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CT Construction Digest Monday September 30, 2019

Charter Communications’ future HQ rises in downtown Stamford
Paul Schott
STAMFORD — A year ago, a few pilings marked the future downtown home of the city’s sole Fortune 100 company. Today, 15 glass-sheathed floors tower over the neighborhood.
Telecommunications giant Charter Communications confirmed this week it plans to move in the first half of 2021 into the approximately 500,000-square-foot building that has taken shape at 406 Washington Blvd., next to the city’s main Metro-North Railroad station. While the project attests to the company’s significant growth and cements Stamford’s standing as the state’s leading corporate hub, it has also cast uncertainty over the future of Charter’s current address.
“We are excited to be continuing our growth in Stamford and look forward to the opening of our new headquarters,” Charter said in a statement. “Today, we are expanding in our current locations and will continue to evaluate our space needs for the future.”
Moving the main offices
Only the 450,000-square-foot tower down the street, at 600 Washington Blvd. — which houses local hubs for Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS, Citizens Bank and Bank of America — rivals the scope of 406 Washington among office buildings constructed in the city in the past 15 years.
The lack of recent office construction reflects a market still recovering from the last recession. Citywide vacancy rates are still hovering around 30 percent, according to several commercial real estate firms.
But Charter’s burgeoning presence at its current downtown home, at 400 Atlantic St., convinced the company it needed a new building. It announced the relocation in October 2017, with a multmillion-dollar package of state subsidies supporting the project.
Since its 2012 headquarters relocation from St. Louis, Charter has expanded from one floor to nine levels, in the approximately 500,000-square-foot building at 400 Atlantic. It leases about 300,000 square feet there, according to some local commercial realtors’ measures.
Fueling its expansion into one of the country’s largest cable-and-internet providers, it acquired Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks for about $65 billion in 2016.
For the second quarter of 2019, the company’s revenues increased 4.5 percent year over year, to $11.3 billion. It now serves about 27 million residences and around 2 million small and medium-size businesses.
Today, the No. 70 company on this year’s Fortune 500 list employs about 1,300 in the city.
Charter’s pending relocation has complicated relations between the company and its landlord at 400 Atlantic.
In late 2017, Charter acquired 400 Atlantic’s loan for $100 million, representing about 40 percent of the $265 million principal originated in 2007.
Officials at The Landis Group — the owner and manager of 400 Atlantic and also the loan’s borrower, through an affiliated subsidiary group — saw the purchase of the note as undermining leasing talks between the two parties.
“It’s extremely unusual, to put it mildly, for a mortgage lender to sell a mortgage loan to the major tenant of the building,” Stephen Meister, an attorney for Landis and partner of the Manhattan law firm Meister Seelig & Fein, said in November 2017. “It’s particularly unusual — and, frankly, I think improper — when the lender knows that that sale is taking place during sensitive negotiations between the landlord and the tenant.”
Landis had contemplated legal action against Charter, according to Meister.
Messages left in the past week for Landis and Meister were not returned.
Charter also leases more than 50,000 square feet at the adjacent 201 Tresser Blvd.
In its statement, the company said that “we have no update to share regarding our plans for our existing space at this time.”
Meanwhile, city officials said they would be ready for Charter’s move.
“The building (at 400 Atlantic) will not be available to the market for another 24 to 36 months as Charter transitions to their new building,” said Thomas Madden, the city’s economic development director. “We will start talking to companies next year about the property, as it is approximately 18 months for most companies to make a decision when they are looking to move or expand.”
Ready for change
While the building at 406 Washington sports a complete shell, Charter has scheduled its move-in for the first half of 2021 because the new structure’s interior still needs to be built out.
Alongside that edifice, Charter secured the city zoning board’s approval in April for a second building at 406 Washington that would raise the property’s total footprint to about 777,000 square feet.
“We are still working on the details for the second building at 406 Washington and look forward to having more information to share at a later time,” Charter said in the statement.
An exemplar for a post-Charter era at 400 Atlantic could be the neighboring office complex at 677 Washington Blvd.
The approximately 700,000-square-foot property had languished as the city’s largest office vacancy following the 2016 relocation of UBS’ local offices to 600 Washington. Today, it has leased more than 70 percent of its space.
At the end of May, professional-services firm KPMG opened its new Stamford offices there, taking about 40,000 square feet. In March, WWE announced it would relocate its headquarters to the same site and take 415,000 square feet. Architectural firm Perkins Eastman moved into ground-floor offices last October.
Gov. Ned Lamont visited the new KPMG offices in July, and he again touted Stamford’s corporate growth, in a speech Thursday to the city’s Chamber of Commerce.“I love seeing those cranes, I love seeing Charter (grow),” Lamont said. “It gives you an idea of how change can be good as we move forward. And that’s what we’re trying to do around the state.”
Matt Grahn
KILLINGLY - A group of 26 Connecticut state lawmakers signed a letter addressed to Gov. Ned Lamont this week opposing the construction of the Killingly Energy Center (KEC), a gas-fired power plant.
State Senator Mae Flexer (D-Killingly), Representatives Raghib Allie-Brennan (D- Bethel) and Pat Boyd (D-Brooklyn) are leading the charge, according to a press release.
KEC would produce more than 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide, which is equal to 5% of Connecticut’s greenhouse gas emissions, the letter states. It also references an executive order Lamont signed earlier this month setting up a plan for the state to be able to produce 100% of its electricity without carbon emissions by 2040.
“Connecticut will continue to be a national leader in climate action,” Lamont said.
The letter encourages Lamont to join in the opposition to KEC. Flexer said that she is still researching what actions Lamont can take against the plant.
The Connecticut Siting Council approved the project June 6 on a 4-1 vote, with one member absent. The council said the plant had a public benefit and is “not in conflict with the policies of the state concerning such effects, and are not sufficient reason to deny the application.”
However, Flexer said that there are still permits that need to be given for the plant, including one for water.
“I’ve always been concerned about the water source, ” Flexer said. “Do they have to go private property owners to make the water source function the way that it needs to?”
The letter also mentions the vacant positions on the Siting Council that needed to be filled. Flexer said she hopes the new appointees value combating climate change and “that [it] will lead to a Siting Council that will make better decisions in the future.”
Tim Eves, vice president of NTE Connecticut, KEC’s developer, released a statement saying that the plant will achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. As well, Eves said that KEC will “displace” older plants, reducing emissions and bringing more renewable energy sources into the electric grid “both of which will help Connecticut move toward its zero-carbon goal.”

Energy of Avon proposes Enfield solar farm
Jessica Lerner
NFIELD — Months after the state Siting Council issued a declaratory ruling allowing NextEra Energy Resources to build a 131-acre solar farm off Broad Brook Road, a second company is hoping to build the same thing although on a much smaller scale.
The company, Lodestar Energy of Avon, submitted a declaratory petition on Sept. 12 to the Siting Council, a body that has legal jurisdiction over the siting of power facilities, requesting approval to build a nearly 10-acre solar farm on Powder Hill Road.
The Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled to discuss the petition during its meeting at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Town Hall but take no action on the matter.
In the petition, Lodestar, a limited liability company that develops renewable energy projects in Connecticut and New England, states that its goal is to design an environmentally compatible project that produces the maximum amount of energy while avoiding and minimizing adverse environmental impacts.
Located on the east side of Powder Hill Road and north of the intersection of Monroe and Abbe roads, the property is owned by Powder Hill Sand & Gravel.
The site has historically been used as a gravel and sandpit as well as a storage and staging site for the owner’s landscaping and road construction business, according to the petition.
But Lodestar holds an option to lease the site and is in active discussions to purchase the entire property — all 24.42 acres — from Powder Hill Sand & Gravel.
If approved by the Siting Council, Lodestar would exercise its option and enter into a long-term lease for 20 years that will give it the right to construct, operate, and maintain the solar facility at the site.
During a Town Council meeting July 1, members unanimously approved appointing Lodestar as the town’s authorized representative in regard to any submissions having to do with solar energy.
Jaime Smith, Lodestar co-founder, told the council at the meeting that his company develops solar power-generation facilities around the state and supplies the electricity to Eversource Energy, resulting in power credits to any towns, including South Windsor, Suffield, and Vernon, that sign up for it.
Smith explained that the electricity produced by the solar farm is sent to the grid, producing credits. Lodestar then communicates with Eversource, which provides the town’s electricity, to transfer the credits to the town’s account.
When the town receives its Eversource bill, it would be the normal amount, minus 15 cents per kilowatt hour in credits.
As part of the agreement, the town has the ability to cancel Lodestar’s appointment at any time for any reason without further obligation.
It is estimated that the power purchase agreement will save the town of Enfield around $1.6 million in electricity costs over the next two decades.

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