Neighbors Weigh in on Proposed Residential Development at Former Honda Site

At the former Honda dealership on Mason Street where pop-up stores occupy the empty buildings, plans are in the works for an 8-3og affordable housing development.

CGS 8-30g is the state affordable housing statute that applies to towns in Connecticut where less than 10% of their housing stock is affordable. Until Greenwich achieves 10% developers are exempt from local zoning if they submit under 8-30g.

The pre-application was part of Tuesday’s Planning & Zoning agenda and attorney Tom Heagney was accompanied by Joshua Caspi of Caspi Development who said he lives in town himself and was familiar with Mason Street.

The development site includes the former Honda sales and service buildings, but also 405 Greenwich Ave and an adjacent multi family house on Mason Street.

Several properties sold for about $21 million, including 275, 290and 294 Mason Street and 405 Greenwich Ave, plus paved areas – 289 (paving), 309 (paving), 315 (paving), and 321 (paving) Mason Street. The properties also include 279 Mason Street, currently a three-family home.  Photo: Leslie Yager

Two buildings are proposed, a 6-story building with the market rate units on the east side of Mason Street (reduced from proposed 7-stories after working with the AHTF) and a 5-story building on the west side containing all the affordable units.

There was a question about whether separating the market rate from affordable units in two separate buildings was allowed under 8-30g.

P&Z chair Margarita Alban and attorney Heagney for the applicant both said they would research the case law.

Mr. Caspi did acknowledge the finishes would be different between the two buildings, but the quality of construction would not.

Ms Alban said that was allowed under 8-30g, the key word being “comparable size and layout.”


“We are very much hoping that this can be something that elevates that part of town. It’s not hard given you have a car dealership right now,” Alban said, adding, “As you know Greenwich Avenue is a registered historic district. We are hopeful this can be an attractive building that boosts the value of the area.”

Mr. Caspi said he had built in landmark districts in New York City, Miami and other locations.

“I pride myself on creating contextual architecture that fits in with the landscape,” he said. “I’m extremely passionate about what it will look and feel like.”

Mr. Caspi talked about the addition of “vibrant retail,” on the ground floor of both buildings.

“…I believe the town could use more quality retail and sensible places for the community to utilize and support what we’re trying to do on a long-term basis for the town.”

“You’re saying all the right words,” Alban said.

Fire Safety, Traffic and Pedestrian Safety

Some other highlights of the conversation included fire safety. Because a fire truck would not be able to drive around the building, it would have a sprinkler system instead.

Commissioner Mary Jenkins said sight lines and traffic at the intersection of Mason and Bruce Park Ave was a concern.

“It looks like you’re going to take the buildings right to the sidewalk line. There is a very awkward left on Bruce Park Ave to go onto Mason Street. There is equally difficult left off Mason Street to go up the hill on Bruce Park Ave,” she warned. “People come down that hill like crazy and there is limited visibility…and there is queuing at that Steamboat Rd light.”

Mr. Heagney said Bernard Adler had been retained to do a traffic study.

Greg McLaughlin of 52 Ridge Street said he was concerned about pedestrian safety.

“It’s dangerous as it is now with open space. The Milbank and Mason Street connection takes all the traffic going north and going back south on Greenwich Ave,” McLaughlin noted.

“You’ll have a tremendous amount of additional pedestrian traffic,” he added, noting that around the corner there is a project in the works at Greenwich Plaza and the train station. (The movie theater building will be demolished and replaced with a new mixed-use building with a restaurant plus retail space. The project was approved in March 2023.)

“That will be analyzed because that is an issue that rises to the 8-30g,” Alban said. “We all know that crossing there is tricky because you don’t know where the cars are coming from, but that is something DPW would address.”

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Health & Safety: Environmental Remediation at 315 Milbank

Robert Anderson of 62 Ridge Street, directly behind the development site, read aloud a letter he and Daniel McCurdy submitted to P&Z earlier in the day, which said the town had been notified about environmental remediation at 315 Milbank Ave (home to the Infiniti dealership) scheduled for summer 2024.

The back of houses on Ridge Street are visible from Mason Street.

The letter, which Mr. Anderson read into the record, quote a letter from HRP Associates to the town abut 315 Milbank:

“Environmental Investigations at the Site have identified the presence of soil impacted by leachable lead, arsenic, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons PAHs), and extractable total petroleum hydrocarbons (ETPH) due to historical operations.”

Indeed the Infiniti location was home to car dealerships over the decades, just as the Honda site was.

In March 2021, for a previous proposal to P&Z (before the properties sold to the current owners) Rick Margenot said his family had owned them for decades.

“They started a Firestone dealership, they sold gas during the war, they opened their shop in 1947 – had Studebaker, Pontiac and a parade of other dealerships,” he said in 2021. “Then we caught onto Honda in the 1970s…”

The letter from HRP that Mr. Anderson quoted continued, “In addition to soil removal, one or more Environmental Use Restrictions (EURs) may be recorded on Site land records to effectively protect human health and the environment from the hazards of pollution by prohibiting the future use of the Site for residential development, and ensure that the Site building remains in place to render soil environmentally isolated and/or inaccessible as defined in the CT Remediation Standard Regulations.”

The Anderson letter said the soil remedial excavation was tentatively scheduled to be completed in summer 2024 and Environmental Use Restrictions tentatively complete by winter 2026.

Mr. Anderson’s letter noted the proposed development site was down a slope from the Infiniti site, 174 feet from the proposed six-story building.

“It seems highly probably that contamination would have flowed downhill between the known contaminated property and the properties at and below 279 Mason Street over the decades,” he wrote in the letter he read aloud into the record.

“At a minimum, to protect the health and safety of current and future workers, residents, and neighbors, all the land proposed to be developed must be carefully and comprehensively evaluated by HRP given their familiarity with the current environmental issues, and assessed as to what environmental risks exist and whether the property is suitable for the soils to be disturbed or residential development is possible given environmental hazards, if any.”

“We can’t intrude on what Mr. Caspi’s purchase conditions are,” Alban said. “However, we will ask for the phase 1 evaluation.”

View of ledge rock at the corner of Bruce Park Ave and Mason Street (behind the former Honda dealership).

Additional Information for Future Meetings

Commissioner Nick Macri said when the applicant returned, he’d like to see site sections to understand how the site relates to the street, the rock outcropping and the properties above and below Greenwich Avenue. Also, a streetscape elevation along Bruce Park Ave to get a sense of how things work going up the hill. Also, a massing model on a 3D aerial view to understand the height of the buildings in relation to everything around it.

“These are two monumental buildings that are creating a completely new environment in this section of town,” he said.

Ms Jenkins touched on the same topic.

“There is a significant cliff on that hill on Bruce Park Ave, and the renderings are nice from an architectural point of view, but it makes it look like there is space behind there. That is a hill and a half.”

Mr. Macri said he’d like more details on how the pedestrian access way from Mason to Greenwich Ave would work.

Mr. Heagney said that there was an alley had shared ownership between properties on the Avenue and the new owners of the former Honda property.

Commissioner Peter Levy said he was concerned the development would create a cavernous effect, although he appreciated that the long 6-story building was successfully broken into “two masses.”

“One of the issues of creating two substantial buildings across the street from each other is this cavernous effect,” Levy said. “There is the echoing of traffic going through. It is going to surprise everyone. It’s not present anywhere else, but these buildings are tall enough and close together that there will be that kind of cavernous effect like in New York City or a larger metropolitan area.”

Also, he said, the retail area would be substantially different in that there will be a different quality of light and sound unlike Greenwich Avenue where buildings are one, two and three stories.

At the end of the discussion, Ms Alban reminded the commission what was in their purview and what wasn’t.

“The burden is on us to prove where there are issues of health and safety that exceed the need for affordable housing,” Alban said.

See also:

Multi-Story Buildings Proposed at Former Honda Dealership on Both Sides of Mason Street 

Nov 20, 2023

Applicant’s rendering of a 5 story building comprised of government assisted units  on Mason Street. November 2023 Rendering from Caspi Development

Applicant’s rendering to P&Z for a 6 story building of market rate units on Mason Street. November 2023 Rendering from Caspi Development