NORWALK — In 2010 when Building and Land Technology was completing its first Stamford high-rise in the new Harbor Point district, construction costs were kept in check as Connecticut slogged through the Great Recession.
A dozen years later as it readies for its largest project since Harbor Point, BLT says it is committed to the North Seven development it is planning in Norwalk — despite runaway inflation that is sending building costs soaring.
BLT has completed the third and final building of The Curb just north of the Merritt Parkway in Norwalk. The project had been Connecticut’s single-largest apartment complex under construction with more than 700 units.
The pandemic has sent costs soaring for builders. Steel prices rocketed up 127 percent last year, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, with little sign of easing heading into the summer construction season and sky-high prices for diesel fuel creating an extra pinch.
BLT is in the planning stages for North Seven, which would add another 1,300 apartments in seven buildings a short walk to the Merritt 7 Metro-North train station and a pair of office parks housing the headquarters of Xerox, Terex, Frontier Communications, FactSet, Emcor, and the Financial Accounting Foundation among others. BLT also owns the One Glover apartment building, which has about 130 units.
“If you think about what we’re going to build here, it piggybacks off of what we did in Harbor Point,” Ted Ferrarone, co-president of Stamford-based BLT, said this week during a tour of The Curb’s newest building.
“If you think about the original Merritt 7 plan, it was all offices, and at the time, I think that was probably how master planners thought about things. But what we saw at Harbor Point is that you really need the housing and offices together, make it a place where people want to live and work — especially during the pandemic.”
Ferrarone said about one of every four residents are moving to The Curb from within Norwalk, and a slightly higher margin from other cities and towns in Fairfield County.
“There’s a strong correlation to local employers — a lot of their employees are living here to be close,” Ferrarone said. “If you are living and working in New York City, you are paying a lot of money for a little space. Here, you get a lot of space for a reasonable amount.”
Families comprise anywhere from 15 percent to 20 percent of tenants, according to Rebecca Marlowe, an area manager for BLT.
Ferrarone said a number of retirees have also taken apartments after selling their houses during the pandemic real estate boom, as an interim step to finding their next home.
“People are calling and saying, ‘I’m thinking about listing my house and I’m worried that the market is so hot I am going to have to move out quickly’ — we see quite a bit of that,” Ferrarone said. “We also see a lot of people who will rent and use that as a base to get a better sense of Fairfield County before buying.”
As of this week, studio apartments at The Curb were priced between $1,900 and $2,000 a month on Apartments.com. Single-bedroom units ranged between $2,200 and $3,000, while BLT asked for anywhere from $3,100 to more than $3,400 for a two-bedroom.
If built according to BLT’s plan for more than 2,000 units, North Seven would trail only Harbor Point and Danbury’s Reserve as the largest residential district under construction in Connecticut.