The local man who is building the 110-unit Merritt Village complex at the edge of downtown New Canaan is asking for time and rationality from residents complaining about a short stretch of retaining wall that has sprung up along Park Street.
Merritt Village is not yet 1 percent finished, according to Arnold Karp of Karp Associates, who won approval for the landmark project two years ago following several months of hearings before the Planning & Zoning Commission.
“There is a million-dollar planting plan that obscures and hides the walls,” he told NewCanaanite.com. “Before everybody becomes an architectural critic, let us build the project. We’ve put in 215 feet of wall and have gotten a thumbs-up from some of those who drive by and some nasty comments through New Canaanite. Let us continue to work before you criticize it. It is an $80 million project and there is a lot more going on. Plantings will obscure most of the walls.”
The negative feedback on the retaining wall sprung up on an article that had nothing to do with Merritt Village. Under a story covering a Town Council committee meeting with this headline—‘Do We Want Our Town To Look Like That?’: Officials Eye Illegal Signs in New Canaan—reader Laura King wrote, “Under the same headline you could publish a picture of the new faux cement wall being built at a large construction site on Park Street.” (New Canaanite requires all of those who publish comments to use full and verifiable names.)
Other comments followed, including one from William Taylor saying the wall looked “tacky.”
“I hope Arnold will consider changing the faux, cut-stone wall along Park Street,” Taylor said in the comment.
Town Council Chairman John Engel said the legislative body also has received concerns from residents about the wall, and he invited Karp to address the group during its regular meeting Wednesday night.
Karp noted that the buildings themselves will be done with natural stone and cedar shingles and that it’s in his own best interests to ensure Merritt Village—which will include 50 units for sale and 59 rentals, and should be finished in the spring or summer of 2020—is very attractive.
“I am not going anywhere—I have 30 years in town and another 30 hopefully, in town,” Karp said during the meeting, held at Town Hall.
He added that he understands people are concerned given that the retaining wall is the very first part of the project to get done, but that’s only because Merritt Village’s developers are eager to get the adjacent sidewalk work done by winter.
Karp noted that many of the concerns expressed during the P&Z hearings were about the safety of children with large trucks moving around, and now with half the dirt has been moved off of the Merritt Village site, no such concerns have re-emerged.
“I understand the concern but at this point it is very difficult to comment with so little done,” Karp said.
He added: “Let us get further down the road.”