To the Editor:
It has been called “The Field of Flowers,” “The big dirt patch on West Avenue,” and “The land of missed opportunities.”
We are referring to the 12-acre parcel on West Avenue, officially known as Parcels 1, 2 & 4 of the Reed Putnam District or 95/7. Millions of state and local taxpayer dollars have gone into improving the infrastructure in and around the site, but, despite the best efforts of previous developers, nothing has been built there for over 20 years.
We have all waited patiently for this critical piece to be developed so we can link our historic SoNo district with the Wall Street area and developments to the north. The two-mile stretch of West Avenue has a void right smack in the middle of it, and if we hope to link these developments and complete our downtown corridor, the development of 95/7 can’t come soon enough.
General Growth Properties (GGP) purchased the site, which is located in an Enterprise Zone, in November 2013 for $35 million. After over a year of meetings with neighborhood groups, area business owners, and community leaders, GGP officially submitted its development to the city in December. It is a mixed use plan with upscale retail and national restaurants, a boutique hotel and plenty of civic uses such as performing arts space, public gathering space, plazas and activated sidewalks and even satellite classrooms and educational uses potentially for Norwalk Community College. These uses complement rather than compete with the existing businesses and restaurants in the area.
The city’s own consultant has stated that this development will be a great success and a boom to the surrounding businesses. The benefits to taxpayers are extraordinary. Over $5 million in permit fees alone, and, after full phase-in of real estate taxes, over $5 million dollars each and every year thereafter.
The most immediate benefit will be jobs. Lots and lots of jobs. Thousands of jobs during the construction phase alone, not to mention the over 2,800 ongoing jobs that will be there for the long haul. GGP has indicated that in both cases, over 80 percent of these jobs will be in Norwalk. GGP has also pledged a five-year commitment for job training of local residents, right in South Norwalk. The improvements proposed by GGP to our city’s transportation system (circulator trolley), as well as upgrades to our bike paths, sidewalks, streetscapes, and parks, is a win, win proposition.
We believe the time for this development is now. We wholeheartedly support GGP’s application and encourage all city agencies involved to expedite the approval process as quickly as practicable. As part of the approval process, GGP will need to submit various reports that will be reviewed by professionals at the city and state levels to insure that the project runs smoothly, is designed appropriately and maximizes the benefits to the residents and businesses in the community. Norwalk can’t afford to miss another opportunity to develop this critical piece which will take our city to new heights.
Sen. Bob Duff
Rep. Bruce Morris
Rep. Chris Perone
Rep. Fred Wilms