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Opinion: Common Council should vote no on Innovation District

Michael McGuire.

Michael McGuire, a Wall Street property owner, has more than 35 years experience in commercial real estate. This is an open letter he sent to the Norwalk Common Council.

I am strongly against the Innovation District plan as put forward by the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency (“RDA”) for the following reasons:

  1. The area is not blighted expect by the actions, or inactions, of city government (i.e. POKO and Duleep).  Much of the older housing stock has been removed to create Waypointe.   Many of the smaller area buildings have been purchased and improved over the past two decades.  And the interest in investing here is only growing.  Utilizing old census data to support the blighted/low income contention is A) not fair and B) not accurate.
  2. If a company comes here and requires investment by the taxpayers to subsidize their business they probably should not be relied upon as a viable investment for the Norwalk taxpayer.
  3. The Federal Government has a better plan of action in its “Opportunity Fund.”  Gov. Malloy has put forward the census tracks generally covering the Innovation District as prime candidates for the Opportunity Fund.  This lets the private sector take the bulk of the risk.
  4. The $5.0 million threshold suggests that any incentives to be allocated by RDA in this area would, by the sheer size of the investment, require the demolition and or wholesale re-positioning of buildings.  Sadly, in all but a few cases that will drive out existing business and residents in favor of “picked” winners.  Consider that there are few suitable for this type of development outside of Riverview Plaza.  Renovation, re-positioning and re-development of all properties happens at some point in time.  I don’t believe that RDA needs to be involved jurisdictionally, or otherwise. They will only hamper investment in this area by imposing yet another layer of bureaucracy that needs to be navigated.
  5. Based on 4 above, the Southwestern Fairfield County market (outside of Bridgeport) is strong enough to support development without the need to incentivize developers.  To suggest that the Wall/Main/West area requires such incentives is to fundamentally not understand this area and its potential.
  6. There is a belief that the Common Council will have ultimate voting prerogative over this program and who is picked, etc.  However, since RDA is the adviser to the Common Council, and the CC is devoid of commercial land use expertise (which has historically been the case), who is really making the calls?
  7. The biggest impact to the revitalization of this area is a train station at Wall Street.  Wall/Main is already the “heart and soul” of small business in Southwestern Fairfield County.  It is the third-largest concentration of central business district office space, only surpassed by Stamford and Bridgeport.  To capitalize on this excellent existing resource and capture the burgeoning small business tech sector companies, Wall Street needs a train station to meet the needs of the millennial workforce.
  8. A train station can be put into this area for literally no cost to the Norwalk or Connecticut taxpayer (I’m willing to discuss this with any CC member at a later date).
  9. Why isn’t RDA pursuing a train station here?  If RDA tells you a circulator bus is more viable ask them to show you the study that supports that claim.
  10. Based on the current conditions in the Wall/Main area, the marketplace will invest around a train station, not a bus stop, or series of bus stops.
  11. The concept of the Innovation District sounds good and noble.  But the document has no measureable results.  Without a strong performance metric to measure against, this is just another well-meaning but ill-conceived program, so bound up in vagueness as to be an invitation to abuse and/or lawsuits.  Hardly what the Norwalk taxpayer needs.
  12. A review of the Innovation District’s Objectives (99-2) is a clear demonstration of the lack of measurable results.  To wit:
  • How many more tech companies will be attracted/retained (how many are here now)?  Who will do the “attracting”?
  • Using what resources? And in what time frame?
  • What area advantages will be levered and by who? And for who?
  • How do they (RDA) propose to “secure a sufficient workforce”?

I believe point 12 best characterizes the issue.   If RDA cannot clearly articulate what the objective is — how will they ever be held accountable?

For all the above reasons I urge the Common Council members to vote NO on the Innovation District.

40 comments

Ernie DesRochers August 26, 2018 at 7:45 am

Great arguments and absolutely correct. This is a waste of tax payers money. Why doesn’t the common council and the Mayor innovate a solution for the mess that is Poko. It’s an embarrassment to Norwalk and it should be to every member of city government who had or has any involvement with it. Let’s fix the mess befor you add to it.

Lisa Brinton Thomson August 26, 2018 at 9:29 am

Thank you Mike McGuire for your thorough and well articulated argument! Common Council, please use this logic and reasoning when voting NO next month, instead of succumbing to administration pressure. You are supposed to represent the taxpayers, not cover for the mayor.

Piberman August 26, 2018 at 10:33 am

Spot on . To which we can add that Mayor Rilling and his lack any senior level professional development experience. So we know the end results.

Elsa Peterson Obuchowski August 26, 2018 at 10:34 am

Mr. McGuire makes important points and asks important questions. Common Council should not vote until these points are addressed and questions answered.
Regarding the circulator bus — it is only going to run on Fri & Sat evenings, correct? Or do I have it mixed up with a different bus service that was recently announced?

Rick August 26, 2018 at 11:58 am

If RDA cannot clearly articulate what the objective is — how will they ever be held accountable? Ask for accountability now , that may just put them out of business right now.

They built Raymond st so no one can park in front of Spinnaker on the street is just passable in front of the finished and filled 5 story high rise. No one will be able to park on Raymond at Ryan Park if that is ever finished.

https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2018/07/south-norwalkers-report-sewage-pit-rats-gas-smell-at-washington-village/

The RDA has changed plans, they showed us basketball court next to Raymomd at the Corner of Day, my bet is Spinnaker doesn’t want his 1500 a month units listening to then ball hit the pavement, now what stick it next to in the corner next to the French Baptist church in a remote corner?

The RDA has a problem right now ,money for projects are not what was anticipated Duff is pouring money in from the State and no one is the wiser why is that? It seems like a slush fund the way POKO was.

Give them any more money for anything it goes to plugging holes in Tim’s dike. Stop the flow stop this insanity.

The city was told evacuate Washington Village they found sewage and chemicals in the basements of Washington Village next to the PCB site on Day,,so now its voucher time that means money from somewhere for almost 300 people has to come from somewhere,to get them out asap.

Who is paying for it one may ask? Where does the city get their money?

Public officials have admitted there is a lot of Intimidation going on against the residents of Washington Village , its been a campaign t keep quiet what the RDA and Housing is doing health board personal know complaints have been stifled .

So if you agree as I do and put in much better terms how Michael McGuire just did close down the RDA around the moat at city hall.

If the RDA and Housing along with the Health Board has let conditions go on here.. we now find other housing complexes in the city admits is far worse that Washington Village shame on all of you letting what Michael is telling us to continue.

THe RDA is out of control who else would let residents live above five feet of water in the basement that has chemicals and sewage in the basement since it documented and confirmed July 23th of this year.

The RDA is in trouble folks no one is publishing facts ,they are using smoking mirrors and now we find the Health and Welfare committee is lost no clue what to do next , not even our two mayors are talking.

Must be nice from my account of Washingtin village to know your kids grandchildren or handicapped or disabled person or even elderly residents are not yours living in Washington Village.

I didn’t even mention the rats dust and Hazardous waste site Ryan Park that has never been accepted or even given to the EPA or state to review from the RDA.

In fact its now documented all the work Grasso did to the back of NEON has been done without any testing by the city outside of Ryan park its confirmed by the State DEEP. Only work has been done to date is only on Ryan Park footprint.

There is a confirmed plume coming from above Ryan park in the water table could be as far a way to the new 106 unit Spinnaker building on chestnut .

But lets keep our eye on everything else no sense in complicating things for the RDA and help Micheal out and stop them all before they hurt anyone else.

Your city is trashing everyone that guy Jason was a good diversion when is his lynching date are they going to use the Green for that event and bill recreation ?

Thank you Michael McGuire, apology for the past the Train station makes sense and not city cents.

Paul lanning August 26, 2018 at 1:18 pm

The train station would be the best first step toward area revitalization. Not bus stops. CC: Do your job. Don’t waste any more tax money on grandiose destined-to-fail propositions.

Piberman August 26, 2018 at 1:31 pm

Like the Mayor’s Reorg Plan the Innovation District isn’t well thought out. Why doesn’t City Hall do its homework ? Especially in an election year ?

carol August 26, 2018 at 1:52 pm

thank you Michael McGuire for keeping us informed,the train station is a must for progress to be made in the wall street area.
the rda has lost credibility and it is time for them to close shop,disband the stamp all commission and wave goodby to tim the leader of the pack.

Mike Mushak August 26, 2018 at 4:31 pm

It is astounding to me that my friend Michael McGuire would be opposed to something that would eventually increase his property values and fill up the buildings he owns and or manages with quality tenants, which we all would love to see for him and everyone else in this still-struggling part of town.

Even though I support the concept, it will likely be a decade or longer before Wall Street gets a train station, as the new $20 million station at Merritt/7, and the billion dollar electrification of the Danbury Line, along with other more pressing safety concerns like Positive Train Control and replacing the obsolete Walk Bridge likely will take priority, and MetroNorth has already stated they didn’t think riders would go through the trouble to switch a train at SoNo to basically travel one more mile which they can get to faster in many other ways without waiting for a train.

The study now in the works will help clarify the need and feasibility of the new station, but with ADA requirements for long platforms (a requirement for federal and state funding) and elevators to street level, the project will cost a heck of a lot more than has been suggested by some advocates (at around a million dollars I believe). That sounds like a pipe dream, sorry.

Based on the Merritt/7 project, which will be a lot easier to build with plenty pf room around it as opposed to the tight and complicated Wall Street location right on the river that is prone to flooding (the tunnel was the pathway for flood waters in the great flood of 55, undermining builldings causing them to collapse into the river), then we are looking at a cost of AT LEAST $20 million for a new Wall Street station, and likely much more if it needs to span the river and go under existing buildings on River and Wall Streets, and that of course assumes the Army Corp of Engineers would ever approve a new station so close to flood level in an area already once devastated with loss of life and property. I doubt the old platforms that exist, built in the 1800’s, could ever be reused with modern code requirements. But its a nice idea and I cant wait for the study results along with everyone else, and hold out hope it could happen someday for all the benefits already described. So figure at least a decade before any shovels hit the ground.

In the meantime, we can’t just sit around hoping and praying that investors will come to Norwalk to open new businesses. Whether we like it or not, that just doesn’t happen anymore, and it doesn’t matter if its a blue state or a red state or wherever it is, investors seek incentives or they move on, taking high-paying jobs and all the other benefits that entails with them to the highest bidder. Smart cities always have to try things that will attract new investment, especially in this extremely competitive market where nearby cities are actively using incentives to draw in new businesses and investment. If the proposed Innovation District, which simply delays new tax income for a time without removing existing tax revenue, is not working after a couple of years, then it can be re-visited and tweaked.

So in is clearly in the best interest of Norwalk citizens and existing businesses for the Common Council to vote YES for the proposed Innovation District.

It is also worth noting that the paid director of the Stamford Partnership, who is loudly opposed to Norwalk’s Innovation District on local news sites and in various community forums, is actively helping direct funding and investment away from Norwalk including a multi-million innovation grant that she helped Stamford win over Norwalk last year. In fact, many of the talking points being used in Michael McGuire’s letter above are directly from this person, who has a vested interest in killing the competition as a big favor for her employer in our neighboring city only 10 minutes away.

So I ask Norwalk’s Common Council, are you willing to help the narrow self-serving interests of just one person who is {…} spreading misinformation {…}, by handing a gift to Stamford by voting no for the Innovation District, or are you willing to vote YES FOR NORWALK so we have another tool we can use to help attract new high-paying jobs and investment in a part of town that desperately needs it after decades of decline?

I say we are better than that, so reject all that nonsense and vote YES for the future of Wall Street and Central Norwalk that are well-positioned for some high-quality growth bringing new businesses and jobs which is what we need in this part of town, and what we have been waiting for since the great flood of 1955. Its time to get serious.

Edited to remove an instance of ascribing motives without proof, a violation of the comment policy. https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/comment-guidelines/

Lisa Brinton Thomson August 26, 2018 at 4:33 pm

Carol, this is being driven by the mayor for friends. When apartments and retail we’re left in – it failed to be either focused or innovative.

Rick August 26, 2018 at 6:54 pm

wow talk about self serving, is time to drain the swamp.

Has anyone told the Mayor his city by taking the drug companies to court is taking one of Norwalks investors to court?

Airbnb has no interest in Norwalk in fact more are staying under the Stroffilino Bridge than in the city,

Connecticut has the highest combined lodging and sales tax in the nation at 15 percent, according to HVS HVS is a consulting firm.

HVS study provides evidence that hotels and inns can fare well in a higher-tax environment

Too bad Norwalk cant find someone who want’s to build a hotel or is RDA going into the hotel business with Spinnaker,

Mike your asking us to trust city hall?

I could throw out even Demo Rats stats all day that shows last coupole of years Norwalk defies facts spends money or get money for a hotel that everyone else thinks is revenue/

Maybe those in Stamford, Bridgeport and Stratford now proud owners of hotel’s applauded the fact Norwalk dumped a hotel for a blanket and some beads.

Investors seek city halls with Intellect they plot progress not Cronyism.

New businesses and jobs wont find a future in Ct. Incentives don’t work in Ct unless your connected to the good ole boys club and play golf at Oak Hills.

cc-rider August 26, 2018 at 7:13 pm

Ernie deserves kudos for this one, “Why doesn’t the common council and the Mayor innovate a solution for the mess that is Poko.”

Micheal McGuire August 26, 2018 at 8:21 pm

@Mike Mushak

I agree with you. On almost every point. The one major difference we have is the loss of confidence I, and so many others, have in our current system.

Norwalk deserves excellence.

Bill Nightingale August 26, 2018 at 10:10 pm

Totally agree. No more tax breaks. Abolish RDA. POKO needs to be sold in a bankruptcy auction and RDA totally removed from any involvement. Until POKO is cleared up there is a huge disincentive for anyone to invest in the area. Same goes for bankrupt Globe theater with an astounding $15mm in liabilities. Must be auctioned and liabilities wiped out. No more government grants and subsidies. Create a level playing field for investment where no one gets insider deals. Only then will investment come to downtown for everyone’s benefit.

Mike Mushak August 26, 2018 at 10:43 pm

@ Micheal McGuire, why are you letting the perfect be the enemy of the good then? We all know this current economic expansion is not going to last forever, and that a downturn will hit the economy at some point that will put Norwalk at even a bigger disadavantage than it is now with nearby Stamford and Bridegport competing for the same dollars.. If new investment isn’t beating down our doors now, in an expansion, then we need to help that along asap.

We get that everyone is upset about POKO, but that is now in the hands of the courts and may take years to resolve. But does that mean we have to penalize all the current owners and businesses and residents in this still-struggling area because we are upset about POKO? That seems really short-sighted to me, emotionally-driven, and counterproductive.

I say lets try the Innovation District and keep a close eye on it as I am sure the Common Council and RDA (with new membership who I happen to know pretty well) will do, with an agreement to revisit it every 2 years with a full transparent review of its effectiveness.

To do nothing at this crucial point in time when investment money is flowing to other Innovation Districts around the country is just plain stupid, and seems to serve the best interests of our neighboring municipalities more than us. I can just hear the corks popping over in Stamford if the Common Council kills Norwalk’s Innovation District, and I can just imagine who will be doing the pouring.

John Flynn August 26, 2018 at 10:55 pm

Paul, Rick, and everyone is right. Fix the existing problem like Ryan Park which has been screwed up for years. There is 5 feet of contaminated water in the basement with PCBs, Vocs, rats, a natural gas leak, flooding, clogged sewer drains and cancer. Fix Wall street, fix Lohman’s plaza, POKO, James Milligan, etc. The Walk bridge is coming. the City proposed giving .15 cents per day to 300 companies for 6 years. Can they multiply? We will all be wearing gas masks. They have no environmental plan and do not plan on having one. They have no transportation plan. They have no blue print for the water main. They expand the use by building and shove smaller and smaller pipes inside to fix the old pipes. bad planning, no understanding, no communication and failure after failure. Repeal and replace all the plans. Get some new leadership. Get rid of Ventura law. They are vultures. Stop creating liabilities because the city never wins. Bad ideas. Unethical counsel and damages. This is criminal negligence.

cc-rider August 27, 2018 at 6:52 am

Mike M is saying that we should support the plan even though it is poorly written and thought out. Why do have we have to settle for a second rate plan that will likely have unintended consequences? How about addressing the issues commentors have brought up rather than saying it is this or else nothing….

Mitch Adis August 27, 2018 at 7:57 am

Sounds like the same argument used for Obamacare – “We need to approve it to find out what’s in it”.

These people would never last in the private sector.

Jlightfield August 27, 2018 at 8:15 am

@mushak without Stamford generating economic growth the entire state would be in trouble. The Stamford Norwalk Bridgeport region works together, not as independent economic silos as you claim. The Norwalk business community deserves policy that will promote growth and prosperity, not some half baked plan that sends a message that the businessses who have already invested here aren’t worthy.

Bill Nightingale August 27, 2018 at 8:57 am

Would you invest in downtown Norwalk if you’re not one of the recipients of a tax deferment? Not an insider?

Kevin Kane August 27, 2018 at 9:34 am

Well stated Michael McGuire. Points 11 and 12 are the absolute keys: “Without a strong performance metric to measure against, this is just another well-meaning but ill-conceived program, so bound up in vagueness as to be an invitation to abuse and/or lawsuits……A review of the Innovation District’s Objectives (99-2) is a clear demonstration of the lack of measurable results.

That what get’s measured gets done. No matter what side of the equation you are on, Republican, Democrat, Independent or Socialist there MUST be clear goals and timely review to measure progress and of course, create accountability.

Nancy, can we/you start by filing a Freedom of Information request to get just 1 employee of Norwalk’s Annual Review Documents including Key Performance Indicators, the results of the person’s mid year review, where the employee did well, where they need to improve. Specifically – what were their objectives and were they based on well known norms used in the private sector such as – SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time bound? In addition, how does the employees KPIs roll up and contribute to Mayor Rilling’s KPIs and Objectives on a macro scale?

Diane Lauricella August 27, 2018 at 11:02 am

Agree with many of Mr. Maguire’s comments.

Please include these phrases going forward, Common Council, Staff and Mayor:

Due diligence
Data-driven solutions
Metrics
Transparency

Mike Mushak August 27, 2018 at 12:29 pm

Love all the responses. But demanding we measure what we do not know yet, because we don’t have applications in yet, is impossible, no? Once applications come in then we have some data we can measure.

It’s easy to throw around sexy words like metrics and data-driven solutions if you have something to measure. The whole point is to attract new investors and projects that we currently don’t have at the moment. It’s pretty laughable actually, but not funny at all watching the usual gang of naysayers echo each other’s phrasing.

I’m beginning to wonder if there’s a real fear of success among some of these folks. Misery loves company. A successful city will just ruin their reason to get up in the morning and whine! Same reason the GOP has trashed CT for do long folks start to believe we are doomed forever. Why even bother to try to fix anything then? I reject all that nonsense.

Maybe the “sought after” self-described innovation expert from Stamford who is actively trying to kill Norwalk’s own initiatives, can share with us her success stories at measuring things that don’t exist yet. I’ve asked many times for all the verifiable references but just get crickets. I wonder why?

Lisa Brinton Thomson August 27, 2018 at 1:09 pm

It appears the Pendleton Act of 1883 hasn’t caught up with Norwalk or Mr. Mushak. Connecticut and Norwalk’s economy will pick up when the spoils system and ineptness of government gets out of the business world. Oh, that’s right – this ‘Innovation District’ isn’t for business world – but for tax credits on more fortress apartments – with residential property owners picking up the difference. Go ahead and push it through against the taxpayer’s will. Can’t wait for the budget next year!

Mike Mushak August 27, 2018 at 2:57 pm

@Lisa, nice to see you and the boys at Sunset Grill last week!

I would like to know if you can list any cities or states that do not offer tax incentives to lure investment and high-paying jobs. Because I’m not aware of any.

I’ve been visiting cities as a hobby all my life, as a professional landscape architect and as an avid student of urban design, and have been to maybe a hundred cities in the last 2 years on cross-country car trips. David and I love to go to the historic sites, parks, and downtown neighborhoods that are growing with businesses and residents just like Norwalk is. And we bring along our bikes to try out their growing bike lane systems that they can’t put in fast enough!

Every single city we have been to, including in deep red states like TX, OK, AL, IN, TN, and GA, have all offered tax incentives either in enterprise zones or on an individual basis. Yes,even the “small government” advocates in red states and in red cities are using tax incentives, whether they want to or not. It’s essential!

I’m not sure where you get this idea that government should stay out of the development business, and that investment will just happen miraculously. Those days ended about 30 years ago as cities emerged from decline and businesses went “free agent” and started shopping around for the best deal. We may not like it but that’s how the world works now. The spoils go to the victors, who offer the best incentives as well as good access to mass transit and alternative transportation including bikability, good schools, generous housing supply at all income levels, good healthcare, and a good quality of life. Norwalk is working on improving all of the above, including pursuing an Innovation District to draw investment in the growing healthcare, science, and technology sectors.

So please share any case studies of successful cities that just sat back and let old-fashioned market forces determine their future. Because I’m not aware of any, and I’ve been around a long time you might say.

PS I think it’s too hot today even for Sunset Grill!

V August 27, 2018 at 3:07 pm

@Mike Mushak “Same reason the GOP has trashed CT for do long folks start to believe we are doomed forever.” Have you not taken notice of what Gov. Malloy has done to CT? Open your eyes Mike dont drink the cool-aide

Michael McGuire August 27, 2018 at 4:24 pm

@ Mike Mushak

Measurement 1 – Supply analysis: what exists today and in what format and fashion, i.e. how much office/retail/residential/specialty use space do we have here? What are the user/tenant profiles? What SIC codes are represented, and to what extent, have those SIC codes been expanding/contracting historically?

This will give you the baseline to work from. Has this been done? Is it too much to expect? It is the easiest of all four steps.

Measurement 2 – Demand Analysis: based on projected business starts/growth by SIC code in the region. Match that against what you find in # 1.

Measurement 3 – Determine Norwalk’s potential market capture based on what we have (our natural resources – such as lots of small office space). What can enhance that market capture? What will reduce that market capture? How about a real demand analysis for housing – what type and serving what demographic?

Measurement 4 – Based on 1 and 2, survey the businesses types most likely to locate here, ask them what they need to succeed/come here? Is it better access for their work force? Taxes? Access to capital?

Given the very very high cost of doing business in Manhattan there is a lot of low hanging fruit to be had for the SW Fairfield County Region. And Yes I agree with Jackie that we need to look at the Stamford-Norwalk area, collectively, as the low cost/high tech area and a great alternative to NYC.

Now we have the basics needed to organize and optimize a game plan to capture various business types. This will lead to the next question – what do we want in this area, specifically. I agree with Tim Sheehan on the need for more people in the downtown.

Next question – Do housing developers need incentives to build housing? If it’s market rate then – NO. But start adding in all the social do good subsidized housing than YES they will need incentives.

This leads to a very interesting question. If we need incentives to bring in housing developers to the Innovation District, does that mean RDA wants to add more subsidized housing to Downtown Norwalk? Is that their goal? Is it based on expanding a sanctuary City policy? We taxpayers need to know.

Finally, while you and I have always gotten along it’s a bit insulting when you, a City official, refer to the taxpayers as Naysayers, our ideas as laughable, our demeanor as misery loving, and collectively we are “nonsense”.

Excellence is not perfection.

Mike Mushak August 27, 2018 at 8:11 pm

@ Micheal McGuire,

Its astounding you are now suggesting a conspiracy theory that the city has a secret plan to use the Innovation District to expand our sanctuary city policy. Wow. Thats enlightening to know. Im sure the Common Council will be interested to read that. Thank you for the revelation, as it puts much of what you are saying into a new context.

And I’m sorry I hurt your feelings by using the word “nonsense”. I’ll try to find another less threatening word next time. Perhaps “poppycock”.

Mike Mushak August 27, 2018 at 8:36 pm

@Jackie, Im glad to hear that you think the Stamford-Norwalk-Bridgeport region is just one big non-competitive economic engine who all must work together as one. Of course that is only partially true, as indicated by the news that the Stamford Partnership that you have been the paid director of for 5 years helped snatch a $7 million dollar innovation grant away from Norwalk in a heated competition last year. I guess you could have insisted we all share that prize, since we are all one, right? Oh well, maybe next time! I guess Im just wondering where everyone’s true loyalties lie at this point. Norwalk could have really used that $7 million grant, maybe to help do some of the “metrics” you are demanding now? Hmmmm…..

https://www.stamfordct.gov/economic-development/news/stamford-wins-69-million-from-ctnext-innovation-places-grant

Rick August 27, 2018 at 9:10 pm

Fairfield County has a vacancy rate of 23.6 percent, up dramatically from the 13.9 percent vacancy rate in 2007.

only numbers , but why build more storefronts when the figure apparently is climbing? Then the mall will empty substantial parts of the city. Free parking ensures traffic.

Approximately 59.26% of Norwalk homes are owned, compared to 36.19% rented, while 4.55% are vacant. Norwalk real estate listings include condos, townhomes, and single family homes for sale. Courtesy: Berkshire Hathaway

just numbers

Non Partisan August 27, 2018 at 10:38 pm

Interesting

28 posts
1 poster in favor of the tax abatement

All others against.

NB Will the city council do their homework, and validate the points made or will it be more of the “my mind is made up- don’t get confuse me with facts” attitude we see all to often.

Lisa Brinton Thomson August 28, 2018 at 7:53 am

Non Partisan – Absolutely. However, people need to turn out to the Public Meeting next Tuesday at City Hall or email the council at:
[email protected]. We can’t stop this by simply posting on NON. Democracy requires an engaged citizenry.

Jlightfield August 28, 2018 at 10:06 am

@mushak It is absolutely true that I am more than cable of conceiving innovative projects that are game changers that attract private, public and conpetetive investment. Thank you for proving my point, yet again, that when I say a program or policy is a bad one, maybe then the people such as yourself should take a closer look at what I’ve pointed out as deficiencies.

Instead you just whine about how Norwalk hasn’t been able to attract any investment and somehow link my successes as being the root cause of other people’s failures. I think I’ve been fairly consistant at objecting to the legacy of failure that the Redevelopment Agency delivers on many of their projects and programs.

Failure is of course not always a bad thing if you learn from it and try different things. Innovation means trying something new. Perhaps you should look that up in a dictionary. So once again, you can’t defend a program that is promoting development by incentivizing developers because you know that it is a a tired old program that has thus far failed to deliver job growth or economic growth.

Reading your comments here is kind of like reading the comments about the NY Giants on espn. Just because you can pretend to know everything about economic development by posting comments online doesn’t mean you can play the game. {…}

Edited to remove an insult, a violation of the comments policy. https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/comment-guidelines/

Mike Lyons August 28, 2018 at 12:51 pm

Kevin Kane, you ask “Nancy, can we/you start by filing a Freedom of Information request to get just 1 employee of Norwalk’s Annual Review Documents including Key Performance Indicators, the results of the person’s mid year review, where the employee did well, where they need to improve. Specifically – what were their objectives and were they based on well known norms used in the private sector such as – SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time bound?”

There is one such employee — Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski (https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2018/08/adamowski-meets-most-norwalk-board-of-education-2017-18-goals/).

Rick August 28, 2018 at 8:42 pm

I agree with those who side with caution, and agree many facts need to be brought to the table but ask if the new mall owners have been considered into this mix?

Could be wrong but the mall as of today Norwalk has new owners who has a net income of last year of 5 billion dollars and a Total equity‎: ‎US $79.9 billion (2017) and employ 80,000 employees .

You think Norwalk will be able to tell them what to do when they get the keys?

Bear in mind the new owners have been in Norwalk for years getting hard data from their alliance Stantec, of course havn’t heard much from them lately have we?
I hope its not by design.

When you don’t trust city hall and don’t trust the RDA and considering the crap that’s been going on you have to wonder whats been said about this Innovation District will change?

Lisa Brinton Thomson August 29, 2018 at 9:14 am

Mike Mushak, instead of attacking Jackie for doing her job and playing well in the consortia ‘sandbox’ in Stamford – ask yourself or better yet, the mayor, WHY Norwalk LOST out in a TRUE Innovation District bid???

Could it be that the culture at city hall is to condemn those that don’t swear undying loyalty to the mayor? I think, we’re called ‘naysayers’ 😆. Original, innovative ideas are not welcome with this administration, unless you are a ‘friend.’ Why all the executive sessions with this administration? It’s a shame and a sham and as much respect as I have for many of your ideas, you are enabling this mayor by being his lead attack dog and surrogate. It’s disappointing.

Debora Goldstein August 29, 2018 at 5:46 pm

Excellent analysis Mr. McGuire. I caution you again to educate yourself about the framework for train transit in CT. #8 is not possible.

It is important to understand that these are not the same-old tax incentives that we’ve seen in the past. But the program is not designed to produce the outcomes that it aspires to. The potential for manipulation is high, leading us down the path of least resistance–strong appeals by developers to model the same old dense housing/figleaf mixed use designs that are failing to attract anything but more rental tenants to the area.

Innovation District design principles are not rocket science, but they ARE tied to the outcomes you are trying to produce. If you can’t articulate what you are trying to achieve, you will not succeed.

Mr. Mushak is right about one thing–we can’t sit around and pray for the kind of business investment we wish to see here. But announcing $15mm in tax incentives and then sitting around praying for the kind of business investment we wish to see here is a bit like watching Wile E Coyote put out that pile of bird seed for the Road Runner.

Which begs the question of why the City has chosen to put the reorganization plan ahead of the hiring of an individual with solid credentials in Economic Development.

Pretending we can’t measure something that doesn’t exist yet, while simultaneously pointing to “other cities are doing it” is a failed argument used by the “do anything to be doing something” crowd.

I don’t know about you, but if someone in another city just landed a tasty innovation grant that I was vying for, I might just be humbled enough to try to learn from that person, instead of casting aspersions.

Unless and until this City gets its act together and starts planning and budgeting for OUTCOMES, it will continue to chase shiny objects. All the rest is just the band playing as the ship goes down.

#planningisnotguessing #JustSayNOtoDSDA “Do Something! Do Anything!”

EnoPride August 30, 2018 at 1:13 pm

Debora Goldstein… Great post. Why has the City chosen to put the reorganization plan ahead of the hiring of an individual with solid credentials in Economic Development? It makes zero sense. While this “throw it up on the wall and see if it sticks” approach is all just nerve wracking to sit back and witness, it is, disappointingly, not surprising. A Naysayer I am not… Skeptical and incredulous as to the obviousness that this Innovation District is in the wrong hands I am. Michael McGuire is right with his phrase, “Norwalk deserves Excellence”. This Innovation District Proposal is not excellence. One can tell that Mr. McGuire knows the area like the back of his hand through reading his posts. An incredibly valuable, resourceful tool in planning such as this is the residents’ and business owners’ feedback. Why are you not more transparent in including these people in the upfront planning, City Hall? Know your assets, embrace the philosophy of inclusiveness, public input and more transparency, and we will have a better Innovation District for it.

After a year of City Hall planning the Innovation District Proposal, we are looking at a vague, “too much wiggle room” proposal with the glaring flaws of giving RDA and Common Council too much power of decision making in a field unknown to them with no measurable outcome/accountability measures and no cap to prevent too much housing whether apartments or multi family homes (given how concerned the public is, as they should be, about the long term sustainability of thousands of units and the impact they have on taxes, infrastructure, schools in the long run, there should be more attention/dialogue about this issue). We are looking at the unfortunate absence of the work of a Director of Economic Development with a strong team, and at an Administration which is fine with that in doing the job where they are unqualified to do so.

An Economic Development Department would have included DATA on projected big picture measurable outcome in their proposal. An Economic Development Department would have studied more carefully sustainabilty of realistic ratios of X amount of apartments/multi family housing to Y amount of businesses in a more elaborate, data driven format. It would have examined more in depth the long term sustainability of clustering. In a year’s planning time, it would have absolutely included Norwalk Historical Society more prominently to weigh in on an historically significant area and discuss how to preserve/restore/incorporate the amazing historical buildings into the proposed landscape. it would have generated a visual map of the Innovation District with proposed housing, business zones, clusters, public social spaces displayed visibly for the public to understand and be confident about. An Economic Development Department would have delved more into the 10% vacant units in the Waypointe compound, where Mr. Sheehan does not appear to be too concerned. He wants to add more units. Does not one member of the Common Council challenge Mr. Sheehan as to how many apartment units are too many, and, if we already have an inventory of empty apartments, should we take a different approach to analyzing development in the Innovation District?

Two Council members were concerned about more big box apartments being voted in, but did they suggest what preventative measures should be verbally included in the Innovation District Proposal to ensure more disproportionate buildings do not come in? Is not the Beast called Waypointe enough? Mr. Sheehan myopically believes that we need quite a bit more housing to sustain the Innovation District Corridor’s businesses which are to come in (Norwalk does not begin and end with this Innovation District, Mr. Sheehan… the 20+ other Norwalk neighborhoods’ residents will be patrons of the Innovation District… Do not dismiss their patronage in your numbers), while Norwalkers believe that an appropriate amount of well thought out housing is what we need and that currently, our emphasis should be on urgently incentivizing local innovative businesses to come in (catalyzing placemaking) and on creating more smaller, quicker, cheaper solutions, more public space in the way of perhaps parks, outdoor theater shells for public concerts/gatherings, promenades along the water, walking/biking routes, etc., so people actually have outdoor places to come to. These features cannot happen if no cap on box apartments which bring no economic value and keep swallowing up the land where businesses could be is not in place. Mr. Mapley’s City Windmills would have been a PERFECT business for the area. Houston’s gain is your and Norwalk’s loss, Mr. Sheehan. Maybe it is not too late to win Mr. Mapley back!

Can Mr. Sheehan and the Common Council work on a plan to clean up POKO so Wall Street compels new businesses to come in and leave it to the experts to plan the Innovation District? Common Council… Please Vote NO on proposed Innovation District in it’s current state if you want what is best for Norwalk. Please show up to Tuesday’s public hearing with your ideas and concerns, Norwalkers! Norwalk deserves Excellence! Let’s design this Innovation District THE RIGHT WAY… with EVERYONE’S INPUT!

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