WALLINGFORD — The developer planning a new rooftop restaurant downtown and an apartment complex nearby can move forward after getting approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The PZC approved John Hall’s mixed-used development application Monday, with a 4-1 vote, on the condition that he complete construction on the restaurant, at 361 Center St., before he rents all 22-apartments planned for 50 S. Main St.
Hall plans to construct a three-floor, roughly 6,000-square-foot building, which he is marketing as a restaurant with rooftop dining. As part of the same application, Hall will also put the one-bedrooms apartments into a former medical office building, which diagonally abuts the restaurant property. The parcel at 50 S. Main St. is across from Town Hall.
Hall, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, is still looking for a tenant for the restaurant building, project representative Jeffrey Gordon told the PZC Monday.
To ensure Hall would build the commercial building before fully leasing the apartment units, the commission will allow Hall to receive 11 certificates of occupancy, or 50 percent, at first and the remaining 11 certificates after constructing a “complete shell” for the commercial building.
Commission member Jaime Hine was the only vote against Hall’s application. Hine said he doesn’t think the restaurant is a good fit for the area.
“The problem I’m having with the project is...we're trying to fit a square peg in a round hole and I'm a little nervous that we’re jumping at a project to fill a space that hasn't been filled in a while instead of being patient and seeing what develops in that particular area as time moves on,” Hine said.
According to site plans, the first level of the restaurant would have a kitchen area. Upper levels include a 1,620-square foot indoor dining area and a 1,680-square foot rooftop bar and dining area.
Officials said the town has put a lot of effort into attracting mixed use development in downtown in recent years and expressed optimism about Hall’s project. Typically, a mixed-use development would include commercial space on the first floor with residential units above, but Town Planner Kacie Hand said having separate commercial and residential buildings on the same site accomplishes the goal.
"We think this is a positive demonstration of how we'd like to see the new zoning regulations work,” Hand said in December.
Lucille Casagrande, one of three residents who spoke against Hall’s proposal at the meeting, said the town should require Hall to sign a tenant for the commercial building first, and added that she felt 22 residential units is “way too much for that piece of property.”
Resident Deborah Gross raised concerns about the rooftop restaurant causing noise and privacy issues for nearby residential buildings.
Project architect Milton Gregory Grew pointed out that outside dining is allowed by town regulations in the downtown zone. Hall’s restaurant would become the first in downtown with outdoor rooftop dining.