A pre-application has been submitted to the Greenwich Planning & Zoning Commission for a development of residential units totaling 19,000+ sq ft in the parking lot next to the historic Armory on Mason Street, at the corner of Havemeyer Place. The proposal would not preserve the historic drill shed.
Specifically, the applicants propose a zone change from CGB to CGB-HO (historic overlay). They seek to build six residential units over both ground-level parking and underground parking.
The applicants are GFC Havemeyer LLC and GFC LLC. Both are registered to HB NITKIN REAL ESTATE FUND II, LLC, which is registered to Helen Nitkin.
The idea is not new. Back in 2021 the applicants also submitted a pre-application for a zone change from CGB to CGB-HO (historic overlay) and site plan and special permit for six residential units. The applicant was directed to go before the Historic District Commission who are advisory to P&Z.
The particular issue for HDC was the applicant’s proposed removal of the 8,000+ sq ft historic drill shed that dates back to 1911. The applicants have gone before HDC three times since 2021.
The applicants noted that back in 2007, when HDC and P&Z had different members, they approved the removal of the drill shed to make way for 9 townhouses. They were never built.
In 2018, when Chabad proposed to buy the property to build a synagogue, veterans turned out in force to oppose their proposed demolition of the drill shed.
They noted that it was used for soldiers to be trained and prepared to fight in World War I and World War II. Currently it is used to park 33 cars.
Chabad Lubavitch had hoped to purchase the Armory property from the owner, Nitkin, who has offices in the front of the Armory, once approvals were given. (Their offices comprise about 6,000 square feet.)
After countless hearings and discussions about the proposal being under-parked, concerns about traffic, curb cuts, ramps, setbacks, safety and how much FAR bonus would be granted in exchange for a Historic Overlay to preserve parts of the Armory, the commission approved Chabad’s application, but only for .7 FAR, while the application was for .9 FAR.
Since then Chabad walked away from the Armory and instead focused their activity on their Mason/Lincoln properties and rental of the Carmel Academy campus on Lake Ave.
“The demolition of the drill shed has subsequently become a concern, most notably by veterans’ groups in town, when the Chabad of Greenwich made application to the Commission for an alternative plan for the use of the property in 2017,” the applicant stated in a letter to P&Z director Katie DeLuca dated March 31, 2022.
In their letter to Ms DeLuca, the applicant’s attorney Chip Haslun said the owners, Helen Nitkin and Victor DeCicco, have had ongoing discussions with the town’s veterans groups, including the 9th District Veterans Association, the Byram Veterans Association and the Cos Cob VFW.
“While they have expressed their preference to have the drill shed kept as it is, there appears to be acknowledgement that protection of the entirety of the Armory building and a substantial portion of the shed under an HO designation has value in preserving this historic property,” Haslun says in his letter.
“Further, we will continue to explore with the veterans’ representatives various options for commemorating the Armory and shed’s former uses, including possible plaquing, photographic displays, flag displays and creative reuse of brick, on and/or off-site, to name but just a few ideas that have been discussed.”
Haslun refers to “preserving cultural heritage while adding to the diversity of residential options in central Greenwich.”
The application is yet to be scheduled on a P&Z agenda. Stay tuned.