Norwalk marks opening of Soundview Landing, aka, ‘new Washington Village’ part one

Gov. Dannel Malloy, center, leads a ribbon cutting Wednesday at 20 Day St.

Soundview Landing, at 20 Day St.

Updated, 8:04 a.m., Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. – Phase one of the Washington Village replacement project was officially completed Wednesday with a ribbon cutting ceremony and celebration.

“This is a benchmark now of what can happen,” Mayor Harry Rilling said in a newly completed apartment building, across the street from what is left of the oldest public housing facility in the state. “People who say government doesn’t work, take a look at what this is. People who say Connecticut is on the decline or that Norwalk is not a good, desirable place to live, take a look at what we have.”

Video by Harold Cobin at end of story

Visiting dignitaries as well as Norwalk volunteers who had worked to replace Washington Village packed the Soundview Landings community area, along with a few transplanted Washington Village residents who confessed to struggling with the appliances in their new homes. Outside, workers were putting the finishing touches on the newly-paved Day Street, just a short distance from the unobtrusively raised intersection of Day and Raymond Streets and adjacent to Ryan Park, now grassed over.  The park now has a raised walkway which was required to provide pedestrians a way out in the event of a flood.

The Norwalk Housing Authority’s effort to replace its 136 public housing units at Washington Village was supported by a $30 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant, awarded in 2014. Norwalk Housing Authority Board Chairman Cesar Ramirez said that 39 families have moved into the new complex; a few remain in the old buildings, as demolition begins, and all will be invited to move into the completed project, he said.

The CNI grant application was a “wacky idea,” U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Greenwich) said.  Getting the grant “was not easy and every elected official, at state, federal and municipal level worked very hard.”

The living room of a Soundview Landing apartment, open as a model. “The leasing of Soundview Landing Phase One by Trinity Management LLC is well underway with only a few market rate apartments remaining with one-bedroom units starting at $1,850 and two-bedrooms starting at $2,300,” according to a press release from Trinity Financial. “Soundview Landing offers residents common spaces and amenities including a club room, rooftop sun deck, fitness room and more. Specials are currently being offered in celebration of the ribbon cutting, including one month free, heat included, free parking, and waived pet fees.”

“One of the very first things our consultants said to the Housing Authority was, ‘just so you know, you’ll never get this,’” NHA Executive Director Adam Bovilsky said.  It’s rare for a Housing Authority to get a grant like that, especially a relatively small Housing Authority, he noted.

CNI is more than a housing program, it aims to lift entire areas, and for “every $1 of choice neighborhood funds that is spent, about $7 of private investment is generated in the neighborhood,” HUD CNI Coordinator Luci Ann Blackburn said.

Gov. Dannel Malloy used the occasion, part of his “final tour” around the state as governor, to tout his accomplishments.

“We have funded $1.5 billion of housing, matched by $2.5 billion of other entities money,” Malloy said.  He added that 25,000 units of housing have been created in Connecticut during his eight years, 22,000 of which were designated as affordable.

That’s more housing than was created in the terms of the 3.5 governors who preceded him, he said.

“Housing is fundamental to who we are and what we are, and quite frankly how we raise our children,” Malloy said. “Connecticut had lost its way in housing for a long period of time. We had been a leader in housing and then suddenly we stopped as a state. So bad that we didn’t even have a freestanding housing initiative or department.”

“I am a governor who built affordable housing in Darien. Think about it. And New Canaan,” Malloy said. “… I truly believe that every community should be able to house some number of people who they call upon for service in their community. We need a broader brush of affordable housing throughout our state.”

Washington Village suffered flooding as a result of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and the “complex” financial package for re-building included funds inspired by the storm, Malloy said. Because the complex is in a flood plain, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) required Norwalk to raise the intersection of Day and Raymond Streets to provide “dry egress” for residents, through Ryan Park.

The Norwalk Department of Public Works decided to take on the raising of the intersection itself rather than outsource the job, Rilling said.  “We brought it in at $3 million under the estimate that we were given.  Government works.  Our city works.  Our state works.”

Leadership from the Mayor’s Office helped the Housing Authority work its way through the “incredible bureaucracy” involved in getting local approvals, Bovilsky said.

“We will remember you as one of the main leaders,” Ramirez said to Rilling.  He added that Soundview Landings will be part of Rilling’s legacy.

The new complex is a “small version of inclusionary Zoning,” State Rep. Bruce Morris (D-140) said.  The mix of residents, with one-third market rate, one-third affordable and one-third public housing would help reduce the achievement gap, Morris said.

“This is such a boon to the City of Norwalk, it is exciting,” Morris said.  He added that he didn’t recognize the neighborhood when he drove up.

Rayn Ruggiero, a Trinity management employee, shows off a Soundview Landing apartment Wednesday.

“Phase One included the construction of 80 mixed-income rental residences made up of 40 replacement public housing units, 18 affordable tax credit units and 22 market rate units on two vacant parcels of land at 13 and 20 Day Street in South Norwalk,” a press release said. “Phase Two will consist of the construction of a single building on the existing Washington Village site with 85 mixed-income rental residences made up of 42 replacement public housing units 23 affordable tax credit units and 20 market rate units.”

Washington Village.

While the CNI grant was important, the “lion’s share” of the funding comes from the state, from the Bonding Commission and through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, both 9 percent and 4 percent credits, Bovilsky said as he introduced Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) Executive Director Karl Kilduff.

“We have a series of homes here, homes that are an opportunity for the residents and a launch pad for future success,” Kilduff said. “It’s a neighborhood of opportunity by design to purposely create a better environment for this part of Norwalk.”

The tax credit applications were creative, compelling and creative, and phase two is unique, “allowing us to merge the two types of federal low income housing credits, to make phase two a reality and be the first in the state to employ that type of financing,” Kilduff said.

Norwalk Housing Authority Board members, past and present, mark the completion of Soundview Landing phase one, Wednesday in Norwalk.

Phase  two  was awarded $1,868,562 million in tax credits in March.

Bovilsky wrapped up the ceremony by thanking the “tireless” Norwalk Housing Authority Board members.

“This is just the beginning folks, we have completed phase one, we are in the process to start phase two and phase three will be completed,” Ramirez said. “You can be assured and guaranteed that those 136 residents and the people depending on them, they will be back. We have 39 residents in beautiful and unique phase I and for those that have emigrated to somewhere else, they will be asked to please return to such a beautiful and grateful city…. We really say sorry for the time being to those few folks that still remain in Washington Village but we can assure you will be granted such a beautiful and unique, inspired new home.”


Disclosure: the writer lives in affordable housing.



Rick October 25, 2018 at 2:56 am

Thank you Nancy great article great coverage.

Rumor has it 27 families received there eviction notices that still live in the old Village under horrid conditions , Ill try and verify that but for now its rumor.

Now that this is wrapping up the condition of all the other housing units under the Norwalk Housing Authority need to be talked about. The same conditions are said to exist in other units in the city.

Now that the city has dropped most of the work that went into the Village wonder what happens to those workers who once maintained all those units.

The legal problems the city has with partners in other housing units seems to be heating up also with that in mind how does these new units change all the other challenges not talked about today Mr Bovilsky ?

Hate to rain on anyone’s parade but there are issues costing the city money not covered by grants within housing.

Dave McCarthy October 25, 2018 at 7:08 am

Harry Rilling is somehow using a project that cost $500,000 to build each ‘affordable’ unit as an example of government doing something good. Second, he’s taking credit for ‘leadership’ on a project that was planned and won while Mayor Moccia was in office. Rilling simply existed while the project came to completion.

B Meek October 25, 2018 at 8:32 am

“People who say government doesn’t work, take a look at what this is. People who say Connecticut is on the decline or that Norwalk is not a good, desirable place to live, take a look at what we have.”

Uhhhhh….people who can’t do basic back of the envelope math are bankrupting society. At $600k per unit to build and climbing, it would be nice for leaders to acknowledge that government can’t seem to get anything done unless it pays 2 to 3x what things should cost.

I think this statement sums things up perfectly. Government in this case is working out great for a few. The rest of us get to pay for it.

To infinity and beyond.

Mike Mushak October 25, 2018 at 10:14 am

Awesome news!

Thank you to Governor Malloy, Mayor Rilling, current and past Common Councils, our state and federal elected officials, Norwalk’s DPW and Housing Authority, HUD, P and Z staff and the various land use boards and Redevelopment Agency, the residents of Washington Village, community activists, and all those involved in making this Choice Neighborhoods a reality.

As a South Norwalk resident and business owner for 20 years, I have been looking forward to the transformation of this once-blighted neighborhood into a vibrant and diverse mixed-income community that is safe, attractive, and a boon to our local economy including more jobs and businesses.

As a recent census study shows, housing and neighborhood conditions really do affect childhood achievement and lifetime success. These improvements will translate into better lives, as decades of evidence proves.

And as the article states, every $1 invested in Choice Neighborhood projects stimulates $7 in private investment. We see that happening as we speak, proving this is a perfect example of the public/private benefits that derive from smart planning.

Since a previous commenter mentioned the high construction cost, yes of course costs are high when dealing with replacing obsolete infrastructure and demolishing old buildings filled with noxious building materials. This was once a neighborhood filled with factories on every corner, which increases construction costs as it does in urban areas across the country. We need to remember that when looking at per unit costs, which can’t be compared to building on open land without these issues.

In the long run redeveloping these historic walkable neighborhoods near transit saves time, energy, money, and reduces traffic, so they are always a good investment for any city to make.

And let’s not forget our hard-working DPW staff saved the city $3 million in infrastructure replacement. Thank you!

Patrick Cooper October 25, 2018 at 11:02 am

CT is one of only a few states suffering a massive out-flow of long time residents. At $600,000 plus per unit, why not just give them our houses we spent 30 years to pay for and be done with it? That seems fair. At least there would be property tax contributions – those go to Norwalk.

B Meek October 25, 2018 at 11:20 am

So the intersection improvements on day street that were necessary to build in a flood plain only cost taxpayers $7 million instead of $10 million? Yippee. What’s next give the road away for $1 million like we did North Water Street?

It must be nice to live in a land where money grows on trees. In the real world, we are going to have to pay $11 million to fix Glover Ave only 2 years after the clean traffic study for the 700 apartments was produced.

A lot of us recall all the acrimony over things like Loehmann’s plaza and the accusations of back room deals, but those are all good now for some, no matter the cost.

Piberman October 25, 2018 at 11:45 am

Norwalk is the only CT city boasting of public housing in an industrial zone adjacent to flooding streets near the Harbor. That makes a statement. As does years of ignoring NEON egregious mismanagement. And that we have only half a dozen Black owned local businesses. No doubt Norwalk Democrats “takes care” of SoNo residents needs. Why would they complain living in a floor plain ? For the amount of monies spent per apartment Norwalk could have built public housing in a pleasant environment. But that’s now how Norwalk works.

Lisa Brinton Thomson October 25, 2018 at 11:46 am

According to the US Census BLS – the median price of owner occupied (units) homes in Norwalk between 2012-2016 was $416,800. I think I read in the draft POCD that the median value of an owner occupied home/townhouse was $411K. Regardless, not sure how sustainable the Connecticut or Norwalk affordable housing model is, when building these 1 and 2-bedroom units costs more than than the median value of a residential home???? Perhaps this is what lead to POKOs downfall. Can somebody in this city or state work a calculator? Is there something I am missing?

Piberman October 25, 2018 at 11:46 am

Public housing in a flood plain within an industrial zone. No other CT City can match that “success”. Nor spend $500,000 per apartment. When it comes to serving SoNo Norwalk does it self “real proud”.

Mike Mushak October 25, 2018 at 12:24 pm

@Dave McCarthy, since you are saying Mayor Moccia is responsible for this project, then we clearly must hold him responsible for the cost too. Thank you for clarifying that!

Mitch Adis October 25, 2018 at 12:46 pm

If Donald Trump built these units for the same $600,000 per unit cost people would be lining up to cry foul! They would say this is a hand out to the connected. Instead, since it is a Democrat, it is a great thing that will pay 7:1. Total Spin! Fake News!

Piberman October 25, 2018 at 1:30 pm

Re Ms. Brinton Thompson:
No one would be surprised with the lofty prices incurred building public housing in a Norwalk flood zone. City Hall has long had a problem with “figures”. Imagine if City Hall went into the public housing business in a really big way. What’s often overlooked is that well run cities understand the solution to public housing shortages for lower income residents is best resolved by encouraging more private employment and good jobs. But that idea hasn’t really caught on in Downtown Norwalk which remains perpetually depressed. No other City in CT has just 5% of its Grand List from private small business. When it comes to attracting business Norwalk is not a popular address.

Sid Welker October 25, 2018 at 1:45 pm

Since you live in Florida why not get involved with the political system down there. This sour grapes stuff is getting old. Get over it already. Enjoy what Florida has to offer. We certainly don’t miss you here. Looking through old NON stories shows that you sure did alot of “no good” while in town.

Mike Mushak October 25, 2018 at 4:51 pm

Lisa Brinton Thompson has said just recently, referring to this specific project and with no sense of shame, that affordable housing should not be built in desirable neighborhoods near the water because that should be saved for luxury housing that pays more property tax. I am not kidding. I guess the bottom line takes precedence over people in Lisa World?

In other words, lower and middle income folks should resign themselves to living in undesirable areas where no rich folks would ever want to live.

And this astounding observation about where poor folks deserve to live, which is totally illegal under the Fair Housing Act and many other state and federal non-discrimination laws, comes from a former mayoral candidate who promised to change our land use policies and City Hall!

Lower- income people used to be forced into racially- and economically-segregated slums, which happened for generations including in Norwalk with exclusionary zoning and redlining by real estate agents and banks.

This is exactly the kind of historic and now illegal land use policy that Choice Neighborhoods is designed to correct. The government now is spending billions correcting the discriminatory land use mistakes of the past, that decades of studies proves lead to generational poverty and associated social problems.

I think my friend Lisa needs a crash course in land use law before she lectures everyone else on land use policies as if she has all the answers and everyone else is just plain stupid. And trust me, that’s the attitude she’s taken in almost every public meeting, compulsively insulting P and Z staff and volunteers on our land use boards.

I’d like to help Lisa stop embarrassing herself in public, by recommending she begin to educate herself on modern land use policy by reading the Fair Housing Act!

Lisa Brinton Thomson October 25, 2018 at 5:59 pm

Mike, I asked a math question. You are a planning commissioner, and a vocal one at that- perhaps you can enlighten me on the numbers 🙂 Please explain why affordable housing is more expensive to build than the average value of a home in Norwalk? Is it greedy developers? Is it government red tape? Is it labor costs? How long is a model like that sustainable? Are these financial models the reason why Poko went bust? Again, you are a planning commissioner, who surely must have access to these financial statements. Please explain.

Ernie DesRochers October 25, 2018 at 7:08 pm

Lisa Brinton Thomspon the excessive costs is on account of the strings that are put on the developments by the state and federal government. So many programs that they need to comply with that drives the price up! It’s why these are loaded with all sorts of tax credits. This proves one truism about government- it cost two to three times as much as what the private sector can do something.

steve October 25, 2018 at 9:28 pm

for al those complaining about where the new project was built, what area of Norwalk do you propose? Lots of NIMBYs who are now full of crap. There’s a reason why 3 of the largest public housing complexes in the City have been built almost next to each other, surprise, surprise, surprise, it’s because no one wants them in their neighborhood. This was an expensive project- much of it underwritten by the Federal Government- but that’s the nature of these jobs- regardless of where they are built. in many cases expensive infrastructure repairs were made at the same time which drove the cost up. Lisa Brinton Thomson if you want to be mayor you should know how the costs of this project compares to other similar projects. I was involved with Southfield Landing about 10 years ago and their per unit costs were just about the same. We are getting rid of the oldest public housing complex in Ct and with largely money that doesn’t come out of Norwalk’s coffers getting a brand new facility- sorry I’m tired of the complainers. My guess is they would’ve done nothing, lots of carping but in the end only that.

Rick October 26, 2018 at 12:43 am

“This is a benchmark now of what can happen,” Mayor Harry Rilling said, shame he didn’t do his homework on Trinity.

Awesome news!

A poorly installed exhaust pipe is to blame for the six-alarm fire that tore through the Treadmark building in Dorchester last month, fire officials said Wednesday.

And the error was compounded when construction workers testing a generator waited about 90 minutes to call 911 after they first smelled smoke and saw haze inside the six-story building, said Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn, who released the Fire Department’s report on the fire Wednesday.

The blaze badly damaged the $45 million building, an 83-unit mix of affordable apartments and market-rate condominiums being developed by Boston-based Trinity Financial that was set to open in mid-July. It broke out on the afternoon of June 28 as workers were testing the building’s emergency systems ahead of safety inspections planned for the following day.


Boston Fire Chief called Trinity Financial building tinder box construction

Now Norwalk has one how lucky can we be?

Going down the list the city of Boston and area cities and towns have on record problems with Trinities buildings the chance of that stopping in Norwalk must be met with skepticism.

Fire dept head inspector put in perspective the other night, eight building inspectors, 1,000 multifamily housing units, 1 million feet of new retail and office space plus additional 2,000 apartments being built. He suggested 15 inspectors to keep up with the workload.

Norwalk taxpayer is screwed someone tell Harry progress costs money and so far instead of new firefighters police officer and inspectors he is passing our raises like Santa may be a bad idea for right now.

Mike Mushak October 26, 2018 at 1:55 am

@Lisa, you seem to relish throwing out accusations of ignorance by others, when in fact you have shown repeatedly that you know very little about land use policy, the history of and need for affordable housing, or the tools being implemented to solve serious long term societal problems through decades of research.

Read this, http://www.norwalkcni.org/about/, so you will learn that HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Program, which Norwalk was extremely lucky to be chosen in a competitive process, involves a lot more than building housing. It also includes improving neighborhoods and lives through education, social programs, and creating jobs. Yes it costs more money than just building housing “units”, but what is the value of breaking the cycle of poverty in a community?

Can you put a dollar figure on hundreds if not thousands of lives improved over decades, including less criminal behavior, less substance abuse, less domestic abuse, and more long term family stability and increased income? It sounds like you want to quantify all that into dollars just to see if it’s “worth” the investment. Don’t worry, HUD isn’t doing this based on hunches, but on decades of studies that show this works.

Since you seem obsessed with debunking everything good about Norwalk, including your obsession with attacking the mayor no matter what he does which is getting tiring even amongst your old friends, I doubt you will want to be educated about anything as complex as how Choice Neighborhoods works.

But I hope you will at least start to see that everything isn’t boiled down to only dollars and cents. If it was, then why even have schools? Or libraries? Or hospitals? You know, they’re all so expensive and don’t pay property taxes! Horrors!

Seriously, a healthy society invests in its future through improving schools, infrastructure, healthcare, and living conditions especially for its most vulnerable and underserved. Do I like paying most of my taxes to pay for educating kids even though I don’t have any? No, but I accept that I have a responsibility to do so to make our community and our society better by investing in it, and it’s the same goal with affordable housing.

B Meek October 26, 2018 at 6:22 am

@Steve. Here’s how I would have spent the $130 million (and climbing). For the 136 tenants of WV, I would have bought every single one of them one of the 200 plus 300k homes available on the market with the only stipulation that they be maintained and the property taxes would be their responsibility. Any $ they paid into it above that would go against their principal so they could start building equity and move up the socio economic ladder like we all want to. In NHA you are not allowed to save money, so you are basically stuck there until you hit powerball.

Those 136 homes at $300k would cost $40 million and $4k in taxes would generate a $27 million present value, so the net cost would be $13 million. By itself.

Even if you spent $20 million knocking down WV and raising the road, this would still be $100 million saved before you even considered what private developers could and would do with it.

It’s amazing how badly our leaders have failed us here.

Mike Mushak October 26, 2018 at 7:52 am

@B Meek, no doubt if Republican Mayor Moccia was still in office, you would have been standing there in the photo at the ribbon cutting smiling for the cameras. Instead, you declare “our leaders have failed us.”. Funny how that works!

Don’t forget Dave McCarthy declared in a previous comment that it was Mayor Moccia who was responsible for this project, so you are clearly saying Mayor Moccia failed us. Oh wait, he’s a Republican. Oops! Lol.

I also can’t help but notice both you and Lisa, both famous “sky is falling” Republicans, refuse to acknowledge the Choice Neighborhoods’ 700% return on investment by the private sector ($7 leveraged for every $1 in public funds invested.) If that’s your idea of a “failure”, you may need to go back to accounting school!

And you seem to not understand that CN includes improving lives and neighborhoods through additional programs to help improve communities by breaking the cycle of poverty, summarized here http://www.norwalkcni.org/about/. I doubt you’ll read it or change your mind, but sometimes I do feel the need to educate the less fortunate among us.

Lisa Brinton Thomson October 26, 2018 at 9:06 am

Mike, I never disputed Washington Village needed replacement. Over the years, I’ve spent many hours tutoring children in the community center and know just how bad it is/was. I asked a simple question about building costs there (and with Poko, because of the large affordable housing component) and then set those numbers against the current private housing market in Norwalk and you set your hair on fire.

Steve, Point taken about the current flood plain location and role history plays in why the housing is where it is. My question again was directed at truly understanding a breakdown of the costs.

Bryan poses an interesting alternative to providing those less fortunate with housing.

The point I was trying to make and will endeavor to understand better is the term ‘affordable’ housing because it appears to be a misnomer. I’ve heard lots of anecdotal stories from developers and others who paint a picture of a less than efficient government system, despite its ‘good’ intentions. The answer I will continue to seek is affordable to whom and at what cost?

Jason Milligan October 26, 2018 at 9:24 am

Mike Mushak-You seem to be a very caring and passionate individual. You and others also seem to overly forgiving to any effort aimed at a good cause regardless of how well it is designed or implemented.

Helping poor people is a worthy cause. Being poor is not permanent by any means. Activities and policies that help poor people earn their way out of being poor are the best. Activities and policies that encourage and demand people to stay poor are sad.

Building 1 project for triple the money it should cost while hiding behind a good cause is a shame. The few people and families that were helped by this large scale and very expensive project surely benefit.

Is anyone who would like to perform a cost-benefit analysis on the project a bad person?

Is there not room for improvement in our government?

It is possible to care about and want to help people that are currently in less fortunate situations while at the same time criticize the government when taxpayer money is seemingly wasted.

A worthy cause does not and should not shield our government from scrutiny or criticism.

The current system is dishonest. The vocabulary is dishonest. How we measure program success is misleading and dishonest.

An honest discussion about the definitions and goals is long overdue!

B Meek October 26, 2018 at 9:43 am

@Mushak. No you have your political bigotry brush ready to paint everyone else, but it is you who need a hard look in the mirror. Not that you know me, but I went toe to toe with Mr. Moccia on several occasions and I never understood the lack of oversight and transparency we give to NHA. How can people ever get out of poverty if they aren’t allowed to build assets? What is the cost to society for keeping people in poverty? Who is making the massive profits at taxpayer expense? I don’t care what side of the political spectrum you are on, if you can’t see that this whole model is rotten to the core, then you ar part of the problem.

Jason Milligan October 26, 2018 at 10:20 am


Should Gov’t be spending our tax dollars based upon expected return on investment?

It is an interesting idea. It is not an idea that is often discussed for a reason to spend Gov’t money though.

Is the 7 to 1 or 700% return on investment that you report accurate?
Is that higher or lower than the normal velocity of money?

It sounds good for sure, but is it?

Should we be aiming for a high return on tax money spent?

For context, it would make sense to compare other uses of public money and the return that is achieved. Then it would also make sense to measure return on investment that private money would provide to the community.

Private money investment return would be infinite since there is no denominator.

Infinite is better than 700%, so under this method of measuring success we should never use taxpayer money for these types of projects.

Perhaps that 700% figure is a distraction and another example of the misleading and dishonest nature of “affordable housing”.

Tysen Canevari October 27, 2018 at 12:11 am

How much did the police spend on those nice jackets and shiny new bikes? Office Oullette looks sharp doesnt he?

Rick October 28, 2018 at 4:06 pm

Look at all the smiling faces , two weeks ago the Ct DDEP hadn’t got the paperwork showing the soil under the building was clean after remediation.

Whats that mean?

Paperwork for a cleanup details tells the residents a safe clean building. Who is willing to take Duffs word for it. Already Bob is making the ribbon cutting a big deal.

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