (“Not In My Backyard”) attitude has been that these projects will ruin our Town. But the reality is that adding a “diverse housing stock” will benefit Greenwich in many ways:

– Provide Workforce Housing for our teachers, policemen and firefighters – Add market-rate apartments for first-time buyers, empty nesters and many others who do not want to live in a house – Enliven our downtowns, by bringing more residents to our stores and restaurants; mostly walking -Increase property values for developable sites – Increase our tax revenue significantly, thereby lowering our property taxes – Improve the environment: The higher density of multi-family housing disturbs much less land per family than single family homes

Transit Oriented Development (TOD) is a planning tool that has become standard in most parts of our the country. Many of our neighboring towns in CT have adopted Zoning that encourages these multi-family apartment projects in their downtowns and close to commuter rail lines. These include Darien, New Caanan, Westport and Fairfield.  Greenwich has yet to adapt this concept.

It is interesting to note that during the 1930s, our town saw the construction of many large apartment buildings, most of them 6 or 7 stories tall with up to 100 units each. These were built on East Elm Street, Lafayette Place and Church Street. Today, these buildings have become a cherished part of the architectural fabric of Greenwich and the apartments are all fully leased or sold.

The CT 8-30g statute enables construction of much-needed new apartment buildings in the Town of Greenwich.  The market-rate apartments subsidize the Affordable units, in a system that actually works.  I applaud the development community in Greenwich that is working hard to make these apartment buildings a reality.

Rich Granoff is an Architect who has lived and worked in Greenwich for over 35 years