Applications Being Accepted for 2021 Neighborhood Assistance Act Program

Neighborhood assistance program in Norwalk If you're a nonprofit in Norwalk, CT you may be interested in applying for the Connecticut NeighborhoodAssistance Act Program (NAA). The Norwalk Redevelopment Agency is handling the application process for tax exempt organizations in Norwalk. The deadline for applying is 5 p.m. on May 10, 2021.  What is the Neighborhood Assistance Act Program? Read on and we'll fill you in on the details on how it works and how both area businesses and the Norwalk community benefit from this program.

Connecticut Neighborhood Assistance Act Program

The Connecticut Neighborhood Assistance Act program is a tax credit program designed to incentivize businesses to provide funding to support approved municipal and tax-exempt organizations. Businesses may be eligible for a tax credit of up to 60% of the amount they contribute to one of these organizations. Tax credits may even go as high as 100% of the contribution amounts for certain qualified programs.

How Do Nonprofits Qualify For The Program?  

Community programs must be approved by both the municipality in which the programs are conducted and by Connecticut’s Department of Revenue Services. A tax exempt organization interested in participating in the NAA Program must first complete in its entirety the program proposal application, Form NAA-01. This form must be submitted for approval to the municipality where the tax exempt organization’s program is conducted. In Norwalk that is the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency. All approved applications will then be sent to the CT Department of Revenue for another round of reviews. Organizations that qualify include, but are not limited to:
  • Employment and training
  • Energy conservation
  • Child care services
  • Substance abuse
  • Neighborhood assistance

What Are The Guidelines For Businesses?

Although the program is available to a wide range of businesses, there are some parameters to be followed to qualify. For one, the annual tax credit is limited to $150,000. There is also a minimum contribution amount of at least $250 to qualify for the program.  The application process for businesses can be done online through the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services website.

NAA Application Process in Norwalk

All tax exempt organizations in Norwalk will follow this process: 
  1. The Norwalk Redevelopment Agency will collect applications and, after a public hearing, will present them to the Norwalk Planning Committee and Common Council for approval. Then the Agency will submit applications approved by the City of Norwalk to the CT Dept. of Revenue Services.
  2. The Dept. of Revenue Services will post on their website the list of approved applicants for businesses to review as potential community programs to make a contribution towards.
  3. Businesses wishing to sponsor a community program will have to fill out and submit Form NAA-02 between September 15th and October 1st. No earlier and no later.
  4. Later in the fall, CT Dept. of Revenue Services will notify municipalities of the applications that received contributions from companies. At that point, municipalities are asked to notify the organizations directly.
Nonprofit applications must be sent via email to koleary@norwalkct.org before 5 p.m. on May 10, 2021. For more information, or to have any questions answered about the NAA, visit the Department of Revenue Services or call 860-297-5687. Applicants are also welcome to contact Katie O’Leary at the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency at koleary@norwalkct.org.

More information on CT NAA Program

Form NAA-01

Planning Cities With People-oriented Design

people-oriented city planningWe’ve written about what makes cities livable and what people are looking for in a city.  There are various urban planning approaches that put and keep people at the forefront.  Designing a city so it is people oriented brings in two subjects we’ve covered, transit-oriented development (TOD) and designing public spaces to make them more bikeable, walkable and encourage community (also known as  placemaking).  Below we take a closer look at some of  the factors that make up people-oriented urban design. 

The Problem with Car-Centric Cities

Many cities have been designed or have grown  organically to be “car-centric”, meaning they are centered around automobile uses and connectivity. Examples of this can include, large urban blocks, unsafe conditions for bicycling and walking, an emphasis on building roads and highways to make it easier to get into the city, little access or connection to or between public transportation, and few public spaces. Primarily promoting the use of cars can make a city less liveable, adding to traffic congestion, and air pollution - among other problems.  

Transit-oriented Development

Transit-oriented development is a type of urban planning that creates compact, pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use (commercial and residential) communities within walking distance of high quality public transit systems. This kind of development incorporates  living, working, retail and recreational spaces close together, and in close proximity to transportation systems. It is intrinsically built around the needs of people and neighborhoods. TOD fosters many benefits including increased economic activity, job opportunities, walkability and a sense of community.  

Public Transportation

A key component of TOD is good, accessible public transportation that is centered around the needs of residents and visitors. Making trips into and between city neighborhoods easy and making high quality modes of transportation efficient, should be key goals of a city.  Ensuring that there are easy connections between various methods of public transportation, making clear up-to-date route information available,  and providing dedicated lanes on city streets for public transportation can make public transportation more accessible for City residents and visitors.   

Policies to Encourage Less Car Usage  

In addition to making it easier and more compelling to take public transportation, cities can reduce the use of cars with a few strategies, as well. One method is congestion pricing, which is charging vehicles a fee for going into specific areas at certain times of the day. Parking restrictions can also be put into place. In terms of design, cities can narrow lanes, add bike lanes as well as add bike-share docking stations, put in more pedestrian crossings, temporarily replace parking spaces with parklets,  and even set up car free zones. These strategies don’t take cars away from the equation entirely, but they prioritize people over cars.

Designing Walkable, Bikeable Neighborhoods

We already mentioned some of the ways to make a city more walkable and bikeable such as car-free or car-reduced streets.  Other ways to encourage pedestrians can be implemented via sidewalk design strategies.  Making sidewalks wider, with no obstructions, makes them easier to walk on and can encourage their use as public spaces. Clear, wide sidewalks can be used for commercial activity, recreational uses, or public art.  A city can better accommodate bikers with designated bike lanes that are separated from other vehicle street traffic and parked cars, as well as convenient and secure bike racks in public spaces. 

Public Space Management

Public spaces are important to making a city people-friendly. Ensuring residents and visitors access to open public spaces to rest, exercise and congregate is essential for densely populated neighborhoods. The benefits are many, including both physical and mental health, along with  fostering a sense of community. ocia Public spaces can be used for people to meet, play, and socialize! People-oriented city design is all about putting people and communities first, ahead of vehicles, streets, and other city infrastructure.  In short, improving overall quality of life. By encouraging and supporting mixed use building, investing in quality public transportation options, making cities more walkable and bikeable, and providing inviting public spaces, cities can improve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.  

Initial Recommendations for Norwalk’s Industrial Zones

“Industry” in the 21st century has come to have a different meaning than in the last century. For some, 2021-03-10 Steering Committee Meeting - Draft Recommendations (2)industrial zones may conjure up images of belching smoke stacks. But now, the modern industrial zone is something quite different. The manufacturing sector is seen more and more as including a variety of businesses that can be vital to creating vibrant local neighborhoods, offering a range of benefits from creative placemaking to employment opportunities.

The Changing Face of Industry

In many ways the new image of industry stems from the fact that manufacturing firms have changed radically over time. Across the United States, we are moving from a manufacturing sector dominated by mass producers with hundreds of employees to small and medium-sized businesses that are celebrated for keeping it local. Because of this, cities are redefining what industrial usage is as they take a look at their industrial zones. Today, not all industrial uses are the same. They can be small-scale, less intensive uses such as small-batch manufacturing, woodworking, metalworking, machining, product design, printing, apparel and textiles, brewery and bakeries. Industrial uses can also include “light industries” including smaller-scale R&D, industrial services, distribution, building materials sale & storage and warehousing. Heavy industrial uses may include vehicle sale/service, storage/junkyards, asphalt and concrete plants, industrial processing, oil/petroleum/propane gas storage, solid waste transfer, recycling and composting.

Zones In Norwalk

Norwalk has three defined industrial zones: industrial 1, industrial 2 and restricted industrial. In addition, industrial uses are also allowed in certain other business zones.  The kinds of activities that are allowed in these zones include manufacturing and processing, research and development, printing, warehousing, storage and wholesale distribution. These zones also allow for other uses that are not industrial, but accompany industrial uses such as offices and retail, artist workspaces, and even multifamily and single family housing. Norwalk is setting out to reclassify and simplify its industrial zones. Recently, the committee studying this, presented the following recommendations: 
  1. Simplify zoning into three new types of zones: 
    • Industrial
    • Mixed Use Commercial/Industrial
    • Mixed Use Residential/Commercial/Industrial
  2. In the Mixed Use Residential/Commercial/Industrial district, encourage ground floor boutique manufacturing and live/work spaces by allowing building height increases. For example, in neighborhoods such as the East Norwalk or Wall and West Avenue areas, the City could look to create incentives for light industry such as allowing property owners to maintain and grow businesses while allowing for residential spaces above them.
  3. In the Mixed Use Commercial/Industrial Zones, allow for hybrid building types such as in South Norwalk along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Wilson and Woodward Avenues  or North Norwalk along Perry Avenue.
  4. Distinguish the difference between the types and intensity of contractor yards from each other and from other industrial uses and identify more suitable locations and sites. Contractor yards pose problems when they are located along narrow residential streets or when they are near road networks and intersections which can cause conflict with their truck traffic. Currently, contractor yards are permitted by right in Norwalk in industrial zones in South and East Norwalk, but they are also permitted by special permit in other business zones in the City.
  5. Develop separate plans for the Norden site and the waterfront. The Norden Site is a large parcel (37 acres) but truck traffic now must move to and from the site through roads with no direct access to I-95. The committee’s recommendations are that this site should be considered for other suitable land uses such as industrial/commercial with passenger traffic only. Industrial uses around waterfront areas should promote access to the waterfront and be in compliance with and under the guidance of the City’s Harbor Management Plan.
The Industrial Zone Planning Committee will continue to refine its recommendations as it moves ahead, following up with the City’s industrial businesses, and with input and feedback from the public via public outreach sessions being scheduled for late April, 2021.

See Draft Recommendations Presentation

Watch Draft Recommendations Session 

 

Surveying Norwalkers on Industrial Zones

Norwalk's Industrial ZonesIndustrial zones have been integral parts of cities for decades, allowing certain areas to be designated for industrial and commercial use. Following the  2019-2029  Citywide Plan, Norwalk is assessing its industrial zones to see if these areas are still appropriate for industrial uses, as well as taking a look at how to better use these zones for economic diversification and growth.  As part of this effort, the City recently conducted a survey for stakeholders across the City, including residents and business owners, to gauge their opinions about Norwalk’s industrial zones.

Industrial Zone Survey Results

Out of a total of 434 respondents, two major opinion groups emerged, based on their votes and statements submitted.  One group of about one-third of those who responded had generally a pro-industry stance, with strong support for additional industrial development across the City, as well as a healthy mix of both commercial and industrial uses. Their opinions were generally:
  • More supportive of industrial growth, especially for job creation
  • Support for a balance of land use
  • Sensitive to the location of industrial uses and their relationship to residential neighborhoods
A second group, representing about two-thirds of participants, had more of an anti-industry attitude. Many in this group expressed a desire to see industry be placed elsewhere in Fairfield County, and many pointed to the noise and harm  that industry causes to residential neighbors.  Their opinions included:
  • Less support for industrial growth
  • Norwalk should not bear the regional burden of industrial development
  • Industry in Norwalk is not well located and should not be near residential areas
Despite the gap in opinions on industrial zones in general, there were areas of consensus across both of the groups. Whether pro-industry or anti-industry, there was wide agreement on:
  • Industry should respect the needs of its residential neighbors
  • Traffic and infrastructure are serious issues in many of the zones
  • There should be a clear distinction between heavy and light industry
  • Waterfront is a valuable asset for the City that should be considered separately from the other industrial zones

Industrial Zone Planning - Next Steps

Based on both the survey results and the above consensus points, the industrial zone planning team will look further into several questions that arose, including:
  • While Norwalk is well positioned for a regional advantage with regard to industry, should it be the main industrial district for Fairfield County?
  • What are emerging industrial trends and how should they inform the future of industrial development in Norwalk?
  • How to balance the future of marine industrial and commercial uses with recreational uses such as boating and public access along the waterfront?
  • How can Norwalk’s planning and policy mitigate conflicts between industrial uses and abutting residential and commercial areas?
With these in mind, the committee will undergo further planning analysis to develop urban design scenarios related to the various zones.

For a full discussion, watch the Industrial Zones Oversight Committee Special Meeting, 1-12-2021

  Read more about Norwalk's Industrial Zone Planning Effort

30-Minute Cities: A New Urban Planning Trend?

The concept of “30-minute cities” was originally conceived for the city of Sydney, Australia as a way to make the city easily accessible to all. It is a concept that can be adopted in other parts of the world as a way to develop a city strategically so that people can reach important destinations around the city within a reasonable time using a variety of methods of transportation, including car, bus, train, even biking or on foot.  

Access as a Driving Force in Urban Development

When planning for urban development around 30-minute cities, access is the focal point, or improving connectivity within a city. The goal is to reduce the amount of time people need to travel to get to critical points around the city such as work, school, shopping, health and recreational activities. Access also includes opportunities for all people, regardless of socioeconomic status, gender,  ethnicity or physical  or mental ability. One way to do this is to increase the number of available travel options close to where people live. 

Ways to Create 30-Minute Cities

Creating 30-minute cities takes a number of steps.  Some include giving people a variety of ways to get around the city, including public transportation, private cars, taxi, ride-shares as well as walking, bicycling, and scootering.  Others include creating important destinations in close-proximity to each other and to transportation hubs.  There are a few approaches that cities can take. 

Urban Transportation

Cities can take both short-term and long-term steps to increase access to different types of transportation, as well as to improve the speed at which people can get from one place to another. Short-term actions can include retiming traffic signals, bike sharing programs, protected bike lanes, as well publishing public transportation timetables. Longer-term steps could include implementing rapid bus networks, and planning development around transit hubs.

Urban Density Planning 

Cities can promote and prioritize redevelopment that creates well-designed urban neighborhoods or centers where people can live, work and play within a 30-minute radius by foot, bike, car or public transportation. This is commonly known as transit-oriented development. This development should also offer a variety of housing options, including affordable housing, and different employment options to include access to a range of people.

Private/Public Partnerships

To be successful, transit-oriented development needs both public and private input, support, and funding. Developing neighborhoods that include residences and businesses will need the participation and investment of private developers. Government participation is also key for infrastructure improvements to ensure a variety of transportation options and incentives to the private sector. The concept of 30-minute cities is certainly do-able for many urban areas. Better mobility,  including integrated and varied transportation options, neighborhood planning, and public and private partnerships will all help to make our cities a better place to live, work and play.

Norwalk Recognized for Sustainability Initiatives

Norwalk receives sustainability certificationThe City of Norwalk recently achieved a bronze certification from the group Sustainable CT in recognition of the community’s sustainability accomplishments. Sustainable CT is a statewide initiative that encourages and supports communities in becoming more resilient, inclusive and efficient.  In the fall of 2020, seventeen municipalities qualified for certification, meeting the high standards in a broad range of sustainability accomplishments.

Norwalk’s Sustainability Actions

Norwalk demonstrated significant achievements in actions in sustainable impact areas. A few of those initiatives are outlined below. 

Resources and Support to Local Businesses

The city underwent a substantial marketing and tourism program to promote South Norwalk. The Business and Economic Development Department created a Small Business & Main Street Program that includes a storefront improvement program, public art initiative and compacting trash bins that all improve the area visually. In addition, the city conducted a number of business roundtables with local business owners to open and improve communication between City Hall and businesses in Norwalk. Focuses of the initial roundtables included available programs for small businesses and planned improvements for various neighborhoods.

Stewarding Land and Natural Resources

Norwalk created a Watershed Management Plan for three different area watersheds including the Norwalk River, Saugatuck River and Five Mile River. These plans included the participation of a large group of watershed stakeholders. The Watershed Management Plans had a big impact on the adoption of the 2017 Norwalk Drainage Manual and recent City planning efforts. For example, the East Norwalk Transit-Oriented Development Plan places an emphasis on decreasing the amount of impervious surface in the City, which helps to prevent pollutants from running off into the Norwalk and Saugatuck River Watersheds. Actions listed in the Saugatuck River Watershed Plan include water quality monitoring, reducing impervious surfaces, restoring riparian buffers and land protection. In addition, Norwalk helped to fund a 2019 Fairfield County River Report by Harbor Watch, a research and education program located in Westport. The report assessed bacteria levels in 16 river watersheds, including Farm Creek, Silvermine River, Norwalk River and Saugatuck River.  The 2019-2029 Citywide Plan and the business section of the zoning regulations contain green infrastructure incentives for development such as green roofs, rain gardens, solar panels, as well as stormwater management and low impact development goals and actions.

Sustainability and Resiliency Planning

Norwalk’s Citywide Plan heavily focuses on both smart growth and sustainable land development through preserving existing environmental resources. As part of this emphasis, the City will be drafting a climate action plan for Norwalk in the future. The Planning and Zoning Office has already adjusted its staff to include a Land Use Planner to work on environmental issues facing the city and the department has taken many steps towards sustainability through regulation changes. The City is also working on a regional level as a part of Western Connecticut Council of Governments COG's Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan.

Recycling Additional Materials and Composting Organics

A Food Waste Prevention and Food Scraps Recovery Campaign was developed providing residential food scrap collection at the Norwalk Transfer Station and the Rowayton Community Center.  Since the campaign began in July 2020, almost 20,000lbs in food scraps have been composted.

Growing Sustainable and Affordable Housing Options

The City of Norwalk has increased the percentage of affordable units in the city from 11.83% in 2014 to 12.75% in 2018, and most currently to 13.15% in 2019. Norwalk requires that any development over 20 units in most areas and 12 units in downtown areas include workforce housing units, and is looking at lowering that threshold to be any development over 10 units This will allow the City to further expand the amount of newly constructed affordable units in Norwalk which are in high demand. The 2019-2029 Citywide Plan continues this push for affordable housing with goals to provide more diverse housing options and encourage mixed-income developments in the City.  

Support of the Arts and Creative Culture

Norwalk has a very active Arts Commission that promotes arts and culture throughout Norwalk via activities, a website and an art inventory. In 2017, the Arts Commission appointed Norwalk's first Poet Laureate, Laurel S. Peterson, and the current Poet Laureate is Bill P. Hayden. A recent art project for Martin Luther K Boulevard has been recommended for full funding this fiscal year by the Mayor. 

What is Sustainability Certification?

To be eligible for sustainability certification, communities must have accomplished significant goals in nine sustainability impact areas, including community building, thriving local economies and vibrant arts and culture, clean transportation and diverse housing. In addition, certified municipalities must have addressed issues of belonging, equity, diversity and inclusion when implementing sustainability actions.  Collectively, sixty-one municipalities, over 36% of the state’s communities, have earned a Sustainable CT certification. Certification lasts for three years, with submissions rigorously evaluated by independent experts and other Sustainable CT partners. 

About Sustainable CT

Sustainable CT, managed under the leadership of the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Eastern Connecticut State University, includes actions that help towns and cities build community connection, social equity, and long-term resilience.  Sustainable CT is independently funded, with strong support from its three founding funders: the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, the Common Sense Fund, and the Smart Seed Fund.  Additional support is provided by: the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, Connecticut Community Foundation, Fairfield County Community Foundation, Main Street Community Foundation, and other sponsors. For more information, visit sustainablect.org  

Why Managed and Paid Parking Matters

paid parkingParking: many consider it a blessing and a curse. When in a city, it’s a joy to find parking, but very frustrating when you can’t. If you live in the suburbs or rural areas, you may not even think about parking in the same way, as parking spots are often numerous and free. In most cities downtown areas, paying for parking is the norm, not the exception. Although people may gripe about this, paying for parking can provide numerous benefits to city residents, businesses and visitors alike, including increased turnover and more availability of parking spaces, reduced traffic congestion, parking facility cost savings and resources for economic development.

The Cost of Free Parking

It’s typical for people to think that parking should be free and publicly available. However, not everyone needs parking, and in urban areas, there are only so many available parking spots. Whether you have to pay parking fees or not, people still bear the costs of parking - cost of pavement, street cleaning, facility maintenance, security services, and other services. These come directly out of tax dollars, and are passed on to residents and consumers in other ways such as through higher rents and prices that city businesses charge for products and services .  Therefore, parking is not really free. There is a choice, however, between paying directly or indirectly for parking facilities. Paying directly for parking is actually more equitable because with free parking, people who don’t use public parking spots are paying for other peoples' parking. 

Benefits of Paid Parking to Local Commerce

When there isn’t paid parking and management, convenient parking spaces tend to be in high demand. Without having to pay a meter or to use a facility, people tend to stay in spots longer - sometimes all day and many times longer. This leads to other would-be parkers spending more time driving around, wasting time looking for convenient, available spots close to their destination, or worse - leaving in frustration. Paid parking encourages longer-term parkers to use less convenient, but less expensive spaces. While businesses in urban areas tend to be worried about paid parking, it actually increases turnover and ease for customers to find a parking spot nearby and closer to their business.  Plus, data shows that  customers will pay for convenient, easy to find  parking spaces closer to their destination.

Efficient and Environmentally Sound

Having free parking not only negatively affects local business, but also provides an incentive to rely more on cars, crowding city streets and making it harder to drive and park. As mentioned above, free parking increases the time people drive around looking for parking. All of this increases traffic congestion and carbon emissions. When people have to pay for parking it encourages them to use public transportation and alternative modes of transportation to urban centers, including on-demand transit, microtransit and biking.  Recent studies have found that in dense cities, public transportation use is significantly higher in areas where parking is more expensive. 

Paid Parking and Economic Development

Parking  fees can be used to help finance  local governments to  make improvements for residents and visitors, and to enhance economic development investments such as public private development, transportation and mobility alternatives, connectivity, as well as repurposing parking facilities through community development partnerships.  Roads and parking facilities are valuable municipal assets. Building and maintaining them can be costly. Parking fees allow governments to recover these costs from those who use them, including non-residents.  Cities can also use revenues from parking fees to finance neighborhood improvements such as more street and sidewalk cleaning, increased security, public space and placemaking  amenities such as landscaping, benches, fountains and walkways, or community-wide events, and marketing for commercial districts. Monies can also be used to make improvements to alternative modes of transportation that will help reduce parking and traffic problems such as wider sidewalks, improved and safe walkability, biking resources and on demand transportation including microtransit.

Paid Parking in Norwalk

In Norwalk, paid parking is the norm in the urban South Norwalk, West Avenue and Wall Street areas. Parking pricing in Norwalk is a part of an integrated parking management program overseen by the Norwalk Parking Authority. Use of technology that calculates congestion and occupancy rates allows the City to vary parking pricing for less trafficked hours and spots as well as to create and manage flexible parking spaces to accommodate short term parking needs such as curbside pickups and deliveries.  Many of the complaints about parking stem from inconvenient payment methods. The Norwalk Parking Authority has been on the cutting edge of payment technology, having offered a pay-by-phone option for several years, and most recently, text to pay and online parking reservation options. The maintenance, security, enforcement and improvement of parking facilities and on-street parking in Norwalk is not subsidized by the taxpayer, but through parking fees by the user, with over 70% from out of town, making parking in the city more efficient and equitable. It has also generated revenues that have been used to benefit residents, businesses and visitors such as public art, and the promotion of local businesses via a parking validation program and Norwalk Now, and citywide investments in parking facility improvements and enhancements. 

Transit-Oriented Development Plan Moving Forward in East Norwalk

East Norwalk Transit-Oriented DevelopmentNorwalk has been undergoing  planning for East Norwalk to guide growth and development in and around the East Norwalk train station.   The plan is being developed with the help of stakeholders including the public, area businesses, and other city residents and representatives to create a vision for the future, and help guide recommendations for appropriate uses for the land and scale of development in the East Avenue  train station area.  Below we’ll take a look at some of the proposed recommendations

A New Village District for East Norwalk

One significant  recommendation is the creation of a new village district for the area, concentrated on East Avenue. This will require all development to adhere to design guidelines that control building architecture, streetscape, site layout, signage and landscaping . The city would also allow some buildings to have additional height and a moderate increase in the number of residential units, above ground floor commercial spaces, provided they include certain amenities that positively impact the community.   Benefits of this include additional revenue for property owners as well as promoting mixed-use development, so residents could live close to commercial and transportation options.   As part of developing the district, the plan proposes putting in place a street and facade improvement program in the areas of Charles Street & Osborne Avenue, north of Fort Point Street, similar to the program used in SoNo.  

What Could New Development Look Like?

So what could the new village district look like?  The study team put together a rendering  and buildout of  the corner of East Avenue and Winfield Street to illustrate what is possible.  The new regulations could allow slightly taller buildings (1 additional story than currently allowed) in exchange for a large pedestrian plaza with other features such as fountains, public arts, public WIFI and/or public seating, as well as a shared parking lot to the rear of the development.  In addition,  sidewalks around this parcel could be widened to encourage pedestrians and to make room for possible outdoor dining space. It is important to note that this plan has no mechanism or recommendation to take anyone’s property or force them to change their current use.  The Plan is meant to guide development, if and when change occurs.  

Improvements Toward the Norwalk River

In East Norwalk, as you go closer to the Norwalk River, one possible improvement would be to explore the relocation of the DPW garage elsewhere in the City. This site could be used for a variety of other uses, ranging from marine commercial use to open space. Closer to South Norwalk, the study team suggested the creation of a promenade along Seaview Avenue, connecting the Cove Avenue area to SoNo. The promenade would be another great resource for Norwalkers, with amenities that could be used for recreational and entertainment purposes. 

Next Steps

These recommendations will be posted in full in a draft plan and area residents, business owners and others with an interest in the area will have the opportunity to give their feedback to the City. Once put in place, the revitalization of the area around the East Avenue train station will be  yet another step toward ensuring that Norwalk is a great place to live, work and play.

Read Final Plan 

Plan Appendices

Reassessing Industrial Zones In Norwalk

industrial zonesNorwalk is embarking on a  study to review the city’s industrial zones, their current uses, and the city’s future needs. Since its beginnings, Norwalk has transformed from an important colonial seaport, to a major manufacturing center, and today is a city with both a diverse population and economy, from Fortune 500 companies, to high-tech manufacturing, and innovative start-up companies. By revisiting its industrial zoning, Norwalk hopes to use its remaining industrial parcels as key resources for creating job growth, and to further diversify its economy.

What is an Industrial Zone?

Industrial zones  are important components of city planning.  An industrial zone is an area of a municipality that is designated to be used for industrial uses. These zones can benefit a city by boosting economic development, providing employment and investment in the area, and generating city revenues. For industrial zones to be beneficial, a city should have space for manufacturing that is suitable and affordable. This can be challenging in places where land values are high and there is significant demand for space for other uses such as residential or office buildings. Industrial zones also need to be located in areas that are accessible to transportation links, allowing employees to come and go and goods to be shipped. Having zones where manufacturing is clustered allows these businesses to operate freely without worrying about disturbing neighboring businesses or residents. Some schools of thought argue that having a diversity of industry near one another promotes both more industrial economic growth as well as development of the city’s surrounding area. The theory is that diversity provides opportunities for technological inter-fertilization of industries as well as innovation and entrepreneurship. 

Industrial Zones in Norwalk

According to Norwalk’s Zoning Regulations, the “primary purpose of industrial zones is to provide areas which permit manufacturing and related uses”. Heavy industrial uses are allowed by special permit. Examples of businesses in this area are any manufacturing that doesn’t involve noxious waste or overly loud noises. They can also include warehouses, package distribution facilities and places that sell or store building materials.   The city also  recognizes that while there’s a need for manufacturing space it needs to ensure that industrial zones are compatible with nearby residential neighborhoods and with the capacity of available infrastructure. Therefore, city regulations state that any  plans for building a structure more than 20,000 square feet or with more than 50 parking spaces must include special permits.  In keeping with the coexistence of residents and businesses, industrial zones in Norwalk can also include retail stores, offices, including medical offices, banks and financial institutions, other service establishments such as restaurants and taverns, as well as single- and two-family housing.

Examining Norwalk’s Industrial Zones  

Norwalk’s study of its industrial zones will help it to make decisions about the city when planning for development. A goal of the study is to determine what Norwalk can do to foster industrial growth, including craft industries, and ensure that thriving businesses expand and/or remain in Norwalk. Among the key issues the study will look at is if all the areas that are zoned industrial  currently are still appropriate for the neighborhoods. The study will also examine what  other similar communities in the Northeast are doing to attract commercial and manufacturing companies, including new tech and green manufacturing. Conversely, the study will evaluate what might discourage industrial growth in Norwalk, including limitations or issues with regard to infrastructure (e.g. roadways, sanitation, energy, etc.). For industrial development to thrive, governments and private developers need to create sustainable, profitable conditions. Designated industrial zones with the infrastructure (both physical as well as technical), convenient location, and municipal and residential support can deliver jobs and economic growth. Norwalk’s reassessment of its industrial zones is a step in that direction.

The Importance of Anchor Institutions to a City

anchor institutions_hospitalsThere is a lot of talk in city planning circles these days about anchor institutions in cities and towns. With the loss of manufacturing in smaller cities and towns, institutions like hospitals and universities have become more important factors in local economies, and partners to neighborhoods and municipalities. In fact, those two institutions alone employ eight percent of the U.S. labor force and account for more than seven percent of U.S. gross domestic product. Below we delve a little deeper into anchor institutions and how they can benefit their communities.

What Are Anchor Institutions?

Anchor institutions are organizations that are established in communities and tied to them via place. Examples are libraries, hospitals, local community foundations, colleges and universities, and cultural organizations such as museums or arts centers. Anchor institutions can also be major employers in certain niches like science and design.  Because of their longstanding establishment in a town or city, these places have an interest and investment in keeping their community vibrant. They contribute to their community via their employees, businesses they use as vendors, and relationships with neighbors and other organizations in the area. Because of their ties to their neighborhoods, towns, and regions, they are seen as key to its economic development, wellbeing, and cultural growth. The thinking is that they can be even more beneficial to their towns and cities via their intellectual resources, and economic and cultural power.

Economic Partners 

As some of the largest regional employers in a city, anchor institutions can benefit a city or town through its hiring and workforce development programs. Hiring local residents at decent, living wages and offering career building opportunities for local residents and employees can keep the area’s economy healthy. Working with and hiring locally-owned vendors promotes small and local businesses. Other ways anchor institutions can promote business development in the area include colleges and universities making use of their resources, such as faculty and students. By creating small business development centers to work in their regions they can help to build the capacity of local  businesses. Area foundations and nonprofits too can create programs to work with local individuals and businesses to build their professional capacity. Colleges for example can also work with local school districts to create viable pipelines and pathways to skilled, high-paying  jobs.

Promoting A Healthy Community

Institutions can do a number of things to impact the health of their neighborhoods and regions. They can work directly with the community via public health interventions. They can also make investments in factors that affect good health such as access to health care and health care information, access to healthy food and physical activity in local public schools, workforce wellness initiatives with local businesses, investment in safe and affordable housing, and by providing employment to local residents. 

Community Engagement

Anchor institutions need to engage with their local communities to maintain a partnership relationship. Universities can foster civic participation via discussions, lectures, workshops around adult education, politics, and the economy. Art institutions can support building a thriving arts and culture hub by supporting local artists and businesses, and partnering with local schools.   Anchor Institutions can bring important benefits to local communities in which they are located by creating decent-paying jobs for residents, supporting local businesses and community-based entrepreneurship, promoting the arts, culture and health, and engaging residents in a variety of productive ways.  In Norwalk, we have a number of anchor institutions, including Norwalk Hospital, Norwalk Community College and The Maritime Aquarium, for example.  Anchor institutions are central to the implementation of the current Wall Street-West Avenue Redevelopment Plan. Because there are only a few traditional institutions in the area – Norwalk Hospital, Norwalk Public Library, Stepping Stones – non-traditional anchor institutions such as major employers like King Industries and Devine Brothers are also  involved. These community strongholds continue to contribute to making Norwalk and surrounding towns a dynamic place to live and work.