DARIEN — The proposed redevelopment of the Noroton Heights Shopping Center will be, in a way, a return to the past, according to James Palmer.

The development, though it would raze the buildings where Jimmy’s Southside Tavern and Barrett Bookstore are located, and though its planners seek to rejigger the 1950s design more suited to cars than people, would, in a sense, be a return to Noroton Heights as it once was.

“We wanted to bring a sense of the old Noroton Heights green — lost to the bulldozers and (Interstate) 95 so long ago — back again,” said Palmer, referring to the area’s public green that was paved over, along with many homes and businesses, in 1958 when the highway was built.

Wanting to create a more well-defined village and to redevelop the plaza where his grandfather founded Palmer’s Market, Palmer helped form Noroton Heights LLC. Palmer spoke about his goals for the redevelopment at a recent public hearing of the Planning and Zoning Commission, at which site plans of Noroton Heights Shopping Center Inc. were debuted.

The new site plan calls for a pedestrian-friendly zone with first-story shops and restaurants, above which would be 59 one- and two-bedroom apartment units. Palmer said he and his partners hoped to re-create the village feel, with buildings of varied architectural styles, pedestrian walkways and an open plaza with a fountain, benches, trees and a sundial, where events could take place, where people could gather or sit and just read the paper.

“It was extremely important to us to create something that would be well received by those living in the Noroton Heights neighborhood and would be looked upon as a net positive for Darien as a whole,” Palmer said.

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Hearing set

The second Noroton Heights Shopping Center public hearing is set for Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the Darien Town Hall auditorium.

In its current state, Palmer said, the shopping center is “anti-pedestrian, discourages walking and socialization and represents an era of the late-1950s and early-1960s, where the focus was on the automobile, not the individual.”

According to Joseph Schiffer, of New Haven-based Newman Architects, proposed buildings would be no taller than three stories, with two stories of residential units above first-floor retail. Subsurface parking would be available for tenants.

The commission had questions to do with traffic, namely whether a left-turn lane might be possible for cars heading south on Hollow Tree Ridge Road and whether a turn signal was necessary on Edgerton Avenue. Drainage, too, which has been a recurring issue in Noroton Heights, though primarily to the east of Palmer’s Market, was a concern of the commission.

“To me, anything is a help in that area, without trying to overtax the project or cause them to have to spend additional funds,” Director of Public Works Edward Gentile said.

Federal Realty, a developer that hopes to redevelop the eastern side of the shopping center, has not filed its application, but would also bear some of the drainage burden in the area.

justin.papp@scni.com; @justinjpapp1