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

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.