We Built This City: The Rebirth of Stamford
“Stamford’s growth is unignorable.”
So says the opening line of a Stamford Advocate article from September 2022. As you travel through the downtown of Connecticut’s second-largest city, you have to agree. Cranes and gleaming skyscrapers dot the skyline. Foodies dine outside at every corner. Charming string lights line pocket parks. People are walking their dogs and riding bikes. There is an upbeat, place-to-be kind of vibe.
“I would definitely live in Stamford,” says one college-aged intern working in the city for the summer. “It’s much more affordable than New York City but still close, and it’s cool.”
IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME
That’s exactly the opinion the city has been working to cultivate. As former Stamford economic development director Thomas Madden explains, the city’s recent rebound has been a long time in the works.
“Stamford was originally a manufacturing town, and when industry died off in the 1980s, the city saw a transition to the finance sector,” he says. “But after the recession in 2008, many of those companies left and we faced a major challenge.”
Madden led a charge to draw people and businesses back to Stamford. The first phase of this strategy focused on two areas: 1) education and 2) housing.
“A strong education system brings families,” he says. “And those families must be supported by quality housing, which attracts even more residents.”
The people came, but Stamford was largely still a bedroom community. So the second stage focused on addressing the needs of the companies moving into Stamford. This changed Stamford’s identity from a community whose workers commute into New York City to one the workers were coming to.
“Stamford is one of the most educated cities in America,” says Pavarini North East vice president Curtis Brown. “With new tax and development incentives, proximity to New York, and this ready, educated talent pool, the city certainly caught the attention of marquee companies.”
What’s more, says Madden, this rebirth set the stage for the media boom that was building. “When the financial sector started to downsize during the Great Recession, the companies left behind a robust fiber optic network that has become the backbone of the media industry that is flourishing here in the city.”
A MEDIA TOWN
All of these factors and more indeed kept one of Stamford’s most recognizable companies home-based in the city.
“Stamford has been home to WWE for decades, and now WWE is doubling-down and investing back into Stamford for the future,” says Daryl Twitchell, executive director of WWE’s HQ project.
Taking shape at 707 Washington Boulevard and visible from I-95 and the train station, WWE’s new state-of-the-art headquarters and production facility will house more than a thousand people and be capable of producing everything from original short-form content to live events and feature-length films.
Walking through the jobsite, you can feel the energy. WWE is transforming the former UBS trading floor—which was originally built by Pavarini, is larger than a football field, and was the biggest in the world at the time—into a multileveled production space full of professional film studios, audio recording rooms, edit rooms, technical spaces… you name it. The active jobsite floor is buzzing. This place is special.
Iain Paine, executive director and co-leader of the project for WWE with Twitchell, agrees that Stamford has experienced a renaissance over the last decade. “Once known as a center for financial services with global companies like RBS and UBS, Stamford has become a significant media town, and we’re the anchor tenant.”
Twitchell and Paine lead us through floor by floor, practically bouncing with each step as they paint a vivid picture of every amenity, studio, café, and hallway. The excitement is palpable. In fact, we turn a corner to find two dozen crew members rapidly spreading a concrete slab for one of the many high-tech studios in the newly constructed pavilion area. In each studio space, they are adding double walls and double slabs to create a total sound and vibration lockdown. These are Hollywood level. The real deal.
Just like WWE, Pavarini North East (PNE) has been part of the Stamford community for decades and has played a central role in this rebirth of development. In fact, their connection to Stamford is part of why they are here at the WWE job.
“Pavarini is a fixture in the city,” says Paine. “We knew the mayor would appreciate keeping our project team local.”
It’s true. Standing on WWE’s fifth-floor terrace, Pavarini projects fill the city skyline. One third of Connecticut’s Fortune 500 firms are Pavarini clients. It all points to both Pavarini’s reputation and the exciting state of development in the city, says PNE regional vice president Mike Melanophy.
“For many years, we were a $120M to $150M business. But in the last two to three years, we’ve gone north of $200M and climbing,” he says. “Why? What used to be small jobs that everyone was fighting for are now a series of large-scale, really great projects that only the best can deliver.”
Take Charter Communications, for example. This summer, the media company officially moved into its new, 900,000sf headquarters, within walking distance of a major public transportation hub and full of amenities such as a two-story food hall, fitness center, conference center with meeting spaces of all shapes and sizes, and more.
“Companies like Charter know what a great city this is, and their new headquarters reflects that,” says Ray Donaghy, PNE account executive. “We’re so proud we got to help them bring this vision to life and keep so many talented, smart people here in the Stamford community.”
Pavarini also built the new offices of ITV America, one of the largest producers of non-scripted content in the country. ITV America was drawn to Stamford’s growing reputation as a media hub. With Pavarini’s help tailoring their space into a mix of offices, audio mixing rooms, edit bays, voiceover rooms, and other critical spaces, ITV America has created a productive, functional space in a location they love.
“Expanding into Stamford has been extremely positive for ITV America, offering numerous advantages from day one, from a reduced cost of living, while maintaining important proximity to New York City, to meaningful tax incentives,” says Danielle Bibbo, ITV America’s EVP of business development and strategy. “In the short time we’ve been here, we’ve seen enormous growth in both diversity and lifestyle, from culinary to the arts, and we feel fortunate to have been among the early media cheerleaders for this wonderful community.”
Pavarini’s own offices, in fact, are part of this boom. Taking advantage of the renewed vibrancy downtown and along the waterfront, PNE recently moved into their own new space at One Star Point in the heart of Harbor Square, bringing waterfront views and a new slate of amenities for their own employees.
“We’ve been working with our clients to give this area of the city a facelift, and now it’s the neighborhood where everyone wants to live and work,” says Melanophy. “It feels incredible to be here, to look around the city and see it so vibrant. We’re so proud to be part of this.”