Environmental Resilience Planning: Heat Study in Norwalk, CT

heat sensor project in Norwalk CTHigh temperatures can harm people and the environment. In the U.S., more than 67,000 people each year go to emergency rooms due to heat-related symptoms. With climate change, heat waves are expected to only become more frequent and severe.  Learning how climate change affects our communities and how we can plan for it is critical. In Norwalk, Connecticut a study is currently being conducted to track changes in the air and surface temperatures to see how it may affect the city and its residents. Keep reading to learn more about the heat study in Norwalk, CT.

Why is Norwalk Conducting a Heat Study?

During hot periods, people in urban areas experience higher temperatures than rural areas. More asphalt, higher concentration of buildings and fewer trees make cities retain more heat.  This is called the Urban Heat Island Effect. Being from a temperate area, most Connecticut residents aren’t accustomed to extreme heat. As a result, area residents face a heightened risk for heat-related illnesses during times of extremely high temperatures. Studies suggest that climate change will intensify the conditions that lead to heat-related illnesses, symptoms that can even prove fatal. Norwalk has also been found a vulnerable zone by the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) in a recent Vulnerability Assessment. To prepare, Norwalk is partnering with CIRCA on resiliency projects. The heat study is part of that, and will look at changes in air and surface temperatures over time.

Norwalk, CT Heat Vulnerability Assessment

 

The Goals of the Heat Study

The primary goal of the heat study is to find and map various areas in Norwalk to understand the vulnerabilities of different areas to heat. This will help the city identify at-risk areas in order to develop ways to help the community prepare for higher, more extreme temperatures, like where to place cooling centers. The study will also take a look at urbanization and rising temperatures, such as understanding how certain traffic flows affect heat output in order to put in place effective solutions to combat climate change.     The data revealed by the study will also enable researchers to model inconsistencies and examine the differences between heat sensors and satellite-measured temperatures. 

How the Heat Study in Norwalk, CT Will Work

To gauge temperatures in the city, heat sensors have been placed at 13 locations around Norwalk, from Long Island Sound shorelines and parks to buildings in more urban areas. The study is being conducted from June through October 2022. The sensors are wireless, and are mounted 8-10 feet above ground on trees or poles. They will measure and monitor temperatures and relative humidity. They will also record dew point temperatures at the street level. 

Learn More, Get Involved

The heat study in Norwalk will help find areas of the city that are vulnerable to extreme heat events to inform decisions related to public health and community planning in the years to come, including the development of a community-wide resilience plan. You can find more information at the CIRCA Norwalk Heat Study page. In the near term, the heat study will help to guide the Resilient South Norwalk Project launching in the summer of 2022 with CIRCA.  

Missing Middle Housing and How It Benefits Cities and Towns

missing middle housingFrom attracting talented professionals to lowering living costs and allowing for mixed-use development, missing middle housing addresses many issues and alleviates some pressing challenges facing cities and towns today. Overall, missing middle housing encompasses a broad range of dwelling types. In general, these are buildings with multiple units located in easily walkable neighborhoods. For many cities, these can be workable solutions to existing residential neighborhoods. Moreover, they are affordable to low- and middle-income residents, addressing the housing crisis.  Keep reading to learn more about missing middle housing and how it benefits cities and their residents.

What Is Missing Middle Housing?

Broadly speaking, the missing middle is composed of diverse housing types that fall into the category between single family dwellings and larger apartment buildings with many units. Missing middle units are similar in scale to single-family homes, addressing space limitations. They include duplexes, multiplexes, cottage courts, and townhomes. These types of dwellings allow for urban areas that are less dense, more walkable, and offer more open spaces.

Why Is Missing Middle Housing Needed?

Currently, there is a growing gap between upcoming demographics and available housing options. If missing middle housing were built, it would offer an affordable alternative. Those who work in the city could purchase property, build equity-based wealth, and still live affordably. In addition to greater affordability, missing middle housing also addresses housing demand. Since many aspiring homeowners are priced out of the market, they must keep renting for years. Likewise, the available options for low-priced housing tend to be farther away from urban centers with little access to public transportation. This mismatch between the demand and city-based options is substantial. Moreover, smaller multi-unit dwellings support walkability and keep spending in the local economy. By creating housing options in urban spaces, consumers can utilize public transportation more effectively. Thus, residents would save on transportation expenses and build equity in their new homes.

Who Benefits the Most From Missing Middle Housing?

Those looking for moderate or lower-priced housing would benefit from missing middle housing. These types of multi-unit housing use existing space more efficiently, reducing cost per square foot. Additionally, many creative professionals are not interested in traditional living. As a result, they are willing to live with simplified or downsized amenities. For example, many are looking for a car-free lifestyle, which is impossible in the suburbs. Empty-nesters looking to downsize after their children have left home can benefit from smaller space and reduced expenses. At the moment, these populations often do not have effective options available in cities and larger towns. Missing middle housing options can help to ensure that low and moderate income residents of a city can find affordable housing and remain there where they are close to transportation, jobs and other benefits of urban living.

What is Norwalk Doing to Address Missing Middle Housing?

Norwalk is currently evaluating its accessory dwelling unit regulations to potentially allow more flexibility in how these units are developed. In addition, as part of the comprehensive rewrite of the zoning regulations, the City is considering freeing up certain portions of the smaller-lot, single-family zones, to allow for 2-family dwellings. 

Norwalk's Economic Outlook in 2022 and Beyond

Throughout 2020 and 2021, the Connecticut Board of Labor reported high numbers of unemployment claims and other worrying statistics about the state's overall economic situation. However, a recent economic look at Norwalk, CT shows promise of growth and stability.

This Norwalk economic outlook was presented to the Norwalk Common Council earlier this year. Here's what Norwalk residents and business owners need to know about housing, new businesses, commercial real estate, and urban development in 2022.

Residential Housing

In January of 2022, the median listed home price in Norwalk, Connecticut was $550,000, a 10% increase from the previous year. As of late February and early March of this year, the average single-family home sold for $750,000 and spent about 86 days on the market. These price changes signal a robust residential housing market. According to the report, home vacancy rates are at an all-time low in Norwalk, CT. This could drive increased housing development in the form of single-family homes, apartments, and multi-family residences for people of every economic background.

New Businesses

To give an accurate assessment of new business growth in Norwalk, government officials focused their attention on two statistics. First, they looked at the number of new business formations since July 2021. In that period, there have been 185 new businesses established. The committee projects that by June 2022, that number will reach 370. Next, the city reviewed how many commercial tenant fit-up permits they've granted since the beginning of the fiscal year. There have already been 71, so they anticipate granting a total of 140 by the end of the fiscal year. 2020 only saw 101 commercial tenant fit-up permits granted to businesses while 2021 saw 131. With these promising statistics, it appears as if business development in Norwalk is seeing a rebound from the hardships of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Commercial Real Estate

To get a bigger picture of the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk commercial real estate market, the commercial leasing activity in the area was compared to national averages. Overall, the state of commercial real estate appears to be weaker than national averages, especially in the retail property sector. However, the following property sectors in Norwalk are stronger than the national averages:
  • Apartments
  • Offices
  • Industrial
  • Hotel/lodging
Insecurities about economic recovery in Norwalk were attributed to the rise of the Omicron variant earlier this year. Class A office availability has increased to 38.3%. This increase in available office space is possibly due to changing attitudes about office workers working from home and ​sublease supply. The city continues to watch these trends closely.

Urban Development

Despite some weakness in the commercial real estate market, the City of Norwalk anticipates five new urban development projects that may see groundbreaking or applications in 2022:

What This Economic Outlook Means for Norwalk's Future

In general, Norwalk city officials see this economic outlook report as promising. In both residential and commercial sectors, developers are laying building blocks for increased growth in the future. The City of Norwalk will continue to work with developers and seek input from residents and businesses. Combined with reviews and updates to Norwalk’s industrial zones, industrial waterfront land uses, zoning regulations and affordable housing plans, the City of Norwalk has high hopes for 2022's economic situation. Stay tuned with the City of Norwalk. Give your ideas and feedback for the future plans for business development in Norwalk by subscribing to updates, and make your voice heard.

Norwalk, CT Merges Separate Planning & Zoning Commissions

Norwalk planning & zoning commissionThe City of Norwalk is making improvements for the future by merging the city’s separate Zoning and Planning Commissions. It’s an opportunity to streamline decision making and provide better coordination between long-term planning and the codes enacted to realize the vision of the plans.  Keep reading to learn more about the merging of Norwalk’s Planning & Zoning Commission.

Recent CT State Land Use Planning Changes

A lot happened during the last year related to Land Use Planning in the State of CT. The Connecticut General Assembly presented more critical land use and statewide zoning proposals than they have in decades.  The bills that obtained approval from the House, Senate, and Governor’s office were scaled-back versions of these proposals. Still, they received much media attention, and for a good reason. They were important rulings that will affect our city.

Why the Change in Norwalk?

Some Connecticut towns have already combined their Planning and Zoning commissions. The new structure of Norwalk’s Planning & Zoning Commission supports an efficient and collaborative working relationship. For instance, New Haven’s Planning commission has also combined the duties and responsibilities of P&Z. However, areas like Danbury and Stamford continue to run separate city Planning and Zoning commissions. For some time, the City of Norwalk had also run separate Planning and Zoning commissions. The general agreement was that the separation resulted in a disconnect between planning, land use policy, and city zoning and created additional work for applicants to both commissions.

Benefits of the Planning &  Zoning Commission Merger

Historically, a third or more of the Planning Commission’s workflow came from the Zoning Commission. This process often added one to two months to the approval process, hindering development in the city. Now, applicants will save considerable time and costs without the need to present requests to both commissions. The union of the planning and zoning commissions also creates a more consistent planning relationship. It gives the Commission increased jurisdiction. That broadened authority enables them to support consistency with citywide planning.

What to Expect from Norwalk’s Unified P&Z Commission

In the past, the Planning Commission and Zoning Commission successfully executed their distinct functions. Together, P&Z can coordinate to promote greater efficiency and growth for the Norwalk economy. New members of the merged P&Z group have been selected. Currently, the City is rewriting its zoning regulations, which is set to be completed later this year.. Other land use efforts underway in Norwalk, CT are a reassessment of its industrial zones and developing a plan for its urban waterfront areas. You can stay updated on Norwalk Planning and Zoning Department news by visiting the official website. The City of Norwalk welcomes your questions and feedback. Please feel free to contact us with your inquiries.

Norwalk Residents Weigh In On Industrial Waterfront Uses

Norwalk Industrial Waterfront Plan SurveyAs the City of Norwalk studies how to optimize the industrial areas of its waterfront resources along the mid-to-upper Norwalk Harbor, the Planning and Zoning office is reaching out to the public and other stakeholders for their thoughts. 

One of the ways planners have gathered input is via an online community mapping activity. This digital engagement, which started in late 2021, was the first of several opportunities to gather public comment. Participants added their input on how they would like to see the waterfront used via an interactive map where they placed comments pinpointing to specific areas in the study zone.  Keep reading to find out what the public would like to see along the industrial area of Norwalk’s waterfront.

Interactive Waterfront Survey Findings

In all, more than 150 comments were made by more than 55 stakeholders, with 1,100 people visiting the site.  A large majority of comments involved a desire to include public access and open space along Norwalk’s waterfront.  Another popular comment was regarding infrastructure along waterfront areas such as the inclusion of sidewalks, paths and trails.    Below are some of the most popular comments for various areas along the Norwalk River. 

Broader Marina District

The comments pinpointed to Veteran’s Park asked for improvements to the park and increased water access, the input being that the water frontage is substantially underutilized.  Some ideas included putting in better boardwalk/paved paths around the park, adding plantings, picnic tables and access for kayaks and canoes.  Along Water Street many respondents said they want to maintain the land for water-dependent uses, such as boatyards and aquaculture.  Many liked the suggestion that anything vacant in this area should be required to be landscaped into parks accessible to the public since this area is flood-prone.  

East Bank of the Norwalk River 

Input on the waterfront area on the River’s east side industrial-mixed use transition area included a desire by many to finish the Norwalk Harbor Loop Trail of which there is a missing section in this area.  Commenters also wanted to see cleanup of the old asphalt plant in East Norwalk, possibly turning the area into a park that could serve as a buffer zone to accommodate flooding that occurs in the area regularly. 

Industrial/Commercial Business District Wall Street Area

Further up the river in the Wall Street area, many liked the idea of making the waterfront here more accessible to pedestrians, and increasing recreational marine uses such as canoe or kayak rentals.  Other comments included zoning the area for accessory uses that would enable cafes and restaurants. Respondents also expressed a desire to connect the area under the bridge leading to Freese Park with the Harbor Trail Loop.

Washington Street/Oyster Shell Park District

On the west side of the Norwalk River, a number of those surveyed would like to see the completion of pedestrian access from South Norwalk (SoNo) through Oyster Shell Park, making both pedestrian and bicycle access safer.  Others expressed an interest in a continuous boardwalk in SoNo on the waterfront from Washington Street to Elizabeth or Hanford Streets, including in front of the Maritime Aquarium.

Public Engagement for Industrial Waterfront Land Use Study

The Waterfront Land Use Study Steering Committee will continue to engage and inform the public with a series of public meetings.  Overall themes that came out of this original survey will be discussed and participants will be asked to rank the top three issues/concerns/themes that they would like this plan to address.  The committee will also make additional suggestions for land use and development intensity that the public can weigh in on.  

Give us your input in the latest survey

Norwalk, CT Holds Charrette on Revising Its Building Zone Regulations

Norwalk Charrette on Zoning RegulationsThis fall, the City of Norwalk held a charrette focused on rewriting and modernizing its building zone regulations which lasted over the course of five days. A charrette is a collaborative planning process that involves all stakeholders and this one was open virtually to the public. 

Norwalk embarked on a building zone regulation update following its ten-year Citywide Plan in 2019. One of the Plan’s recommendations was to take a fresh look at the city’s zoning regulations, which have not been thoroughly reviewed nor revised in 30 years. The charrette was part of a greater public outreach process to educate local citizens on the zoning code and get their input and feedback on what works and what needs to be changed.

How the Virtual Charrette Worked

​​During the charrette, the community learned about the city’s current zoning regulations. In a series of online focus meetings, stakeholders shared their hopes and concerns about how the new regulations may affect things such as transportation, architecture and design, community character, land use, development, neighborhoods, housing, green infrastructure, sustainability, and most desirably its waterfront charm.   For those who couldn’t make it to one of the meetings, an online virtual open studio was available for much of the day where people could join and ask questions, or share their thoughts on zoning.  Another way the city was able to get input from the public during the charrette was through a virtual mapping workshop. Using an online tool, people were able to access a map of the city and add markers to indicate what they liked about the character of Norwalk and their thoughts on opportunities for improvement. 

Findings from the Charrette

As mentioned in a report from The Norwalk Hour, “if one word was said more often than any other word this week, it was character. We heard from people wanting to maintain the marine character. Views of the water are important.”  On the final evening of the virtual charrette, the planning team presented their findings and discussed how the community input is shaping the new Building Zone Regulations in several areas. Here are some of their findings. 

Housing

During the charrette, people asked for a greater variety of housing types in more locations. Allowing for multifamily and accessory dwelling units that fit into the character of single family neighborhoods. Part of this is an expressed need and desire for more affordable workforce housing.

Sustainability and the Environment

Important to charrette attendees is the maintenance of the maritime character of the city, and the need to preserve water views. The protection of natural resources and the coastline is also a public concern.  Attendees talked frequently about the need for green infrastructure such as permeable pavement, accessibility for bicycling and pedestrians, solar power, green roofs, and sustainable stormwater solutions.

Industry and the Economy

While open, green space and preserving the character of neighborhoods were important to charrette attendees, there was discussion about protecting some industrial zones. There was a call to look at other locations for these zones than where they are currently.  The biggest concern with industrial zones was the need to address the contractor yards in these neighborhoods and adjacent to homes. There is a Norwalk Industrial Zones Study underway which is taking a look at these issues.   Also of importance for attendees was protecting water dependent commercial uses while still allowing for public access to the water. Currently, the city is working on an Industrial Waterfront Land Use Plan to guide decisions on the best uses of Norwalk’s waterfront resources. Overall, the public wanted to retain, grow, and attract a wide range of businesses, allowing for various commercial building types that are more compatible in more areas.

Mobility and Transportation

Managing all modes of transportation was a critical concern for attendees, especially making land use decisions that support and improve walking, biking, and public transit.  Parking was brought up as having an impact on the character, walkability and desirability of the community. There were presentations on shifting parking lots to be hidden and interspersed among businesses as attendees expressed an interest in a review of parking standards.

Next Steps in the Zoning Regulations Update

The zoning regulations planning team is taking all the feedback from the charrette and drafting new regulations. The intention is to simplify what is now a complicated document, and consolidate some of the zoning districts.  The overall policy will be to take a character-based approach to zoning. This means grouping zones together that are similar, and creating character districts where certain building types are appropriate for each district, while taking into consideration policies such as open space and commercial uses, etc.  Residents, businesses and others in the community will have the opportunity to review and provide feedback to the draft, continuing the important public input to ensure the new regulations take into account all who live and work in Norwalk.  To see videos from the Charrette Presentations CLICK HERE 

Examining the Use of Norwalk's Industrial Waterfront

Industrial Waterfront PlanA beautiful city located on the Long Island Sound, Norwalk, CT has several photo worthy, waterfront destinations like the Maritime Aquarium or Calf Pasture Beach. These are great area attractions and unique spaces, but there are other waterfront areas, notably along the Norwalk River, that have historically been used for industry and other commercial purposes.  Norwalk is undergoing an assessment of the use of Norwalk’s industrial waterfront to determine what may be in store for the area. Read on to learn more.

Economic Development and Norwalk's Waterfront

City leaders across the nation view commercial waterfront districts as an opportunity for sustainable development. Norwalk is one city undergoing such an evaluation. The latest waterfront assessment is all about improving its waterfront properties to meet the needs of today. For example, Norwalk officials are reconsidering the use of the city’s industrial zones. At the same time, they’re examining how residents can best coexist with local industry. City planners hope to answer these same questions along waterfront property with the latest industrial  waterfront land use study. The study is the result of a recommendation from the initial Industrial Zones study which suggests that waterfront industrial uses should be assessed separately from inland industrial uses as a result of their unique qualities. There’s an abundance of opportunities for Norwalk’s industrial property on the waterfront. The goal of the study is to ensure that the city meets the needs of residents and businesses. That’s why feedback from the public is being encouraged to influence how they move forward. The Industrial Waterfront Land Use Plan will be influenced by residents, business owners, and other local constituents.

Examining Industrial Waterfront Uses

Part of the process of rethinking the Norwalk waterfront is to examine how the land zoned for industry is currently used. Already, there are several well-established businesses along the Norwalk River. They range from commercial marine facilities, to recreation and tourist areas, to industrial and commercial business districts. Many of these uses add to the maritime character of Norwalk and play a role in the regional and State economy. 

Environmental Considerations for Norwalk's Waterfront

In addition to creating more jobs and offering recreational and other options, officials also want to protect the area’s natural resources. The waterfront study will evaluate several environmental concerns, including:
  • Flood hazards
  • Dredging for navigation channels
  • Water quality
The study will identify areas of high risk or high environmental sensitivity such as low lying areas that may be prone to flooding or areas receiving polluted run-off from their land side counterparts. It will also look at areas in the river that may be in need of dredging and determine any environmental considerations.  The final plan will incorporate best practices for zoning standards to minimize stormwater runoff and support water quality by adding things like permeable pavement and landscape buffers.

Planning for Norwalk's Future Waterfront

The ultimate goal of Norwalk’s Industrial Waterfront Land Use Study will be to determine how to best make use of waterfront property in the future. It also will consider opportunities for public access and recreation. Overall, the city’s new plans for the Norwalk River will prioritize water-dependent uses. Water dependent uses are valued by local citizens because of the role they play in creating a sense of place in Norwalk.  They are also prioritized by the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. This plan will help city officials assess the aspirations, ideas, and needs of residents and businesses with regard to the local waterfront. The outcome of this study will be a new framework for regulations and rezoning in the area. More importantly, it will highlight projects that will result in a healthy, vibrant, and dynamic waterfront for Norwalk.

Help Shape the Future of Norwalk's Waterfront

The City of Norwalk would love to hear your ideas and feedback for the future plans for Norwalk’s industrial waterfront. Please feel free to visit our Norwalk Tomorrow feedback map and make your voice heard.

Recommendations for Norwalk’s Industrial Zones: A Guide

Industrial Zones in NowalkNorwalk recently underwent a study of its industrial zones to take a look at the different types of industrial development in various areas of the city, and how industrial and commercial zoning can best be used for economic and job growth.   How can the city become more modernized? How should the city change the industrial zone definition? What should industrial zones look like in Norden Place and along the waterfront?  These are just a few questions examined in the study.  The Norwalk Industrial Zone Study included conversations with city staff, industrial business owners, residents, and other local stakeholders. Below is a quick overview of the study’s recommendations.

Simplify Zoning Classifications for Modern Uses

Industry in Norwalk has evolved over the years. Commercial zones previously developed for agriculture and manufacturing need modernization. Yet, the city still needs to make room to attract construction projects and other heavy industrial works.  One recommendation of the Industrial Zone Study is to simplify zone classifications to make them more in line with contemporary uses. This would distinguish each zone class by the type of industrial uses allowed, the types of contractors permitted, and whether or not residential uses in the zones are permitted.    There are four proposed industrial categories for the zoning districts: 
  • Heavy Industrial - this include intensive manufacturing, contractor yards, utilities and waste management
  • Mixed-use Heavy Industrial/Commercial - this includes heavy industry but also allows commercial upper floor uses such as offices, research and development, showrooms, and other industrial services. 
  • Mixed-use Light Industrial/Commercial - this would include light manufacturing uses, as well as research and development, limited warehousing, and other less intensive industrial services. 
  • Mixed-use Artisan - these zones would allow boutique manufacturing, textile companies, bakeries, beverage and spirits production, and artist studios.

Special Development Plan for Norden Place

Norden Place is a unique area because of its industrial history and location. The site takes up more than three dozen acres in Norwalk and is an ideal location for an industrial zone. However, there are specific challenges that need to be addressed when planning for its future use. For one, it is adjacent to I-95, yet drivers must go through residential areas to access the highway.  The study recommends preparing a development plan just for the Norden site. While a warehousing center for Norden Place may not be ideal, mixed commercial/industrial users should be able to make use of the location. Potential uses might include research and development, life science and biotech companies, or a data center. Importantly, they should discourage residential uses.  Along with the planning for Norden Place, the city should examine and devise a plan for access to I-95. It may be possible to open additional ramps to the highway, though it’s important to bear in mind the effects of these construction projects on city residents. One solution could be including buffering strategies to minimize noise pollution along the highway. They may also want to restrict vehicular traffic in the zone to passenger vehicles and small trucks only.

Differentiate Between Contractor Yards and Others

While contractor yards are permitted in industrial zones, contractors can include a large array of service providers from plumbers and electricians to site contractors and sand/gravel storage facilities. The sweeping term ignores the realities that each industry has its own needs and in zones with more intensive contractor yards and heavy industry conflicts can arise when they are intermingled with residential uses.  The study proposes that the city should distinguish between contractor yards with heavy truck traffic and impact on the site, and contractor offices that have only a few service vehicles and less effect on its surroundings. Distinctions should also be drawn between contractor operations with outdoor vs. indoor storage. Some other requirements suggested for zoning regulations for contractor yards include:
  • Locating them in accessible locations that will not cause traffic problem 
  • Adding buffers adjacent to these yards and access to major roadways 
An additional recommendation of the Norwalk Zoning Study is limiting self-storage facilities, which are presently under a moratorium in the industrial zones. The reason for this is that self-storage takes up valuable industrial land, but is not the best use of the property. These facilities provide limited jobs and economic development potential, and don’t promote an active pedestrian environment on the ground floor such as retail or restaurants, which add to the vitality of the neighborhood.

Develop a Unique Waterfront Plan

Historically, Norwalk has had industrial zones along the Norwalk River, but this waterfront is a unique area with many uses, regulations, and other pressures. The plan suggests that the city  should take into consideration the many other issues that affect the land use along the waterfront, including the environmental impact, water quality, coastal resiliency, public access, recreational uses, as well as economic development opportunities related to the water.  In fact, the city has already begun to develop an Industrial Waterfront Land Use Plan to determine the best use of its waterfront, taking into account the many diverse challenges.

How Norwalk Industrial Zones Can Improve

Norwalk industrial zones can become more effective for today’s economy. By differentiating between different kinds of industry and creating new classifications the city can accommodate a larger variety of businesses and more mixed-use buildings.  Norden Place and the waterfront are two industrially zoned areas that are unique and should be studied, planned, and developed separately. By taking steps outlined in the Industrial Zone Study, Norwalk is planning for the future. A future that encourages economic development balanced with residents’ needs and the environment. 

Read the full study here

Putting the “Walk” in Norwalk: Best Local Trails to Discover

Best Norwalk Walking TrailsThe benefits of walking have been known for a long time. Whether to improve your health, stay in shape, enjoy the fresh air, or take advantage of your natural surroundings, walking is a great way to spend leisure time. Norwalk, CT has many beautiful places to walk, whether you’re looking for natural beauty or interested in more urban, historic sites.

Trails for Nature Walks

Whether you’re an experienced hiker or just looking to get your heart rate up and get in touch with nature, there are plenty of green, open spaces to enjoy.  Cranbury Park is a 227 acre park that offers several wooded trails plus a gorgeous view of the historic Gallaher Mansion. This picturesque setting makes it not only the perfect place to relax and enjoy the outdoors, but the 1.5 mile trail that runs along the river is perfect for walkers and their furry friends! Dog-friendly and absolutely stunning, make plans to visit Cranbury Park to see for yourself. An alternative with better views of the water, another bike and pedestrian-friendly trail to consider is Norwalk’s Harbor Loop Trail. An easy, moderately trafficked trek, you can always find back trails for a little more privacy. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash. Oyster Shell Park can be found near the Maritime Aquarium, but don’t let it’s urban setting fool you, this park gives you a view of the Norwalk Harbor and the Norwalk River. There’s a small parking lot, a fishing pier, and for walkers, there are several paved trails for a breazy, waterside stroll. For a scenic, oceanside option, there’s a 1.5 mile loop from Shady Beach to Calf Pasture that takes you out on the peninsula so you can really breathe in that saltwater air. With a stop by the Norwalk World War I Memorial and several restrooms along the way, there are plenty of opportunities to take in the sites or take a rest stop. Experience the beauty of the Long Island Sound on this easy walk. Sharing a start point at Calf Pasture Beach, the Norwalk River Valley Trail crosses Wilton, Ridgefield, and Redding—all the way to Rogers Park in Danbury. It’s an out and back trail through the Connecticut woods, featuring a ten foot wide, multi-use path that when fully completed will go on for 30 miles.

Discover Norwalk’s Downtown

To learn more about the downtown areas of Norwalk, CT and get some exercise, Discover Norwalk has put together a number of self-guided walking tours that bring you face-to-face with some of the city’s history. On these tours, you’ll discover Norwalk’s legacy of art, heritage, and culture, passing by landmarks such as City Hall, Mill Hill, Freese Park and the Norwalk Public Library.  Another great resource for walkers was developed by the Norwalk Health Department. As part of their NorWALKer Program to encourage residents to be physically active, they developed a series of NorWALKer maps with more than 40 routes through 17 city neighborhoods.   No matter if you’re walking to improve or maintain your health, boost your mood, or learn about your town, Norwalk residents have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to walking trails and routes. So get out there and enjoy!  

New Historic District Recognized in Norwalk, CT

An 84-acre area around the South Norwalk train station in Norwalk, CT, traditionally known as Springwood and Whistleville, has been officially added to the National Register of Historic Places (U.S. National Park Service).

Whistleville History

The neighborhood along Lexington and Ely Avenues was nicknamed “Whistleville” because of the sounds of approaching train whistles. The South Norwalk train station area has been a busy commercial center since Norwalk became a stop on the New York to New Haven line in the mid-1800s. The neighborhoods around the station were largely made up of immigrants, mainly from Hungary and Italy, who worked in Norwalk’s factories. Through the early 1900s, Norwalk, Connecticut had a thriving textile industry, producing hats, corsets, and shirts, in addition to manufacturing locks. It was also the largest producer of oysters in the country. This commerce was fueled by the railroad.  

Benefits of a National Historic District Designation

The main objective of designating “Whistleville” as a National Historic District is to preserve the historic character and buildings of the area by supporting and encouraging renovations and rehabilitation, as well as to enhance the quality of life for residents and businesses. Once an area is an official historic district, property owners are eligible for tax incentives and financial assistance programs from the State and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency to help finance historic preservation projects and property improvements. Almost all the streets in the district include wood-framed, single family homes built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, most built between 1880 and 1920. Some of the architectural styles found among them are Gable-front Vernacular, Wing Vernacular, Queen Ann, Italianate, and Colonial Revival styles. The exception is a commercial section along Ely Avenue with three-story brick commercial buildings from the same era. There are also two churches, one in the Gothic Revival style and one in the Romanesque style.  Whistleville joins several other districts in Norwalk, CT on the National Register including South Norwalk (SoNo), Wall Street, Five Mile River Landing, and the Norwalk Green.