NORWALK — Although some concern was expressed about parking, the Norwalk Planning Commission has unanimously approved the city's biggest redevelopment proposal: a $60-million hotel-commercial-condominium project to be built on 20 acres near the Civic Center.
The approval marks a turnaround from last August when the commission soundly rejected the proposal by London Pacific Investments because of parking and design concerns with the residential portion of the project.
The Redondo Beach-based developer appealed the commission's rejection to the City Council, which voted in September to send the proposal back to the commission for further study.
Don Rouly, director of planning and development, said that substantial changes were made to the proposal to deal with the problems raised by commissioners and council members. Rouly recommended approval of the project, which will be built in phases.
Under the new plan, the developer proposes to build 168 condominium units instead of the 232-unit apartment complex previously submitted. Several city officials had objected to apartments, saying they wanted to see owner-occupied units in the project.
Another key change expands the ballroom in the eight-story hotel to accommodate up to 500 people.
"I would like to compliment the developer for taking to heart a lot of our concerns," said Commissioner Ralph Pontius. The project will be considered by the council sometime in March.
Parking May Be Problem
Commissioners Luigi Vernola and Jerry Froehlich said parking may still be a problem, despite the results of a study by the developer that noted a "shared-parking" concept would not result in difficulties. Under that plan, for example, parking used by people who work in the office building during the day could be used by people going to see movies at night.
If computed separately, the city normally would require 1,300 parking spaces for the project. The developer has proposed 938 spaces.
If built, the London Pacific development would be the largest single project in the city. In addition to the eight-story hotel and condominiums, the project would include a movie theater, retail stores, a restaurant and a six-story office building.
The developer has proposed building the project in four phases. The hotel would be first, followed by the retail stores and the theater, then the restaurant, and finally the office building. A London Pacific spokesman said the company would like to begin construction in August.
The developer has an agreement with the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District to buy the former Wright School site for $9.1 million. The district extended escrow on the project last week to May 31, said Howard Rainey, administrator of business services. London Pacific agreed to pay interest on the $2-million down payment that was to be deposited if escrow had closed on Jan. 19 as scheduled.