City’s Youth Discuss The Future Of Norwalk

May 15, 2018

A diverse group of young Norwalkers met on a spring afternoon to learn about the Citywide Plan and discuss their own ideas for the city’s future. Approximately 25 people, mostly high schoolers with a few NCC students and parents, talked with each other about their favorite places in Norwalk, what they would like to see change, and creative ideas for ways to make the city work better for teens and young adults. This input will be added to other resident comments collected at the Citywide Visioning Forum and the neighborhood meeting series.

Planning for the Future of Our Children

The City wanted to make a specific effort to engage young people, often a difficult group to reach in planning projects. This is particularly important since the Citywide Plan’s ten-year horizon means that strategies recommended in the plan will be realized in their young adult life. The plan becomes an important part of the effort to retain and attract young people to live and work in Norwalk.

The teens and young adults at the meeting identified some of their favorite places in Norwalk, including parks, beaches, and festivals. They wrote down their personal vision for the future of Norwalk, some of which included:

  • “In 20 years, I hope to see Norwalk’s school system continue to thrive. Norwalk’s expanding diversity is fueled by its increasingly diverse student population and I think that the voices of students are helping to move Norwalk’s culture forward.”
  • “In 20 years there should also be more job opportunities because […] there is poverty in Norwalk and the people without jobs should be given the opportunity to work to survive.”
  • “I see Norwalk being a place for people all ages, young and old, to gather and enjoy the scenic views […] The future of Norwalk should not only have areas for city life, but also areas that are natural and preserved.”
  • “I would like Norwalk to be cleaner and greener […] I also would like to see Norwalk High School redone”

After discussions around each table, these young Norwalkers identified shared priorities for the future of Norwalk. These included more internships and jobs for teenagers, better nightlife/entertainment /recreation center options specifically for teens, more funding for after-school programs, a bigger focus on sustainability, better parks, and traffic improvements around the schools. Asked about what nightlife means to them, one student mentioned wanting a drive-in movie theater because existing theaters are too expensive. They also liked the idea of outdoor movies in the park or beach. They mentioned a mall with affordable stores for teens, music concerts for their age group, and seemed excited about the possibility of bike share. One participant described wanting a student center that taught life skills like saving, investing, job skills, and rhetoric.

Coming up Next

The input from these teenagers and young adults will be compiled with the comments from the previous public meetings to help inform proposed goals and strategies. Hopefully, some of these youth will be encouraged to attend future meetings and continue voicing their ideas and opinions. The City and consultant team are preparing for citywide, topic-based workshops that are scheduled for late May. The four topics confirmed by the Oversight Committee are:

  • Green, Sustainable, and Resilient Norwalk: Open space and parks, harbor and coastal management, climate change adaptation, and resource-efficiency
  • City Design in Norwalk: Community and neighborhood character, design standards for commercial and mixed-use corridors, historic preservation
  • Prosperous Norwalk: Retaining and attracting high-quality businesses and jobs, diversifying the tax base
  • Connected and Complete Norwalk: Multi-modal transportation and land use, housing
    The draft plan will be created over the summer, with public open houses scheduled in early fall for public review and input. After revisions, the formal public hearing and adoption process will take place this fall. Stay tuned for more information!
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