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It’s no accident that Norwalk is in a renaissance; Wall Street is ‘doing it together’

A new mural at 21 Isaac St., cited by Norwalk Planning and Zoning as being in violation of Zoning regulations.

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NancyOnNorwalk on Friday contacted Wall Street Neighborhood Association Chairwoman Nancy McGuire and asked her to elaborate on the Association’s comment, in a petition, that a new mural on Isaac Street has “provided a long-missing sense of pride in our neighborhood.” This is her response. 

We have a lot to celebrate on Wall Street.   Young entrepreneurs like Chris Wyant, Casey MacDonald, Rene Soto  and Sherri Gallina have chosen to locate their new businesses in our neighborhood.  The Wall Street Theater is open and hosting weekly shows, and restaurants like the Magnolia Room and Peaches are bringing in music lovers and diners from all over Fairfield County.   The Isaacs Street lot is now available to the businesses who have all but closed from the lack of its availability; and established businessmen like Paul at Café Aroma are sustaining their businesses despite the lingering Citibank construction site.   I actually took a YOGA class tonight – an amazing start to the weekend, especially for a middle-aged woman, and I highly recommend it to anyone reading this.

POKO and its failed “Wall Street Place” are a thing of the past.  Duleep’s contractor has closed up her building for the winter and taken down scaffolding.  She has hired a broker to market her empty retail spaces.   The residents and business owners who have endured this graffiti-ridden site for seven years are simply relieved. Our days on Wall Street now are filled with young athletes from Kong Cross Fitness doing their sprint intramurals around the block, coffee lovers sipping their Macchiatos on the white sofas in front of the café, family men and their sons in barber shops after work, and musicians and artists of all sorts walking back and forth from restaurant to studio, to coffee cafe, to car.

Jason Milligan, the source of much agony on the part of policy wonks, purchased Phase Two of the POKO development , promptly cleared away the construction debris on the Isaacs Parking Lot, and replaced the roof on the blighted Chinese Restaurant across from the library.   Moisture issues have been remediated.   The vacant retail units rebuilt, and two new tenants have been found for this once desolate Eye Sore.

I belong to a business networking group in Stamford.  I live in Stamford.  I go to church in Noroton.  And from all over the place, business, church, my neighbors, people are talking about Norwalk’s renaissance.   This is not by accident.   People are hearing the good news of changes in this beautiful town.   Despite some naysayers, the new mall, the Wall Street Theater, and the Waypointe development have been a blessing for Norwalk.

The Wall Street Neighborhood Association is not a political organization.  It is not Democratic or Republican, Straight or Gay, or even a non-profit organization.  It is a community of residents, businesses, and building owners who have decided that our common goals outweigh our differences.  We are encouraging changes that will help us maintain sustainable businesses, enjoy our riverfront, make the most of living in an urban environment, and feel safe when we walk our streets.

Government regulations are certainly helpful and important.   But the languishing Wall Street blight was the result of too many rules and regulations that simply left decades of business stagnation and decline in Norwalk’s famous Downtown.  It wasn’t quick.  It was like a snowball sliding down a hill from 1960 to 2011.  I like to think that Duleep’s fire in 2010 was the final match that torched the forest.   The view of Wall Street over the last decades is what happens when people wait for government to “fix it.”    Duleep’s building may have been a thorn in the street’s side, but the foreclosed POKO failure was the catalyst that pulled us together.

Our government leaders should keep the focus on creating attractive streetscapes, improving infrastructure that attracts investment, and approving zoning applications that bring job-generating-grand-list-growing small businesses to Norwalk.

Today, Wall Street has a lot to celebrate.   But some businesses are choosing to finally close their doors. While they recognize the change, it simply time to move on to new ventures.   For these owners, it has been too many years sailing up wind against the tide.  The fact that the new artistic murals make up 100 percent versus 50 percent of a building side or have business names or not, should not be the focus when entire generations of Norwalk families are leaving for better Main Streets.

These murals are creative, eye-catching and reflect the urban grittiness that makes up our artistic foundation – from artists, to musicians, to residents, to businesses to restaurants.   The pride is that everyone down here is picking up the ball with their talents and moving it down the field.   And we are doing it together.

6 comments

Sue Haynie October 21, 2018 at 6:27 am

Cranbury, Westport Avenue and Silvermine neighborhoods are tied to Wall Street more so than most other parts of Norwalk; Wall Street is where intrepid real estate agents point when prospective home buyers over here want to know where the local library or post office is. Wall Street is our ‘downtown’whether we want it to be or not. The other 1/2 of Norwalk neighborhoods have their own Post Offices, their own libraries and a few even have their own ‘downtowns’. Wall Street affects home values and the quality of life on this side of town; we are part of the Wall Street ‘Neighborhood’

Wall Street, if done well and thoughtfully, has tremendous potential, more than any of the city centers of our well-heeled neighboring communities. It’s big, funky, architecturally interesting, commercially flexible and it has people living in nearby apartments w/in walking distance.

We’re all rooting for a Wall Street rebirth. However, I appreciate that Stephen Kleppin, Norwalk’s Director of P&Z is concerned about architectural and community integrity but also seems very receptive to progress. There are rules that need to be changed, and there are processes that need to be followed.

Wall Street is a diamond in the rough. After waiting so long, it would be a shame to see Wall Street succumb to quick, cheap and ugly, like that built after the 1955 flood. Do it well and do it right and we all win.

PIBerman October 21, 2018 at 11:16 am

Norwalk is different than other CT cities. And most others. Has but a very modest business sector comprising just about 5% of the Grand List for private firms. Only about 30% of our adults work in the City itself mostly in lower paying jobs. Vibrant cities have vibrant Downtowns attracting new business with good paying jobs. Stamford is an example. Norwalk has just one office park built 4 decades ago.

The impetus takes place in a business capable City Hall with good outreach. Takes a business experienced Major and staff to make that happen. Lets all remember that economic growth takes place in cities. Downtown is where the activity takes place. Norwalk’s destiny seems a half dozen suburbs surrouding a depressed inner core. Will take a very different set of City Hall capabilities and personnel to change that historic reality. Meanwhile City homeowners remain saddled with the full force of the City’s budget. That doesn’t make for a City attractive to newcomers or residents.

So lets keep on attracting Developers building new apartments and putting further pressure on homeowners to fund City outlays. Great cities have good jobs. Lots of them. But who is paying atttention.

Paul Lanning October 21, 2018 at 1:34 pm

Well, yeah, but the 1,000-capacity Wall St. Theater will continue to be a white elephant until it is professionally booked, marketed and operated.

The theater’s schedule thru Feb 1 2019 consists of 17 nights. That’s barely 2 events per week, including 4 nights of “Hairspray.” Only a couple of the scheduled events can be expected to fill even half the seats.

I don’t understand why the theater’s management hasn’t solicited partnership with brand -name concert promoters who know how to consistently fill a large venue with happy patrons.

Brad Craighead October 21, 2018 at 3:10 pm

Store by store, and maybe eventually – street by street – restaurants, cafés, bars and small businesses seem to be doing just a bit better than surviving on Wall Street… Meanwhile, Stamford’s downtown is booming and South Norwalk seems set to be under a siege of construction for years. Piles of money are being invested in apartment development throughout Fairfield County and lots of people are moving here – thank goodness because jobs aren’t all that easy to find.

Wall Street can’t survive solely upon the momentum of the entire area and we don’t want to be exploited and lose our unique character. Wall Street needs to be a destination place for people – a residential area, an entertainment and boutique shopping area and an area that offers an interesting and higher quality of Life for its base.

Just like so many revitalized downtowns of other small cities, Wall Street should be and could be Cool.

I started the Norwalk Green Association in August 2017 in partnership with St. Paul’s Episcopal, the Norwalk Historical Society / Mill Hill, and the First Congregational Church. Our geographic footprint is defined as 5 minutes walking distance from The Green… Our Neighborhood is densely populated with ~1000 full time residents, a half dozen religious and cultural institutions, and scores of commercial businesses visited daily by professionals and retail clients.

There is a remarkable amount of stuff that goes on around the Norwalk Green and our interests are 100% aligned with the prudent development of Wall Street – our residents and our businesses are interdependent, our Neighborhoods overlap and compliment each other.

We are all about building community and establishing pedestrian mobility as the core framework to help retain and attract people to the area. Our Mission Statement: “…NGA supports local community initiatives and promotes the zone’s livability and walkability through the expanded use of pedestrian walkways, crosswalks and bike routes to enhance safety and improve traffic flows through Central Norwalk”.

Is it my imagination ? Is Wall Street becoming Cool ?

Sherelle Harris October 21, 2018 at 7:47 pm

As corny as this may sound, the thing that immediately caught my attention when the picture was originally posted on NON was the size and placement of the streetlight. It leaves the sidewalk free for activity without obstruction, or impeding would-be activity such as walking and cycling.

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