STAMFORD — Three years ago, a post-and-beam skeleton stood at 860 Canal St. in the South End. Now, it is fleshed out as a brick-and-glass edifice that owners say will soon support a new kind of media hub.
The transformation is nearly complete, with the developers of the 133,000-square-foot complex known as The Village announcing this month that they plan to open the hub next spring. It will become a home base not only for the conglomerate Wheelhouse and reality-TV powerhouse ITV America, but also a number of other businesses.
“We looked at Stamford very specifically because we have a very diverse workforce, and it looks a lot like Stamford does,” Brent Montgomery, Wheelhouse’s founder and CEO and the former CEO of ITV America, said during a tour this week of The Village. “We thought, Why not get a great piece of land on the water and just try to bring really interesting people together.’”
Plans for the four-floor property coalesced in late 2017, when Montgomery and his wife, Courtney Montgomery, acquired the property for $7.6 million through an entity known as Stamford Media Village.
In 2018, Wheelhouse launched. The company comprises four businesses: Wheelhouse Entertainment; marketing arm Wheelhouse Labs, investment arm Wheelhouse Partners and Wheelhouse Properties.
Jimmy Kimmel, host of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, is a partner in Wheelhouse, and his production business Kimmelot is part of Wheelhouse Entertainment. Wheelhouse Properties, which was founded and run by Courtney Montgomery, is The Village’s developer.
As Greenwich residents, the Montgomerys have witnessed Stamford’s rise as a media hub in the past few years. While Brent Montgomery worked at ITV America, it opened offices in 2017 at the neighboring 850 Canal St.
Describing itself as the largest independent non-scripted producer in the U.S., ITV America has established general production, post-production, editing, casting and back-office services at 850 Canal.
All of those operations will relocate to The Village, as will Wheelhouse Entertainment’s local contingent, which has been based at 850 Canal and the neighboring 484 Pacific St.
Wheelhouse and ITV America gained a major boost when the state Department of Economic and Community Development decided to support their expansion. In May 2018, the agency announced it would provide a $6 million loan to ITV America and a $3 million loan to Wheelhouse Entertainment.
DECD allocated those funds for the purchase of machinery, equipment and capital improvements. A portion of the loans can be forgiven if the companies meet certain job targets. In addition, Wheelhouse Entertainment and ITV America qualified for certain tax incentives related to film and digital media production.
“It’s a great sign when a company like ITV says it will consolidate a bunch of its operations in Connecticut,” Catherine Smith, the state’s then-economic development commissioner, said at the time. “This is a good indicator that we have the right talent and location. We’ve always felt digital media had a place in the state.”
During the past few years, DECD has also provided multimillion-dollar subsidies to other TV and digital media firms, including ESPN and NBC Sports. The latter has been headquartered in Stamford since 2013.
While TV and digital media production will be a focal point at The Village, it will house a number of other tenants.
A restaurant is being built out on the ground floor. It will feature offerings from Nantucket-based Cisco Brewers.
Mike Geller, founder of the delivery service and organic market Mike’s Organic, will serve as The Village’s chief food curator.
Other amenities will include offices, coworking setups, private-event space and a gym. A rooftop with panoramic views of the city will offer another option for gatherings. There are also nearly 1,000 feet of walkway along an adjacent marina.
“The big vision and goal of the building is that everybody in this building ‘plays’ together in some way and has some interactivity,” Brent Montgomery said.
The Village’s cost of construction is approximately $50 million. The Montgomerys are providing the financing, which includes construction loans.
Redevelopment has entailed a top-to-bottom renovation at 860 Canal, whose official address will be 4 Star Point — with an adjacent side street going by that name. The structure is more than 100 years old and once operated as a wire factory.
Stamford-based CPG Architects has led the design, while Norwalk-based A. Pappajohn is leading the building work.
While the exterior is largely complete, the interior of the space is still being built out. The ongoing construction facilitated modifications that have been made in response to COVID-19.
“Rather than going back and retrofitting a building to be COVID-friendly, we were able to come up with a plan and implement that much easier than some other places,” Courtney Montgomery said. “We’ve been thinking about things like touchless faucets. We have these cool things you step on, so the doors will automatically open. We put in a whole ventilation system that filters the air in a much different way.”
At the same time, the building will retain many of the features that were planned before the pandemic, including meeting the V4 standard of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green-building certification program, according to the Montgomerys.
The Village’s opening reflects the trajectory of a city whose growth has been complicated, but hardly derailed, by the coronavirus crisis.
A few blocks from the site, construction continues in the mixed-use Harbor Point development, where several thousand apartments have been built in the past decade.
“Workspaces like The Village represent the vision and opportunity that are attracting our future workforce and residents to the community, and COVID only accelerated this movement,” Stamford Mayor David Martin said in a statement. “I look forward to The Village opening in our city and to welcoming all who recognize that Stamford is the place to be.”
Other industries keep expanding locally too. About one mile west of The Village, construction is nearly complete on the approximately 500,000-square-foot office tower next to the downtown Metro-North Railroad station that telecommunications giant Charter Communications plans to move into next year.
The Montgomerys expect the city to sustain that momentum, citing the pandemic-sparked relocation in recent months of many New Yorkers to Stamford and surrounding communities.
“There’s just a lot of high-wattage power in this area, who weren’t even here four or five months ago. They’ve moved their kids, they’ve moved their families,” Brent Montgomery said. “We really do believe that this can be a much bigger ‘swing’ than we originally anticipated.”