P&Z Watch: Text Amendment Would Allow Second Floor Dining on Greenwich Ave

An possible text amendment to Greenwich zoning regulations would allow second floor dining on Greenwich Avenue.

The applicant is Thurles LLC, which according to the Secretary of State’s website is registered to Catherine Lewis of Riverside.

The application was submitted to Planning & Zoning to change regulations to allow for public areas of a restaurant on a second floor in the Central Greenwich Business Retail (CGBR) if accompanied by a ground level restaurant use and the two floors operate as one business with a central kitchen.

Currently three restaurants on Greenwich Avenue have grandfathered permission for second floor dining: LobsterCraft, Douro and The Ginger Man. The latter two have a central kitchen and operate on both the first and second floors of their respective locations.

Given the decline of retail, which impacted Greenwich Ave prior to and during the pandemic, and Greenwich Avenue having become a destination for dining, there is a vast appetite for restaurants on any given day or night.

Ground floor businesses, including restaurants, on Greenwich Avenue and just off the Ave in the CGBR zone, have not been required to provide parking to patrons since the 1960s.

But restaurants are strictly forbidden on second floors. And second floor uses do have parking requirements.

In March a pre-application was discussed for a 300-Seat Mediterranean restaurant and event space for 8 and 10 Lewis Street and Liberty Way with second floor restaurant use.

The applicant said it would be less non conforming than the gym use on a first floor. The idea was to move the nonconformity upstairs.

The P&Z commission responded that they had not previously approved a “vertical change in non conformity,” and asked the applicant to return with data showing the parking demand would be less than the previous gym use.

Also in March, the Perfect Provenance with its Cafe 47, presented a pre application to change its use from retail to restaurant in order to qualify for a possible liquor license from the state, but that proved to be problematic due to a parking shortage. The applicant hoped to count on the adjacent municipal parking lots, but the commission noted that those lots are frequently full.

257-265 Greenwich Avenue, former Ralph Lauren building. Photo: Leslie Yager

In February, Jacqueline Kaufman from Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessey in Stamford represented Streetworks whose pre application proposed “a transportation center” in the vacant Ralph Lauren building at at 257-265 Greenwich Avenue.

She said the applicant wanted to convert its use from retail to mixed commercial with a restaurant on the ground floor, bicycle oriented transportation center in the basement, and a lounge on the second floor.

Kaufman described Streetworks as the development arm of Hudson’s Bay Company, which owns the three Saks 5th Ave stores on the Avenue.

During discussion, the sticking point for the P&Z commission concerned the “unique second floor lounge” that would be an accessory use for the first floor café.

Kaufman said there would be no table service on the second floor where patrons would have access to power outlets, wifi and breakout spaces for private meetings. They would purchase food downstairs and carry it upstairs.

Commissioners discussed what use category the second floor use would fall under. Office? Restaurant?

The Thurles narrative for the text amendment notes that a key principle of the POCD is to maintain the economic vitality of the Town’s commercial centers such as Greenwich Ave, to adapt to market changes, and strengthen the downtown as the central business district of Greenwich.

The pre application notes that the existing prohibition against public areas of restaurants being located on the second floor was only adopted as recently as 1995. Prior to that, there was no restriction in the CGBR zone.

The application is not yet scheduled for a P&Z agenda.

See also:

P&Z Watch: New Uses for Former Ralph Lauren Building Receive Favorable Response

Vacant Ralph Lauren Building to be Reimagined as Restaurant, Lounge & Transportation Center for People Who Bike, Scoot, Skate or Run