In a recent conversation on Zoom, WAG catches up with Ted Ferrarone, co-president of vertically integrated developer Building and Land Technology, on BLT’s latest residential and commercial projects at Harbor Point in Stamford’s South End:
You have 14 buildings already completed at Harbor Point and one still under construction. At what point do you say “enough, it’s complete”?
“What was originally conceived of as the Harbor Point project is almost entirely built out at this point. The last two buildings are the ones you see right behind me — Opus, which we just opened up this year, and then the building called Anthem, which we will (also) open up in 2022. Those are the last buildings of the original Harbor Point masterplan. Our piece of Harbor Point is, you know, largely there, although we’ve still got quite a bit to do, and then there’s lots of things other people are building around us.”
When it comes to development, how do you decide where? What kind of areas appeal to BLT?
“It has to be somewhere local, because we’re a very hands-on business. We have to be there to do it. We currently have a very large office and residential project in Norwalk right at the Merritt 7 train station, called North Seven. The largest development that’s outside of Fairfield County that we actually physically developed ourselves was The Beacon in Jersey City, a very large historic rebuild of what was the Jersey City Medical Center, which they rehabbed into apartments.”
And are you particularly interested in coastal development or is that just coincidence, something you’ve happened upon?
“A little bit of both. I think we’re big believers in mixed-use development and trans-oriented development and the South End of Stamford happened to check both of those boxes. And in Stamford you already had a real vibrant employment market, great transportation to both New York City and to New Haven, so you can attract talent that either works here in Stamford or that can live here and go to those places to work. A lot of that is dictated by I-95 and Metro-North and, to a lesser extent, Amtrak.”
When developing buildings for residential use, how do you distinguish among the buildings? Does each have a distinct personality? Do you say, “This building will be for a particular type of buyer; this will be for another?”
“I think the first comment is probably the right one. Some will be more modern, some more traditional. Some will feel like a luxury hotel. Some will feel like a historic loft building. And there’s lots of different unit sizes and types — everything from studios to four-bedrooms, (but all with) very functional layouts, big closets, great amenities, good parking. Another thing to note is that 10% of our units are set aside as affordable housing and so there’s a real diversity of price point as well.”
With Harbor Point continuing to grow and evolve, are you also invested in new stores or restaurants that will add luster to the area? Are there some you’re particularly excited about?
“We eat and breathe this all day. We’re here, our company is here, my office is literally right here. Lots of people who work for BLT live in our apartment buildings, so we’re all real users of the product. We work out in the gyms; we eat at the restaurants; we go to the events in the park. So, a lot of what we’ve programed into our space is based on real-time feedback from either our office tenants or our residents, who say “Hey, I wish we had X.”
“(As a result), we brought an organic market on board recently. We’ve a really phenomenal wine and spirit store here that Terry Matthews (formerly of Horseneck Wine & Spirits in Greenwich) runs. And people wanted coffee, so we have a place called Proof Coffee in (Commons) Park. I love The Wheel — that’s a great place. Half Full Brewery’s Third Space — that’s amazing, too. We’ve also got a couple more restaurants, which will open up this year. The retail is really programed to fit the needs of residents saying, ‘This is the thing I really want and I’d love not to have to get in my car to do it.’”
We should probably talk about the criticism from the established South End community, some of it admittedly rather run-down, that with BLT’s building going on for so long, it has been overwhelmed. Can the two communities, the rather swish new one you’ve developed and the older one, single or multifamily dwellings in the grid of South End streets, happily co-exist?
“Definitely. 100%. Absolutely. When we go back to our masterplan, the idea was to create something that was fully integrated into the existing neighborhood. Back in 2006, those sites were predominantly three superblocks, with old abandoned factories, some going back to the 1950s. We charged our planners to make a street grid, which was walkable and lined up with the existing grid. As for the older neighborhood, I see it (changing) every day — people upgrading their houses, putting on new roofs, changing out the fences. You’re seeing it throughout the whole neighborhood.”
A rising tide lifts all boats, you might say.
“Yes, and everything we build is open to the public and we also run 200 to 300 events a year, nearly all of which are free to everybody.”
“Everything from the Girls and Boys Corporate 5K to the ‘Harbor Fest,’ which gets a great turnout; movies in the park; free concerts; a ton of fitness outside. And then small things like a farmers’ market every weekend, juggling and art classes. We also have ‘Storytime at Commons Park,’ where we partner with the Ferguson Library.”
That sounds like a pretty full agenda.
“The reality is, if somebody says, ‘I’m interested in X,’ we could probably put it on.”
For more, visit bltliveworkplay.com.