A car elevator would operate at the proposed Pickwick Lofts.
GREENWICH — Questions about parking, and a car-garage technology that is new to Greenwich, are dominating discussions about an apartment-complex proposal in central Greenwich.
The old structure at 44-48 West Putnam Ave. once home to a movie theater, then a bowling alley, is getting a 21st-century upgrade, should approvals be granted to developers looking to “infill” space in the old building with 14 loft-style apartments. The plan calls for an automatic elevator for cars inside the building. The elevator would access an interior garage space above the existing retail, which would remain.
The Pickwick Lofts, as the project is known, is being proposed by Paradigm Realty, and the owner of the site is Marci Fagan.
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At a recent meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission, members expressed curiosity and concerns over “a dedicated car lift,” an elevator that would allow residents to access their cars on an upper level.
Chairwoman Margarita Alban said the parking concept had made some commissioners “nervous.”
The attorney representing the project before the commission, Chip Haslun, said car elevators were “safe and reliable,” and while they typically operated in crowded cities, they would work in any location.
“These structures have gotten so advanced, they have so many precautions, the commission should feel very secure this will function as proposed,” Haslun said.
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Haslun said the new residents would not be using the retail parking spaces at the building regularly.
Commissioner Nick Macri said any approval should place a condition on the car lift stating “that it needs to work all the time, 100 percent, everyday, forever.”
Fagan, the building owner, said she had “a very vested interest” in making the car lift work as proposed, and ensuring the retail parking at the site would not be taken over by the loft residents. For the car lift, Fagan said a back-up generator would be in operation in case of power outages, and a “24/7 service provider” would be on call. She noted she had access to another parking area nearby if a worst-case scenario arose.
The application was tabled for a later date, with additional input expected on how the parking enforcement and maintenance issues would be addressed before final approvals.
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The structure was initially built as the Pickwick Theater in 1929, with 1,200 seats. It was later converted into a bowling alley in 1959. Restaurants also operated there, along with “Pickwick Lanes.”
Robert Marchant is a veteran newsman who covers public safety and public policy for the Greenwich Time. Marchant holds a master’s degree in history from Columbia University and is the author of a book on urban history.