April 8, 2019
The Wall Street and West Avenue neighborhoods have seen tremendous growth and change over the last decade. The area has many assets including historic structures, waterfront buildings, and a number of anchor institutions such as Norwalk Hospital, Norwalk Public Library, and the Wall Street Theater. A recently approved plan for the neighborhood (seen in the map below) by the City of Norwalk was conceived with help from area residents, businesses, and other stakeholders. The plan outlines a development path to the goal of a healthy and vibrant urban core neighborhood with a strong economy, driven by innovation and collaboration that is accessible, authentic, lively, and affordable for residents and businesses. Below is a summary of the plan and some of its recommendations.
Opportunity Sites for Redevelopment
Central to realizing the vision for the future of the Wall Street-West Avenue neighborhood, is for the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency and the City of Norwalk to focus attention and resources on specific opportunity sites that can serve as catalysts for broader community development.
These sites, identified by the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, were chosen based on several factors including development potential, land area (50,000 square feet or more), and location on one of the neighborhood’s primary commercial corridors of West Avenue or Wall Street. The sites include
- 370 West Avenue (former YMCA site)
- West Avenue between Merwin and Chapel Streets
- Wall Street, West Avenue, Leonard & Commerce Street site
- Wall Street between High & Main Streets
- Library and adjacent sites
Below are some of the plan recommendations that will help to promote development in the Wall Street/West Avenue area:
The plan emphasizes the need for more flexible zoning regulations to reoccupy ground floor spaces and to create sensible growth within the Wall-West area. Zoning for the area is undergoing the approval process and is expected to be approved by May 2019.
Parks and Open Spaces
The plan emphasizes the expansion or addition of parks and open spaces. Just five percent of the neighborhood’s land area is dedicated as park/open space including Mathews Park, Union Park, Freese Park, the Norwalk River Valley Trail, and the Harbor Loop Trail. More open space can be achieved by encouraging, requiring, or incentivizing the creation of privately owned green, public spaces as part of new development projects as well as through the creation of parklets within public rights of way.
Waterfront improvements are envisioned in order to take advantage of one of the area’s most prominent assets. Over the past several years, there has been significant development on the northeastern side of Norwalk’s harbor as well as expansion of public access to the waterfront via the Harbor Loop Trail. On the east side of the river, the Norwalk River Esplanade extends north from I-95 to Head of Harbor, providing residents and visitors with a pedestrian and bicycle connection along the river’s edge. On the western side of the river, however, public waterfront access is limited. This waterfront area is largely an active industrial and commercial corridor and the railroad line that runs parallel to the river creates a physical barrier between these properties and the Wall Street-West Avenue neighborhood and there are there are no public waterfront access easements.
Enhancing transit connectivity between the Wall Street-West Avenue neighborhood, employment centers within the City of Norwalk, and the greater Norwalk region is essential to economic development of the Wall Street-West Avenue area. One of the area’s key assets is its urban character and walkability- which is attractive to neighborhood residents and businesses. However, transit connectivity between the neighborhood and the South Norwalk train station should be considered and evaluated with the overall goal of providing a direct transit connection between with the South Norwalk train station and as well as increasing transit access to major employment hubs, including the Merritt 7 office park and Norwalk Hospital.
One important factor to the success of the Wall Street/West Ave. Plan is coordinated planning and implementation between agencies, departments, institutions, developers, businesses and other community stakeholder groups. The city and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency will track progress of the plan’s recommendations and work with various city departments to achieve the goals and vision of the plan.