January 31, 2018
The Wall Street and West Avenue Corridor has seen tremendous change and growth in the decade since the City of Norwalk last updated redevelopment plans for the area. Over 800 new apartments and 100,000 square feet of commercial space have been created. Wall Street’s Globe Theater has been revived. The area’s longstanding community institutions, Norwalk Hospital, Norwalk Public Library, and Stepping Stones Museum for Children continue to foster art, culture, and health and wellness. All of this has given the neighborhood an emerging identity as a healthy and vibrant city center.
So it was fitting that the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency set out to develop a new plan that would provide a vision, policies and actions for property redevelopment and capital investments. A draft of that plan has recently been released. Below is a short synopsis.
A key factor in the development of the plan has been input from various stakeholders, leveraging the tremendous power of people to reimagine, reinvent and renew the neighborhood’s valuable physical spaces and economic assets. This neighborhood includes the once distinct Wall Street and West Avenue areas, the industrial waterfront to the east and Norwalk Hospital to the west.
Over the course of the spring and summer of 2017, the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, in collaboration with Regional Plan Association, undertook an extensive stakeholder engagement effort to understand opportunities and challenges in the neighborhood and develop a vision for the future.
What the Agency discovered after stakeholder input is that the common goal is for a healthy and vibrant city center with a strong economy driven by innovation and collaboration that is accessible, authentic, lively and affordable for residents and businesses. The recommended actions in the plan to achieve this vision focus on five key areas:
- Zoning changes and design guidelines
- Connectivity and mobility improvements
- Development of opportunity sites
- Collaborative planning and investment
- Creative financing tools
Key Policies in the Plan
There are a number of policies outlined in the plan that will help reach the goals for the neighborhood. Some of the strategies outlined include:
- Encourage innovation by fostering collaboration with anchor institutions and area companies & businesses and enhancing water-dependent uses
- Improve accessibility by creating a direct transit link between the Wall Street-West Avenue neighborhood and the South Norwalk train station, improving sidewalks and streetscapes, and creating bike paths that link the neighborhood to jobs and transit
- Capitalize on the neighborhood’s open spaces and historic character and provide design guidelines for new development
- Make the area more affordable by protecting existing neighborhood residents, businesses and artists from displacement and require creation of permanently protected, affordable apartments as part of new multifamily developments
Realizing the plan’s vision and executing its recommendations will require a range of partnerships as well as substantial collaboration across agencies, departments, institutions, the private sector and the local community. Therefore, feedback on the draft plan from all stakeholders is requested and encouraged!