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 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

Industrial Waterfront Land Use Study Public Engagement Meeting

WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR YOUR WATERFRONT?

Public Engagement Meeting #1 Join us on Zoom!

Please join us in our 1st public engagement meeting for an opportunity to share your opinions on land use scenario's for industrial and commercial properties along the upper to mid landward areas around the Norwalk Harbor! Norwalk 's Planning & Zoning Department has teamed up with Utile, an Architecture & Planning firm from Boston to help guide future land use around the Norwalk Harbor.

Click here to Register


¿QUÉ QUIERES PARA TU WATERFRONT?

Reunión de participación pública #1 ¡Únase a nosotros en Zoom!

¡Únase a nosotros en la primera reunión de participación pública para tener la oportunidad de compartir sus opiniones sobre escenarios de uso de la tierra para usos industriales y comerciales, a lo largo de las áreas superiores y medias de la tierra alrededor del puerto de Norwalk! El Departamento de Planificación y Zonificación de Norwalk se ha asociado con Utile, una firma de Arquitectura y Planificación de Boston, para ayudar a guiar el uso futuro de la tierra alrededor del puerto de Norwalk.

Pulse aquí para registrarse

 

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

Norwalk Industrial Waterfront Land Use Plan

Norwalk Industrial Waterfront Land Use Plan

As an extension of the Norwalk Industrial Zones Study, the City of Norwalk is developing an urban waterfront land use plan. This study will focus on existing and future land use along the waterfront, taking public access and recreation into consideration. The plan will also take a look at information about the water itself and environmental issues, including navigation channels, water quality, and flood hazards. The final plan will be used to inform future rezoning efforts, among other things, and include:
  • Prioritize land use policy which encourages water dependent uses
  • Economic development recommendations
  • Identified capital projects, paired with suggested timelines and funding sources

Why Create a Plan for Norwalk’s Urban Waterfront?

Urban waterfronts serve many purposes – they are centers for economic activity that are dependent on the water and are desirable spaces for public recreation. They are also sought after locations for housing and commercial uses like restaurants and retail. Waterfronts must also respond to many pressures and changes such as rapidly evolving economic conditions and increased flood risk. In Norwalk, our Harbor Plan prioritizes water dependent uses. The current waterfront includes a number of long standing industrial and marine commercial properties that add to Norwalk’s maritime character. This plan will help Norwalk to take stock of the needs, aspirations and ideas for the future of the city’s waterfront. The result will be a framework for regulations, rezoning recommendations, and projects needed to pursue a healthy, vibrant and dynamic waterfront for Norwalk that balances public access, water-dependent land uses, water quality, and flood resiliency.

What Area Will the Plan Cover?

The above map shows the boundary of the Waterfront Plan area and also highlights the relationship of different parcels to the planning process:
  • Study Area (shown in dark blue): will be examined to determine if a change in land use and zoning regulations is appropriate.
  • Study Area Parks (shown in green) : public parks within the study area will remain as-is, but are included in the plan because surrounding land uses need to be complementary to them in order to create a positive experience for park users and minimize conflicting objectives.
  • Influence Areas (shown in light blue): these lay just outside of the study area boundary and will not be considered for any changes in land use and zoning regulations as part of this plan. They will be analyzed, however, to make sure that any changes proposed within the study area are compatible with the uses and character within these Influence Areas.

Who Is Involved?

The Waterfront Planning Steering Committee is composed of members who have a specific understanding of waterfront business and redevelopment issues.
  • Darlene Young, Common Council
  • John Kydes, Common Council
  • Lou Schulman, Zoning Commission
  • Richard Roina, Zoning Commission
  • Tammy Langalis, Planning Commission
  • Sabrina Church, Economic & Community Development
  • Steve Kleppin, Planning & Zoning
  • Laura Kenny, Planning & Zoning
  • Michelle Andrzejewski, Planning & Zoning
  • Steve Bartush, Shellfish Commission
  • Carly Kramer, Norwalk Redevelopment Authority
One additional Harbor Management Commission member will be appointed as a representative on the Waterfront Planning Steering Committee.

Stakeholders Engaged Thus Far

  • Public Agencies:
    • CIRCA
    • Norwalk Redevelopment Agency
    • Habor Watch (+Dick Harris, Water Quality Consultant)
    • Maritime Aquarium
    • Yankee Gas/Eversource
    • City of Norwalk Parks & Rec.
    • City of Norwalk Water Pollution Control Agency (WPCA)
    • City of Norwalk Public Works Department
    • Norwalk Harbor Management Commission
    • Shellfish Commission
    • Mayor’s Water Quality Committee
  • Inner Harbor Heavy Industrial
    • King Industry
    • Devine Brothers
    • O&G Industries
  • Oystering & Marine Industry
    • Copps Island Oyster & Bloom Family
    • Water St. Marine Construction (Blooms & Gary Wetmore)
    • Bob Kunkel (Harbor Harvest)
  • Rowing Clubs
    • Fairfield University Rowing
    • Maritime River Rowing
    • Norwalk River Rowing
    • Connecticut Boat Club
  • Marina, Boat Clubs, Boat Dealers & Service
    • Total Marine
    • Ischoda Yacht Club
    • Pastime Athletic Club
    • South Norwalk Boat Club
    • Oyster Bend Yacht Club and Marina
    • Marine Max
    • United Marine Boatyard
    • Marine Magic
    • Rex Marine
  • Other Water St. Developers & Property Owners
    • Ironworks SoNo/Spinnaker Real Estate Partners
    • Eliot Gersten (Property Owner)
    • Joseph Najamy (Business & Property Owner)
    • Bruce Beuinfeld (Architect)
    • David Waldman (Property Owner)
    • Bethany Brierly (Property owner representative)
    • Gregg Nanni (Property owner representative)
    • Leonard DiNardo (Property Owner)
    • Bill Gardella (Business and Property Owner)
The City of Norwalk has engaged Utile and Ninigret Partners to serve as the Consultant Team who will work closely with the Steering Committee throughout the planning process. In addition, the study will be done in coordination with the Norwalk Harbor Management Commission, since the final recommendations are intended to inform future updates to the Harbor Management Plan as well as land-side land use regulations.  

Waterfront Land Use Plan Timeline

 

Resources

Industrial Waterfront Land Use Study - Presentation to joint commission 10/6/2021 Industrial Waterfront Land Use Study – Public Meeting #1 Presentation, January 18th, 2022 Industrial Waterfront Land Use Study – Public Meeting #2 Presentation, May 9, 2022

Norwalk Social Media App Gets Reboot

[repost from The Hour] A Norwalk company has lined up $25 million in backing, after more than 4.5 million people downloaded its app that shares ad revenue with social media “influencers” and artists who use it to post videos, photos and other content. Display Social is a reboot of a social media startup called Tsu, which underwent a bankruptcy in 2016 only two years after its formation, even as celebrities like Rihanna, Justin Timberlake and William Shatner tried out the platform.

Read Full Article 

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

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