Owners revise zoning plan for Milford's Connecticut Post Mall

The Connecticut Post Mall in Milford photographed on April 27, 2021.

The Connecticut Post Mall in Milford photographed on April 27, 2021.

Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut Media

MILFORD — A series of proposed changes to zoning regulations at the Connecticut Post Mall are expected to be back on the Planning and Zoning Board’s agenda next month, after the board closed public comment on the plans Tuesday.

The board did not vote on the proposed regulation changes made by Centennial Real Estate, the mall’s owners, at the meeting. Board Chairman Jim Quish ended the public hearing portion after no members of the public spoke.

John Knuff, representing Centennial, said he wanted to make the proposed regulation change clear to everyone in attendance. It was in the best interest of Centennial and the city for the mall to thrive since neither side wanted the property to be vacant.

“While this application is a very modest first step, it opens the next step in taking the next bigger step together,” he said. “We want to do something (that makes) the center productive, makes the city proud, adds vitality to the center.”

The current plan for the mall incorporates some changes based on feedback from P&Z, Knuff said. The proposal calls for mixed use buildings with incorporated residences in multi-family buildings with a plaza, plus sustainability measures incorporated into the design.

“All of these are in response to working with and listening to you,” he told the board.

Another change in the proposal is making 5 percent (15 units) of the total 300 planned units Section 8-30g (affordable housing) compliant. Although the project is not an affordable housing project, which would require 30 percent of the units be 8-30g compliant, the 15 units planned as affordable would count toward allowing Milford to enact an affordable housing project moratorium, Knuff said.

Robert Satti questioned if the board approved the zoning change, would the city receive more applications to build multi-family buildings. Knuff said it would not.

“We are limiting to 300 units to the zone, not our property,” he said. “That includes our property, the Walmart parcel and the Stop & Shop.”

Other proposed changes to the zone include expanding the types of schools permitted in the zone, and explicitly allowing outdoor dining in the zone for all types of food service establishments. Knuff also told the board he would like to see medical offices specifically permitted.

“Right now, your regulation says professional office. We thought that was probably already included, but we want to be very specific that medical offices are included,” he said.

For the residential areas, the proposed changes to the regulations include reducing the height of apartment buildings.

“These are exceedingly modest tweaks to the regulation, and yes, it will have a very significant impact at the mall whether you approve or deny this application,” said Knuff. “But in terms of the application itself, in the overall scale and context of the existing shopping center design and regulations, it is a very modest request we are making.”

Knuff added that the proposed changes are a first step in Centennial doing something “really terrific” in Milford.

“This is a baby step, we think there is going to be some great steps in the future, but we can’t get to those next great steps without taking this first baby step,” he said.

Alderman March Zahariades said still was worried about the proposed regulation changes because he feels like it would be opening “Pandora’s Box” to allowing more multi-family apartment buildings in areas where they are not currently found in Milford.

“I personally feel that the mall is not a place to put 300 apartments, and it’s going to look kind of funny, to me, to have 300 apartments sitting in the mall parking lot right next to the mall,” he said.

Steven Levin, Centennial’s CEO, said the project would be done in phases, starting with the Sears end of the mall, which is vacant.

“As we generate interest other uses like medical, like university, like lab sciences, corporate campuses, these are the things we want to generate to create this type of campus environment,” he said. “It’s the plan we want to embark upon, but right now, we have the Sears lot, which is vacant, which allows the opportunity to go to step one.”

The mall has been expanded six times since it opened, and Levin said that with businesses like Target, Boscov’s, Macy’s and Dicks Sporting Goods at the mall, the company has no intention of abandoning retail.

“Our vision is not to remove the mall,” he said. “At this point, the mall is still one million square feet, but it allows us to add uses to the campus that makes it more mixed-use, that it will invigorate the mall and shrink it to a size that will be much more productive from a retail standpoint than it is today.”