January 8, 2019
Since last year, the City of Norwalk has been undergoing research and assessment of the City in order to develop a plan for its future over the next ten years. The Citywide Plan, also called the Plan of Conservation and Development or POCD, looks at the City’s economic, physical and social characteristics in order guide the future. A diverse range of Norwalkers helped shape the plan through interviews, a citywide visioning workshop, nine neighborhood- based district workshops, four topic-based workshops, a youth meeting, and opportunities for digital participation.
Below is a summary of some of the highlights of the draft Plan based on the findings from research and public input.
The Vision for Norwalk
The vision for Norwalk is that by 2029, the City has become a national example of a small city that boasts a thriving and dynamic economy; varied housing choices for all income levels; many safe and convenient ways to get around the city, including walking and biking; connected, accessible and beautiful open spaces; and an active and resilient coastline. In ten years, Norwalk is the center of art, culture and entertainment for our region. It combines the character of a historic New England community on the coast of Long Island Sound with a thriving city in the county’s largest metropolitan area.
Challenges and Opportunities
In order to reach the vision above for Norwalk in ten years, the plan outlines a number of to-do’s that will need to be addressed.
- Norwalk needs to be more proactive, systematic, and data-driven in shaping change: Implementing systems for understanding change, managing assets, and evaluating possible public investments in relation to overall goals will result in more cost-efficient and successful government.
- Norwalk needs a culture of planning for the entire city: Planning initiatives in recent decades have focused, for good reasons, on the urban core. Now Norwalk needs to extend a planning culture to the entire city that integrates land use and transportation, a modernized zoning code, design standards for placemaking, and active pursuit of businesses and institutions that can contribute to achieving Norwalk’s goals.
- Norwalk needs to take into account the generational transition from Baby Boomers to Millennials—and Generation Z: The growing Millennial generation and Generation Z—born from the early 1980s to 2010—tend to prefer walkable, urban and village-like environments, biking and walking connections, and connected open space.
- Norwalk needs to focus on placemaking, livability, and the new urban economy: Transit-oriented development districts in South Norwalk and East Norwalk will provide walkable neighborhoods. Economic and redevelopment initiatives, including development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem and an Arts and Culture District, can transform the urban core and older industrial areas. MIxed-use clusters with strong design standards will refresh Route 1 and other major corridors in response to a changing retail economy.
- Norwalk needs better connectivity: Bike and pedestrian trails can help connect neighborhoods with city destinations, and options for better transit must be explored.
- Norwalk needs to be ready for the risks of the future: Norwalk must plan, with regional and state collaboration, for threats due to climate change more extreme storms, drought, more heat and heat waves, sea-level rise, flooding, and other impacts.
- Norwalk needs to preserve and protect its historic and environmental assets: Norwalkers will benefit from more systematic protection of historic resources throughout the city and a deepened commitment to environmental protection and sustainability. They are are key competitive resources for livability, sustainability, and economic success.
Top Priorities for 10-Year Plan
Below are several key areas that the POCD determined need to be addressed first:
- Rewrite and modernize the zoning code to achieve the plan’s goals.
- Establish an economic development office and implement an effective economic development strategy
- Make the City website more “customer-friendly”—up to date, organized, efficient, and transparent
- Implement the School Facilities Master Plan
- Prepare and begin implementing the following studies and plans:
- Industrial zones and activities
- Housing Policy Plan and Strategy (both market-rate and affordable housing)
- Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan to include critical infrastructure like the Wastewater Treatment Plant
- Land Use/Transportation Corridor Plan, including a market analysis, for the Main Street/Main Avenue Corridor first, then Connecticut and Westport Avenues
- Parks, Open Space, Trails, and Recreation System Plan
- Historic Preservation Plan