Savings bank

Danbury Savings Bank proposes four-story office building to be a ‘gateway’ to the city center

DANBURY – Danbury Savings Bank on Thursday unveiled plans for a four-story office building which officials say will be the ‘centerpiece’ of the city center.

The 35,000-square-foot building would be built on the corner of Main and White streets on property the bank is considering purchasing from the YMCA. The project would require the bank to also purchase the old Tuxedo Junction building from the city.

“I am excited about this historic project and all it will lead with additional employment opportunities to reinvigorate and revitalize Danbury city center and truly create an impressive gateway to our city center,” said Martin G. Morgado, CEO of the bank, at a press conference Thursday held in the parking lot behind where the building is planned.

The announcement comes as Danbury completes the first phase of its streetscape project, which aims to liven up the city center and attract development. New sidewalks and amenities will be built alongside the bank building planned as part of phase two of the project.

“This is going to be monumental for Main Street,” said Mayor Joe Cavo. “I am really excited about this project and what it means for the downtown area, for the walking ability of the employees, for the pedestrian traffic and the opportunities for the people.”

But the bank, which hopes to open the new space by the end of 2023, needs to clear a few hurdles before construction can begin.

Danbury City Council will have to approve the sale of the Tuxedo Junction building, which the city bought in 2017, believing at the time that it could become a community theater. The nightclub closed in 2015 due to legal problems with operator Ian Bick, who was sentenced to three years in prison for defrauding investors of nearly $ 500,000.

At its meeting next Thursday, city council will consider creating an ad hoc committee to explore the sale of the old nightclub, Cavo said. The idea would then go to a public hearing in December, followed by a city council vote in January, he said.

He expects council members to support the sale and said the city looks forward to working with the bank to build a building “of such great stature.”

“It will truly be an incredible centerpiece here in the city of Danbury,” Cavo said.

The bank must also finalize the purchase of the YMCA building. The YMCA is supporting the sale, said Marie Miszewski, CEO of the Western Connecticut Regional YMCA.

“This is a great opportunity for the downtown area and it is definitely an important step in the revitalization of the downtown area,” she said.

“We are happy to have been able to be part of it. The YMCA held its Escape to the Arts program out of the building, but that initiative came to a halt during COVID and struggled before the pandemic, she said. The plan is to phase out this program and find space elsewhere on Main Street for its other activities.

Progress for the city center

A few blocks from the planned bank building, developers are building 149 apartments in the old News-Times building. This project was cited as a positive sign for the city center, where development had dragged on for some time. A new restaurant, ItadakiMÁS, is one block away and another sign of downtown life.

The bank’s plans will help the downtown succeed, said Sharon Calitro, the town planner. The project will bring new employees downtown, “activating the public street,” restaurants and businesses, she said.

“This shows that the business sector is ready to reinvest,” she said.

This is due to the city’s streetscape project, she said.

The first phase of the streetscape around the green downtown and other places is expected to be completed before winter, she said. The landscape is finished and trees are planted, but the COVID-19 supply chain slowdown has delayed equipment such as parking kiosks and banners, she said.

“Sounds awesome,” Calitro said.

The city hopes to create a waterway promenade on Crosby Street along the Still River, in addition to the second phase of the streetscape project.

The state must approve this next phase, which includes Main Street – a national highway – and the corner where the new building is planned.

“We’re talking about this corner and the redevelopment and what could be put in here since 2010,” Calitro said. “So we are really delighted that his Danbury Savings Bank and a local business are reinvesting in the city center. “

The bank plans to demolish the YMCA building and build a new structure with conference and collaboration rooms, a customer service center, an employee gym and a community meeting space, Morgado said. About 15 to 20 parking spaces will be built at the site, with the rest of the employees using nearby parking garages.

The project has to go through the land use commissions, but Morgado said the bank is working closely with Calitro and does not anticipate any problems.

Pending the city’s approval, construction would begin in the spring of 2022 and take about a year and a half, Morgado said. It hopes to be completed by the end of 2023.

Need to expand

The new building will join the Savings Bank’s headquarters at 220 Main St., as well as its 15 branches in the region, including on West Street. These spaces will remain open, but the back-end non-branch operations team will move to the new building.

If the building opened today, around 70 employees would move in, but Morgado said he expects more people to be hired by the time the space is ready. Some employees will come from offices in other cities.

Additional space is needed as the Savings Bank of Danbury, which opened in 1849 and is the city’s oldest operating company, has grown considerably since its last major building project in Danbury in 1999, when the branch of 35 West St. was built, Morgado mentioned.

At the time, the bank had 65 employees and $ 362 million in assets. Today, it has more than 200 employees and $ 1.4 billion in assets, according to the bank. The bank plans to open its 16th branch in Norwalk this fall.

“We literally don’t have space in our buildings right now for growth,” Morgado said. “We converted old supply rooms, closets into offices because we have grown quite a bit. “

Because of COVID, office workers have been working remotely every other week, but are expected to return to full-time in January, he said.

The bank has worked for years with the city – first with the administration of former Mayor Mark Boughton, then with Cavo – to find space for new office space. Danbury, meanwhile, has been looking for a new owner for the Tuxedo Junction building since 2017, at one point creating a community theater there.

These spaces have become the perfect location for the new office building because they are perfectly located in the city center, Morgado said.

“The city center is so important to us,” he said. “It’s like the catwalk. This building, you get to downtown Danbury, people are going to see the Danbury Savings Bank when they get here.

The Tuxedo Junction space will not be physically connected to the new building at the corner of Main and White streets. But it will be used for utilities, green spaces and will create a walkway for employees who will walk from the Patriot Parking Garage to the office.

The bank could also choose to expand further into Tuxedo Junction.

“At the rate we’re going, we wanted to make sure that if we were to build this, we had more room to grow in the future,” said Morgado. “We’re going to fill this building, then we’ll move on to the next one. “

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