City acquires 11 Belden Ave. sliver through eminent domain process

Jason Milligan’s property next to the Norwalk Public Library, Sept. 19 on Mott Avenue.

The City has acquired 11 Belden Ave. to provide additional parking for Norwalk Public Library patrons, a news release said.

Real estate mogul Jason Milligan, former owner of the property, clarified that the City has bought a .25-acre portion of his 1.25-acre lot, the area used for parking for six years under a six-year purchase option negotiated in 2017.

The parties had differed on a price and the City pursued it through eminent domain. While Milligan said the City bought the property without determining compensation, Norwalk Director of Communications Michelle Woods Matthews said the City paid $800,000 for the parking lot.

“I stand by my original response,” Milligan replied.

In 2017, the City paid Milligan $460,000 for a six-year purchase option for the lot at 11 Belden Ave., where he had planned to build apartments. The deal included a fixed purchase price of $4,885,000 for the parcel, which was intended to provide room for a possible Norwalk Public Library expansion and parking for patrons.

Common Council members let the deadline for the deal pass in mid-June.

In late May, Milligan made a show of signing a term sheet drafted by former Mayor Alex Knopp, who negotiated the 2017 option, agreeing to a $1,750,000 purchase price for the .25-acre Mott Avenue frontage that library patrons had been parking on. Knopp made the proposed deal on his own initiative; Mayor Harry Rilling had no comment.

Knopp told Council members on May 25 that Milligan’s demand of $2 million for the sliver is “clearly too high” and he understood, from a Milligan email, that the latest City offer was $1.2 million.

“Once we have the authority to take it by eminent domain, then we’re looking at good faith negotiations, we can work with the owner of the property and see if we can’t come to an agreement,” Rilling said in August.

“I agree with the decision for the City only acquire the parking area rather than the entire parcel,” Milligan said Wednesday. “I did not contest the City taking that portion of my property because the library is an important part of the neighborhood and previous administrations never provided enough parking for it to thrive.”

He still owns the larger portion of the property, which includes the M&T Bank building.

“There is one very important part of this process left to work out which is the compensation given for the parcel. I am thrilled that the Mayor, his chief of staff and other council members have continually assured me that they want to pay ‘just compensation’ for the parcel which of course is required when using eminent domain,” Milligan said. “I anticipate us working together through the court to ensure market value is paid based upon the parcel’s highest and best use. Consideration shall also be given to any diminution in value of the remaining parcel due to the city taking one of the means of ingress & egress.”

“Our libraries are the cornerstone of our community,” Rilling said in a statement. “Our Main Library sees over 26,000 visitors a month and hosts several annual events that draw hundreds of visitors thanks to the incredible work of our library staff. That’s why providing additional parking through the acquisition of the 11 Belden Avenue parking lot was a major priority for the City. We are proud to be the owner of this parking lot and support our community’s love for our library. Whether it’s the incredible workshops for children, English-language learners who rely on assistance from library staff, students seeking educational materials or adults using our computers and Wi-Fi to apply for jobs, we are here to meet the needs of our residents.”

“The City will be working closely with the Library Administration to develop a parking guidance plan on how to best manage the facility and make sure it is accessible to library visitors,” the news release said.

“Norwalk is not only culturally diverse, it is also ability diverse,” Norwalk Public Library Director Sherelle Harris said in a statement. “Library accessibility for all patrons is vital. I am both grateful and proud that Mayor Rilling and his team have achieved a final solution. It just makes sense to have the two adjacent parking lots at 1 Belden Avenue and 11 Belden Avenue for library patrons.”

“The Norwalk Public Library Board has collaborated with the City for years to secure ownership of this parking lot and is thrilled about this outcome,” Norwalk Public Library Board of Trustees Chairwoman Moina Noor said in a statement. “The availability of easily accessible parking adjacent to the library is essential for Norwalk residents and crucial for the future development of the library.”

“The City’s acquisition of the adjacent parking lot is an historic victory for the Norwalk Public Library because it assures patrons of essential on-site parking while it preserves a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the library to expand and modernize its now-outdated physical facilities,” said Knopp, former Chair of the Norwalk Library Board. “This successful conclusion to our seven-year campaign to save library parking is a major accomplishment for the Rilling Administration. The collaboration between the Mayor’s office, the Common Council and the Library Board was based on our shared understanding of the strategic necessity of securing additional parking for our land-locked central library. Special thanks should go to the library’s many patrons who tirelessly supported the parking project at City hearings and in social media comments.”

The library had more than 300,000 visitors in 2023, the news release said. “The library offers dozens of monthly events catered to a wide range of the community’s interests, including literary discussions, hands-on workshops and cultural events. The library provides hundreds of non- English speakers with diverse linguistic language assistance each month and has become a valuable hub for cultural events that strengthen connections and build community. You can learn more about the Main Library’s services by visiting https://www.norwalkpl.org/.”


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