Norwalk's New Business Development Center
Norwalk is recognized by families and businesses as one of the best places to live. Its population now exceeds 92,000 residents and it is the 6th largest city in Connecticut. It comes as no surprise that there is a lot of economic opportunity in Norwalk, and new businesses are starting up on a very regular basis. To aid Norwalk-based entrepreneurs and new business owners, the city has created a new Business Development Center. Read on to learn about this brand new facility and the services provided.
What is the Business Development Center?
[caption id="attachment_2140" align="alignleft" width="1024"]
Photo courtesy of Nancy Chapman[/caption]
The new business center, located at 3 Belden Avenue, was opened on November 3, 2022. It’s designed to be an all-inclusive resource that entrepreneurs and business owners can utilize throughout the life cycle of their businesses. This center was constructed using various sources of federal, state, and local funding. The American Rescue Plan Act gave the development center a vital infusion of funding to help complete it.
"We have the opportunity to have staff onsite to be able to assist with local and state grants, be able to build business plans, business models, offer professional development training, and be able to offer residents…and people in the region, as a whole, an opportunity to be able to take a dream that they may have stored for a very long time and actually make it a reality,” says Jessica Vonashek, Chief of Economic and Community Development for the City of Norwalk.
What Services does the Business Development Center Provide?
Whether you are looking at starting a business or expanding one, the development center can help you. Services are extensive and cover a variety of topics:
Financing is another popular topic among entrepreneurs. Prospective business owners want to know how to infuse capital into their companies. The Business Development Center resources can walk you through traditional lending options, local programs, and Small Business Administration (SBA) programs.
All of these resources are available free of charge to ensure these resources are accessible to everyone.
The Business Development Center is a partnership with the City of Norwalk, the Greater Norwalk Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, The Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, the Small Business Development Council, the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, the Women’s Business Development Council, and the NAACP. This partnership ensures that there is support for your business that is diverse and equitable.
- Financial Education
- Loan or Grant Application Assistance
- Technical Support for Local, State, or Federal Permitting
- Business Plan Development and Implementation
- Local and State Licensing Requirements
- Insurance for Your Business
- Market Research
Have More Questions?
With the help of private sector experts and higher-education resources, you can make your dream of starting your new business in Norwalk, CT a reality. If you want to learn more about Norwalk’s Business Development Center, contact us today or come visit us at the Norwalk Business Development Center Monday through Friday from 9 am to 4 pm.
Recommendations for Norwalk's Industrial Waterfront
A significant portion of the waterfront in Norwalk, CT has been zoned and used for industrial use. The city undertook a planning exercise to determine the appropriate land uses for these historically industrial waterfronts. The draft plan, Industrial Waterfront Land Use Plan, has been developed for the city to use as a policy roadmap, allowing these areas to grow and change in a way that balances and aligns with both public and private needs.
Changes to the zoning laws around the Norwalk waterfront will be aimed at promoting economic development and preserving the water dependent uses in the area, while also increasing public access, improving water quality through improved drainage techniques and providing native vegetative buffers, while also improving the built environment.
Read more to find out some of these suggestions for how to revise this waterfront.
Why the Norwalk, CT Waterfront Rezoning Matters
Before we begin, let’s take a quick look at why the Norwalk waterfront needed to be reevaluated.
It’s quite an understatement to say that industrial waterfront land has vastly changed in the last century. In Norwalk, the use of industrial waterfront has been transitioning from strictly industrial uses to less intense uses, such as marinas and small boat facilities, while legacy uses such as oyster harvesting and bulkhead repairs continue to be integral parts of the community. In addition, modern innovations, like the innovative boat building and storage or marine highway programs like harbor harvest hold promise for future economic success for our harbor.
However, updating industrial waterfronts comes with its challenges. The historical use of Norwalk's urban waterfront plays such an enormous part in the city's identity. It's also an essential piece of the local economy.
The Norwalk waterfront has an array of uses.Some areas are zoned exclusively for heavy industrial uses, while others are reserved for commercial or public use and some have a mix of uses which can include residential
This is why the Norwalk Industrial Waterfront Land Use planning process looked at ways to benefit both public and private institutions alike, including the input of many stakeholders to thoughtfully address these uses. Read further to learn about the major themes that occurred throughout the planning process.
1. Increased Public Access
One common desire mentioned in the numerous meetings with the public is for Norwalk residents and tourists to have more access to the waterfront. An asphalt factory near the head of the Norwalk river is a good example. Not only is The facility under-utilized, but locating an asphalt plant in proximity to your downtown is not a desired land-use scenario. In addition, the public feels the land could better serve the community by broadening its usage.
This automatically indicates the need for changing the zoning laws, which is already underway. This site would need to be rezoned from its current industrial status. It's just one example of how shifting the zoning laws may impact the broader waterfront ecology.
2. Reduced Heavy Industry
Rezoning to determine the appropriate types of heavy industrial usage and where they should be located have been common themes across every public meeting. The current zoning laws prioritize heavy industry. The updated zoning regulations would increase light industrial and artisanal industries.
These would be able to exist alongside residential zones to buffer more heavy industrial uses. This would allow for more mixed-use areas near the waterfront.
3. Mixed Use
Whatever form the final rezoning takes, mixed-use could play an important part. We see this in the proposal of placing light industry next to residential, for instance.
This would open the way for mixed-use marine commercial zoning, allowing more marine commercial businesses to remain on the waterfront while opening up the area around them for mixed uses. Examples of marine commercial businesses could include yacht clubs or marinas while mixed uses could be a marine retail store with residential above.
4. Reimagining Water Street
How Water Street looks, feels and functions has been debated many times over the years. The Plan’s vision for the area strives to strike a balance between the desire for public access and views of the water, with the need to support Norwalk’s thriving marine industries, while also improving the built environment of the street to compliment the desired development occurring elsewhere in the neighborhood.
Increasing the amount of greenery, particularly waterfront buffers, is another common concern, which would also help to address environmental issues. This is another major goal for many of the proposed changes to the industrial waterfront.
These suggestions will all help to keep the area vital, making it more appealing to residents and visitors.
5. Retain Protect, and Reinvest in Water-Dependent Businesses
There was consensus among stakeholders of the need to support and maybe even expand businesses that are water dependent in Norwalk, especially in the Water Street Marina area in South Norwalk. The concern is that they continue to contribute to Norwalk and the regional economy.
Ways to do this include: increasing the protected marine commercial zone and investing in infrastructure for these industries– such as bulkheads, dock repairs, and dredging of the Norwalk River.
While this is an acknowledged goal of the plan, it must be done in a way that considers the other identified needs and goals of the study, so the waterfront is resilient, active and accessible to all.
6. Preserve the Environment and Prepare for Resiliency
For waterfront areas, consideration of environmental factors is especially important. Recommendations for all the waterfront parcels is to increase flood resilience, improve water quality, and promote ecological restoration.
Investing in things like impermeable to permeable pavement or vegetation/soft shoreline would help reduce flooding in the more urban areas of the waterfront. These would limit property damage and ensure businesses are able to resume operations soon after a major storm. Expansion of tidal marshes, living shoreline, vegetative buffers, or other passive flood protection would help to mitigate flooding, improve water quality, and restore habitat in less inhabited areas.
The final recommendations in the plan, like those above, will inform the city as they work to update policy and develop the waterfront along Norwalk Harbor and the Norwalk River, including the Harbor Management Plan as well as land use regulations.
Stay up-to-date on the Norwalk, CT waterfront and other planning efforts of the City and give us your input.
Norwalk Residents Weigh In On Industrial Waterfront Uses
As 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.
Norwalk, CT Holds Charrette on Revising Its Building Zone Regulations
This 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.
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
Applications Being Accepted for 2021 Neighborhood Assistance Act Program
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 N
orwalk 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:
Nonprofit applications must be sent via email to email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.