Guedes, Shelton P&Z deal means apartments at Riverside Plaza

Photo of Brian Gioiele
Developer John Guedes poses in front of the Riverside Retail Center in Shelton, Conn. Aug. 11, 2021.

Developer John Guedes poses in front of the Riverside Retail Center in Shelton, Conn. Aug. 11, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — One developer is once again adding to the downtown housing stock, although not quite as many apartments as he had hoped. 

John Guedes, owner of Primrose Companies, and the Planning and Zoning Commission reached a settlement which allows the developer to create six apartments on the second floor of his development at 131 Canal St., dubbed Riverside Plaza. 

The Planning and Zoning Commission, at a meeting in October 2021, voted 3-3 on Guedes’ request for a modification of special exception to turn the vacant second floor of his two-story building at 131 Canal St. into eight apartments. The tie vote meant a denial of the request. 

Guedes then appealed that decision in court. This settlement, which still awaits a judge’s signature to make it official, means Guedes will withdraw his appeal. 

“The plan the commission denied had eight apartments … I had to settle for six. Does this make sense?” Guedes said. “The commission has been approving large scale developments for (Don) Stanziale and Primrose on other sites.” 

Guedes referred to two other sites — Chromium Commons, 11,500 square feet of retail and 30 apartments with 45 parking spaces, and Riverside Park Royal, 13,560 square feet of commercial with 92 apartments — which earned commission approval this past year. 

“All at the same time they denied the eight apartments,” Guedes added. “I do not know what to make of it.” 

Commission Chair Virginia Harger said this compromise “satisfied the Planning & Zoning Commission's desire for a reduction in the number of residential units and an increase in the common area on the second floor.” 

Attorney Dominick Thomas, who represents Guedes, said it is "always better to resolve these land use appeals whenever possible." 

“Both sides were able to reasonably compromise and resolve the matter to permit the development to go forward,” Thomas said. 

Harger and commissioners Ruth Parkins and Jimmy Tickey had voted against the application, while Elaine Matto, Charles Kelly and then-alternate Peter Laskos voted in favor. Guedes at the time said he was “shocked” by the decision. 

Plans for the 12,847-square-foot retail and commercial building were approved by the P&Z in 2016, and the building is completed, sitting vacant for years until just recently. Riverside Plaza is presently home to Pier 131 Kitchen and Bar and Eye Care Associates, with a final vacant space to be occupied soon by Luzara Sweets.  

The second floor, however, has remained vacant. 

Parkins and Harger, at the meeting, stated concerns about having apartments in the site, which was approved with retail and office occupants in mind. Guedes told commissioners during the hearing process that a lack of interest — and his desire to finally fill the building — led him to seek this shift. 

All commissioners agreed that the apartments would be filled, but Parkins said she preferred to see the mixed-use remain, citing concerns about parking as well if apartments would be going into the space. 

“Retail is now meeting the needs of the new residents of the downtown redevelopment … and it is in demand,” Guedes said. “Office use is not there yet."

“The second-floor proposed office space was on the market for four years, (but) no interest was shown,” Guedes added. “I could not keep it vacant and decided to go for the apartments which are in demand and a permitted use. Why the commission denied a permitted use … I have no clue.”