CategoriesHeights Crossing

Heights Crossing Goes Vertical

Vertical construction has officially begun at Darien’s highly anticipated multi-use development, Heights Crossing. Sparks are flying as welding and construction is well underway on the site.

Construction is currently estimated to be finished in 2025. Once completed, the development will boast 65 upscale apartments and an impressive 28,765 square feet of retail and commercial space which will include a Goddard School offering daycare and preschool services, two full-service restaurants, two fast-casual restaurants, and two convenience storefronts.

CategoriesHeights Crossing

V20 Group: Year in Review (2023)

As we wrap up 2023, we wanted to announce some of the highlights from this year. 

New Acquisitions

This past March, we acquired fully entitled developable land at 346 Heights Road in Darien, CT. This will be one of V20’s largest developments, featuring 65 luxury apartment units and 30,000 SF of retail. 

The project,  named “Heights Crossing,” is scheduled for completion in Q2 2025. You can find more details about this project on our newly launched project website: heightscrossingdarien.com.

Leasing Activity

Last year, we purchased two industrial properties (550 West Ave and 600 West Ave) adjacent to our existing three warehouse properties (419A, 419B, 650 West Ave) in Stamford, CT. In addition to our ground-up construction at 419A West Avenue, we initiated significant capital improvements across this entire portfolio of properties to enhance their performance and usability. As a result of these efforts, we are happy to announce that we are 100% leased across the industrial park!

CategoriesHeights Crossing

HEIGHTS CROSSING UPDATE

Heights Crossing, our exciting new multi-use development across the street from the Noroton Heights train station, is moving forward right now with a tremendous amount of site work.

Site work isn’t necessarily an exciting part of a large project but it affects what is in the ground and includes electrical, plumbing, and a water retention system that will collect rainfall runoff and prevent flooding within the development.

Some of the ongoing work includes the framing for a 6,000-square-foot basement and the construction of a large retaining wall that will serve as a soil erosion barrier and landscaping area between our project and the property owners who live along West Avenue to the north of our site.

Vertical construction is anticipated to start in January 2024.

When completed, the Heights Crossing development will feature 65 luxury apartments, including four three-bedroom models; a Goddard School that will feature a full-service day care and a preschool; two full-service restaurants and two quick-service restaurants; and other amenities such as a community greenspace, covered parking, a gym, an office space, and an event lounge.

Stay tuned for more updates as the project moves ahead.

9 Old Kings Highway
CategoriesDarien Projects

Updates: 9 Old Kings Highway & 1897 Boston Post Road

Here is information about updates we have made at two of our properties in Darien.

We have completed some significant upgrades at 9 Old Kings Highway South, the office building we purchased at the end of 2022.

Not only did we perform a lot of work on the landscaping and exterior (windows and awnings) of the building, we also made significant improvements to areas of the ground floor. The foyer and elevators have been redesigned and refurbished, new flooring was installed, and a new ceiling with updated lighting also was added.

We hope to soon have full occupancy in the building.

Over at Landing on Post, our multi-use project at 1897 Boston Post Road, one of our tenants, Moots, has started to build out its space for an anticipated opening by the end of March 2024.

Moots will be an upscale coffee bar and convenience store that will sell locally sourced products with a “healthy touch.” Moots will be the second retail tenant on the ground floor of the building. Darien Kitchen & Bath occupies the other retail space.

CategoriesBuildings with New Opportunities (banks, theaters, dry cleaners)

Being a Good Neighbor During Construction

One of the most challenging aspects for a development company when a construction project begins is to be a good neighbor in the area where we are working because sooner or later we’re actually going to be neighbors.

Most construction projects can create some sort of friction between the developers, their crews, and the people who live or work in the adjacent businesses, apartment buildings and homes. In some cases, there are nearby schools, hospitals, or public safety sources that can be affected too.

Minimizing the friction that occurs during a project makes every aspect of construction a little smoother.

Keep the Community Informed

In our case, we ensure our neighbors are made aware that we are trying to keep a job site clear of unnecessary trash and debris, reduce the noise and dust that is always a sore point, and keep local street closures and traffic disruptions to a minimum. This way, residents are more understanding when these issues may occur.

When a complaint is called into the town or an issue is raised with a construction supervisor at a job site, we often meet with neighbors, listen to their complaint and work to stop or mitigate it before it becomes a contentious issue.

Since we’ve been doing a significant amount of work in the Darien, CT, area, we’ve worked with the town to ensure that our job sites create as little dust and noise as possible. When demolition and earthwork were going to be performed, we had noise and dust suppression measures in place to produce as little dust and noise as possible.

We’ve also limited our work to normal business hours so any disruptions occur only during the day and not at night when neighbors are home from work, trying to enjoy family time and a meal, or are trying to sleep.

These may seem like logical and sensible directives for anyone, but we know of numerous construction projects that have been shut down by towns for causing excessive dust and noise, or for working late into the night to make up for the many unforeseen delays that can put a project behind schedule.

There are other ways that we are trying to be good neighbors that may not be as noticeable.

Neighborhood Continuity & Architectural Design

We make it a point to design our buildings to “fit in” with the areas where they are being built. We’re not going to construct an ultra-modern building in an area that is filled with century-old colonial structures. Instead, our design team goes out, surveys the surrounding neighborhoods and develops plans that take into account the construction peculiarities of everything nearby.

This attention to detail is evident in the mixed-use buildings we’ve already finished in Darien, which includes the renovation of the historic Darien Playhouse in the center of town. Instead of demolishing the familiar red-brick building that has faced the Post Road for more than a decade, we integrated new retail space into the ground floor while creating four second-floor apartments that incorporate the same broad millwork and elegant trim pieces that were a part of the original building built in the 1920s.

One detail that is certainly noticeable is the red-brick pavers that were used to match the existing sidewalks and common areas of the adjacent businesses. We also used the red brick to create an expanded patio area for the apartment tenants at the rear of the new building, and a town-mandated crosswalk where Grove Street empties in the parking lot behind Darien Place was also finished with red brick.

The only other current project underway in Darien is at 1897 Post Road in Noroton where we’re creating another mixed-use building that will once again incorporate retail clients and residential apartments.

We look forward to the completion of this project in early 2022 and becoming a good neighbor with the residents of the Noroton community.

CategoriesUrban/Suburban

What’s the Key to Creating an Urban Lifestyle in the Suburbs?

The suburbs may be headed for significant changes in the next decade. Read this article to learn more about the key to creating an urban lifestyle in the suburbs.

As millennials age into parenthood, their desire to maintain a lifestyle of living, working, and playing all within the confines of a suburban neighborhood may be difficult to achieve. But it could also be the blueprint for the next great wave of suburban construction.

As V20 Group expands its commercial and residential footprint in Darien and Fairfield County, Vaccaro is one developer who thinks the suburbs will see sweeping changes in the way their residential communities are built in the coming years.

Suburbs Will See Sweeping Changes

Millennials have populated urban areas because of the proximity to on-demand amenities: Businesses and restaurants that cater to flexible lifestyles, friends and acquaintances that are nearby and available, and other services such as gyms, spas, and salons that are open for longer periods. All of these amenities have made urban cities a hotbed for young professionals.

With millennials having overtaken baby boomers as the nation’s largest generation, where will millennials decide to live once they begin to have children? It’s a question that developers like V20 Group, as well as investors and local governments, are trying to determine.

Combining Residential and Retail

In some larger Connecticut cities, projects have already been completed that combine residential living with retail offerings such as restaurants, health clubs, shops, and other services. One such example is Urby in Stamford. The recently completed project offers apartment living with eating options and retail within the development and is within walking distance of downtown nightlife and the train station.

Although some young families may be tenants at Urby, the development is not the type of suburban project that would attract the stereotypical young family. That’s one of the hurdles that need to be cleared. How does one create housing communities where young families will live while enjoying the benefits of restaurants, retail shops, and other amenities within easy walking distance, especially in an era where car ownership is no longer a priority and ride-hailing services such as Lyft and Uber are so readily available?

There are other factors at work too

More companies are willing to grant employees flexible work hours, and there are a greater number of freelance, independent, or contract workers who don’t require a desk in an office to complete their work. As evidenced during the continuing COVID-19 health crisis, many businesses saw no reduction in employee work output when forced to close for 2 to 3 months, and in many cases, have embraced the idea of having more employees work from home rather than come to the office, even as many areas of the country have attempted to slowly re-open.

Flexible Office Spaces

Another recent phenomenon is the creation of coworking or shared office space businesses. In Darien, there already are two coworking enterprises where workers can rent desks, private offices, or meeting rooms for hours, days, weeks, or months depending on their needs. If this trend continues, more and more people will stay closer to home while they work, or in some cases, work from home full-time.

Entertainment

The only remaining piece to create suburbs that function as self-contained communities is entertainment. That will require creative thinking from developers, builders, planners, and local governments to accomplish but may certainly be how new suburban areas are visualized. It could lead to the reduction of traditional, single-family neighborhoods that currently serve as bedroom communities for larger, nearby cities.

Schools

Vaccaro says schools will also be a consideration. Many young professionals move into the suburbs so their children can attend better schools. Vaccaro says that won’t change, nor will the desire to remain close to a large metropolitan area.

“Suburban living is about better schools; always has been,” Vaccaro says. “But people also don’t want to feel disconnected from urbanization.”

Creating an Urban Lifestyle in the Suburbs

That’s what may create a need for communities and towns that serve as the suburbs for larger cities to re-think the way communities are planned, how mass transit is used, and how new homes are built.

CategoriesBuildings with New Opportunities (banks, theaters, dry cleaners)

Repurposing Vacant Stores in the Post-COVID World?

When a retail business closes now, what becomes of the empty storefront?

It is a question that many Connecticut communities — and that includes such affluent towns as Darien, Westport, and Greenwich — are confronting as the post-COVID retail world begins to take shape. The effects of the pandemic are already altering the landscape of traditional downtown retail areas.

In Darien alone, three retailers with a history of consistent occupancy have already closed their doors since the outbreak of COVID-19. Clothing retailers Brooks Brothers and Tina Dragone, and the boutique shops, Kirby and Company and its sister store Kirby Girl, have been shuttered.

What replaces those stores is a question that developers, investors and local governments are trying to figure out.

At V20 Group, our team is working with local business leaders and town planning departments to find ways to purchase and develop vacant or out-of-favor properties to create new commercial retail opportunities and residential living spaces.

V20 has already completed or is beginning work on a handful of multi-use projects in Fairfield County. Two projects have already been completed in prominent locations along Boston Post Road in Darien. A third project, located at 364 Boston Post Road, has been renovated for retail tenants only.

Two V20 projects are just getting started. The old Darien Playhouse, newly re-named as Darien Place, was acquired in December of 2019. The plan is to transform the building into 360 degrees of retail space on the ground floor and four luxury apartments above the retail space. Another recent acquisition is located in Noroton, across the street from St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and School in southwest Darien. This will be renovated into ground floor retail space and five luxury apartments.

The acquisition of properties such as Darien Place and the property at 364 Boston Post Road fits into the redevelopment vision of V20 founder Jon Vaccaro. Vaccaro and his team want to take properties that have fallen out of favor and turn them into something new and vibrant again.

“Our strategy is to re-design and reconfigure obsolete properties. We want to turn those properties into something that’s exciting and new and creates value where little previous value existed,” Vaccaro says.

Vaccaro said he expects there will be many out-of-favor properties throughout Fairfield County, especially if the COVID-19 health pandemic continues to drag on, stressing businesses. Although Connecticut has been one of the few states to be successful in containing the spread of the virus, statistics show that many business owners were crippled by the initial shutdown from mid-March to early June.

Nationwide, data collected by Yelp and Alignable, shows that nearly 66,000 businesses in the U.S. have closed since March 1. In the last two weeks of June, the same data indicates that businesses were closing for good at a higher rate than in the previous three months.

Some of the hardest-hit business sectors besides restaurants, salons, and gyms have been banks and theaters. Vaccaro said buildings vacated by bank branches and movie theaters are often in locations that are good sites for redevelopment projects. This is one type of property that V20 is trying to acquire.

Movie theater operators have been running a struggling business model for some time, Vaccaro said, but the health crisis has hastened the industry’s demise. The evolution of online streaming, services such as Disney, Netflix and Hulu, have become more important to consumers who have been forced to shelter at home for months and avoid social settings.

Bank branches have also suffered a similar fate due to technological advances, and the recent pandemic has exponentially increased bank branch obsolescence. Technological online portals and mobile applications both have served to disenfranchise the use of the traditional brick & mortar banking institutions. Then, as COVID-19 forced banking branches to close, customer increase in use of online banking services only grew. Since re-opening many of the larger banks (Chase, Well Fargo and Bank of America among others) have discovered that many customers are not returning to branches to conduct their banking, instead choosing to utilize mobile app services.

According to the V20 Group team, technology gains assists with making certain segments of the commercial real estate market obsolete – a trend expected to continue – leading to more vacant buildings that once housed commercial businesses.

“It’s a type of property that’s going to become more readily available as time goes on,” Vaccaro says. “Things have changed rapidly in the last six months. People are adapting to the conditions by changing habits and their uses of technology. Businesses and communities are evolving to meet this changing landscape.”