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Transit Plan Reconnects Parts of Connecticut City

Aerial view rendering of a $500-million mixed-used development at the Stamford Transportation Center
Plans are under way for a $500-million mixed-used development at the Stamford Transportation Center, featuring offices, residential, retail, and hotel space, plus at least 1,000 parking spaces. Studio V Architecture

The development of retail, office, residential, and parking structures around a busy transportation center in Stamford, Connecticut, will reconnect portions of the city that have been cut off from one another for decades by transportation infrastructure.

November 19, 2013—The Stamford Transportation Center is one the busiest stations in the New York metropolitan area, serving commuters coming down the Connecticut coast from New Haven to Grand Central Terminal in New York City. But the station, along with Interstate 95, which parallels the train tracks, forms a barrier that disconnects downtown Stamford from its south end—a former industrial peninsula that has seen new development in recent years.

Now, an ambitious project aims to help bridge the divide by inserting dense multiuse development right next to the train station itself. The goal is to create a rich transit-oriented, mixed-use development replete with bustling street frontages.

Last summer the State of Connecticut selected a joint venture headed by the JHM Group of Companies, a Stamford-based developer, to redevelop the Stamford Transportation Center and the surrounding area. The $500-million project will encompass three sites—two owned by the state, one private—each within a quarter mile of the station. The first site, at South State Street, will become home to a new multilevel garage. The second site, at Station Place, will replace another garage with a mixed-use tower featuring parking, ground-floor retail, roughly 300,000 sq ft of office space, 200 apartment or condominium units, and a 200-room hotel. The third site, at Manhattan Street, will feature another mixed-use tower, with parking, retail, office, and residential space. The towers will be less than 300 ft tall, but all told, the project will include approximately 600,000 sq ft of commercial office space and 60,000 sq ft of street-level retail, as well as—crucially—at least 1,000 parking spaces, up from the roughly 700 spots now. The train platforms will also be extended to relieve crowding. 

Exterior rendering of Stamford Transportation Center which displays a narrow street between the train station and a parking garage

A narrow street between the train station and a parking garage will
be widened and converted into a pedestrian-friendly retail
promenade. Studio V Architecture

“This really is the nexus between a lot of what’s going on in Stamford right now,” says Todd McClutchy, a senior vice president of JHM. All three of the parking garage structures as well as the towers will connect directly to the station’s platforms. “All three locations will have covered platforms that will bring you right into the extended or the existing train station,” says McClutchy. He adds that reducing commuters’ travel time and vehicular congestion is “paramount” to the success of the project. Consequently, no parking spaces will be lost during the three-year construction of the facilities.

The state has given JHM a three-year window in which to complete the new parking spaces. The development team would subsequently move forward with the high-rise portions of the program. Construction is expected to begin next summer.

“Today when you go to the train station, you’re lucky to find a sandwich shop hidden on an upper level,” says Jay Valgora, AIA, AICP, LEED-AP, a principal of Studio V Architecture in New York, the project’s designers. “Instead, we really want to create an integrated street-level pedestrian experience and a diversity of programs that will serve the whole community while reconnecting downtown and the south end.”

Crews will begin by taking Station Place, a narrow street between the station and a parking garage, and widening it so that it eventually becomes a central promenade fronted by shops, the residential tower lobbies, and the hotel lobby. The plan also calls for sculpted landscape bridges that help connect the elements of the project together. And the three new garages will be also lead commuters straight onto the train platforms.

The exteriors of the new building will feature dynamic curves that reflect the energy and movement of the surrounding transportation infrastructure

The exteriors of the new building will feature dynamic curves that
reflect the energy and movement of the surrounding transportation
infrastructure. Studio V Architecture

Parking will be available in two existing garages during construction. “We’re trying to find that blend of achieving optimum, efficient parking and also working with the structural grid and working with the architecture,” says Blair Hanuschak, P.E., a principal and managing director of the Washington, D.C., office of Walter P Moore & Associates. The firm is serving as both the structural engineer and parking consultant.

Architecturally, the tower buildings will feature a series of dynamic curves. “From an architectural point of view, we really wanted to create iconic buildings that were completely integrated into the landscape,” says Valgora. He looked to Rockefeller Center as an example of how a tall building with complex uses could be married to a beautiful and active streetscape.

The curving shapes of the structures also take their cue from the transportation infrastructure nearby, including the freeway, which he likens to a “sweeping series of intersecting diagonals and curves that define the space.”

Inside, the buildings will actually be straightforward rectangular volumes. The juxtaposition creates clean and efficient interior spaces while the exterior form engages the geometry of the adjacent transportation network.

The buildings, he adds, “can adapt both in terms of creating iconic prows and forms on [the] skyline, and also allowing them to adapt at their bases into the complex street life that surrounds them and to knit back together the fabric of the community.

Both towers will be somewhat slender. In designing them for an efficient lateral load, Hanuschak says the goal will be to minimize the impact of the structure on the core of the building, and on the configuration of office and residential spaces. The trick will be “trying to find that balance of an open garage with minimizing the number of shear walls and lateral elements that you have in a tall slender building.”

As for engineering the skin, Hanuschak says that will depend on the final curtain wall system, which is still being developed, but the goal is to find creative ways to work “with curtain wall systems that are heavily articulated, yet still efficient and affordable, and providing as minimal a structure as possible in order to make it look as light and airy as you’d normally want to see.”

Hauschak says his firm will be working as the building envelope consultant with Studio V, along with the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineers and a curtain wall supplier, to optimize the design of the curtain wall system to ensure that system is sustainable and helps reduce the buildings’ energy demands. “As we get into that,” he says, “that will be the fun stuff for us.”



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