Globe Theater prepared to blossom in ‘slum’

NORWALK, Conn. – Progress is set to be made in the area that Norwalk Common Council members reluctantly agreed to designate as a “slum” on Tuesday – construction is imminent at the Globe Theater, Frank Farricker said.

While a source speculated that Farricker was delayed by a Norwalk Redevelopment Agency oversight in letting Wall Street Redevelopment Area’s blight designation with the United States Housing and Urban Development (HUD) lapse, Farricker said there were other factors. Common Council members restored that designation, a bitter pill for some as it includes the description “slum.”

“No one is saying it’s necessarily a slum; it’s just deteriorated,” RDA Director of Community Development Planning Tami Strauss said.

Farricker said he is closing on the construction loan for the Globe Theater this week. As soon as that happens, construction will commence, he said.

“The designation expired in the summer, but HUD also made an entirely different request of Norwalk regarding an environmental waiver. Between (U.S. Rep.) Jim Himes’ office, Redevelopment and our attorney, we got it sorted out. But it did delay the project,” Farricker said.

The Common Council in June 2004 determined that the Wall Street Redevelopment Area met the definition of a slum, blighted, deteriorated or deteriorating area, which is a HUD designation, Strauss said. That expired 10 years later, RDA Executive Director Tim Sheehan said, specifying it was a HUD time frame. The Council needed to renew it so the Globe Theater could qualify for the more than $1.5 million Section 108 HUD financing that the Council authorized, Sheehan said.

To get the designation, at least 25 percent of the buildings in the area had to exhibit one of these characteristics:

  • Extensive exterior defects
  • Lease signs as a sign of vacancy
  • Structural age (for suspected environmental contamination)
  • Brownfields inventory

RDA did a survey and concluded that 85 percent of the 243 buildings met at least one of the criteria.

The 2004 designation featured a “long debate,” which became “a bit heated because of the issue of eminent domain was very much associated with the word blight at the time,” Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) said.

Sheehan, at last week’s Planning Committee meeting, said the 2004 plan included eminent domain. Specific properties were identified and then removed. The Council later removed the Redevelopment Agency’s power to use eminent domain from the plan in reaction to a court case.

Kimmel asked if voting to designate the area as blighted would preclude the Council from using eminent domain. Sheehan said no.

“The city always has the right to take property by eminent domain provided that there’s an underlying plan for the area and that that plan is in effect,” Sheehan said. “A previous Council cannot hold the Council exempt from taking future action. In other words if you wanted to reinstate into the plan authorizations relative to eminent domain you certainly could do that. Again, that power is on a case by case basis, it should be fully understood that that is never the first course of action. It’s always the last course of action.”

Councilman Jerry Petrini (R-District D), a Wall Street businessman, said he wasn’t surprised to hear that 85 percent of the buildings in his neighborhood meet the definition for blight. “I don’t know what grants are out there. I think we should all sit together and find out how they all get jump–started down there,” Petrini said. “There could be very simple ways.”


2 responses to “Globe Theater prepared to blossom in ‘slum’”

  1. John Hamlin

    Eminent domain should be a last resort, but it is not the evil that people make it out to be. At least it involves payment of fair compensation, unlike oppressive tax rates, which simply mean taking from one group of citizens for the benefit of the supporters of one set of politicians with no compensation, or blight itself which involves irresponsible property owners taking property value from thier neighbors and the community. With an effective blight ordinance, maybe the Wall Street area would not have gotten to the point where it had to be designated as a slum. But that would mean forcing property owners to act responsibly, and the Norwalk vested interests couldn’t allow that to happen. Much better to end up with slums.

  2. Tobias

    When you look at older photos of that area 50 – 60 years ago, it was a bright and busy area of Norwalk. Probably from malls being built in the area and then the horrors of internet shopping to small shops and businesses, it has become a ghost town. Not that there are not stores and businesses down there. Those who have set up shop I applaud your tenacity! But from the crater left in tearing down one building, the burned out shell of another and storefronts where old bustling department stores used to live, it’s not what it used to be.

    Sort of like the way Washington Street used to be 30-40 years ago. I mean now there aren’t any empty storefronts there…..? Right?

    Are there any incentives to have create a small business in Norwalk or are the rents too proactive for that? Those who have stores now have a hard time getting traffic through them in the lower Main Street/ Wall Street area and those with restaurants in Washington St say that the parking nazis make it hard for anyone to want to come to their area….. oh the agony!

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