Is having more ‘made ins’ worth a mall made in Norwalk?

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To the Editor

Interesting arguments on both sides of the issue of whether to mall or not to mall in Norwalk, but I would add these considerations to the on-going discussions on NoN:

It is evident that it is the duty of all Americans to shop. Without our obsession to acquire “stuff” as fast as we can be persuaded to do so, the world’s economy might collapse.

It is the law of supply and demand, and we seem to be the world’s biggest demanders. Without us, what would happen to the economies that produce the “Made in Bangladesh” and “Made in China” and all the other “Made ins…” that keep us supplied with almost obscene quantities of buyers’ choices, and what would happen to the raw material providers that keep the “Made ins…” going and the flow coming this way? (Curious and worrying how difficult it is to find few products, be they shirts or giant earth movers that say, “Made in the USA”).

Our duty to sustain the world’s economies by consuming also makes us the top producers of the detritus that inevitably results from all that ingesting. It also produces an unsustainable and eventually uncontainable dissatisfaction among the “Made ins…” who have witnessed our well exhibited, fortunate way of life and intend to share in it one way or another, regardless of the limited resources planet Earth provides.

So, what does this have to do with the Mall Question in Norwalk? Maybe nothing, if we can’t see beyond the ends or our noses. Is it our duty to contribute one more questionable outlet for the “Made ins…” in an area that is already over-supplied with them in a time when even all of us as consumers are tightening our ample belts?

Forgetting the big picture, is it wise to imperil our own local economy with another speculative gamble on an enterprise with a questionable lifetime in a time and place now overly supplied with outlets for those needy and restless “Made ins…”?

On Empathy (a Ted Talk)

Rod Lopez-Fabrega


11 responses to “Is having more ‘made ins’ worth a mall made in Norwalk?”

  1. Suzanne

    I looked up the amount of acreage required of various sports fields last night and a variety of events could be held at this acreage (I only found reference to a “dozen acres”) with shared parking for the facilities.

    Semi-pro teams or minor leagues could play well-maintained fields and, instead of shopping, people could pay to see athletic competitions while also using the facilities, including a modestly priced indoor gym and a seasonal ice rink/skate board park and music and/or movie events under the stars from the Spring through the Fall.

    What’s that you say? No giant tax revenue from a depreciating Mall the minute it is put in the ground? No “lifecycle” building to leave for future taxpayers?

    I would suggest that this cultural/sports idea is far more plausible and long lasting in attracting crowds further than County wide and would be a consistent source of income that would not depreciate over time.

    It would appeal to the entire Norwalk and beyond demographic particularly if it held competitions not normally attracted to nearby venues but very popular: lacrosse, cricket, soccer.

    Since the river is adjacent, there is the opportunity for rowing competitions or facilities as well.

    So, instead of seeing a giant “Mall O’Wall” as I-95 drivers pass by, that everyone sees everywhere in the United States, this type in particular with a failing design concept everywhere including well heeled areas like Palm Springs and the Silicon Valley, one would see athleticism and concerts, out door plays, etc., all revenue building and all good for Norwalk employment, taxes, and cultural needs.

    These types of activities do not go out of style. Over the long term, it creates no conflict with “Made ins…” but generates positive cultural and inclusive activities for EVERYONE in Norwalk while creating jobs and contributing to tax rolls. “Slow and steady wins the race.”

  2. cc-rider

    There is minor league baseball in Bridgeport, new indoor ice rink in Sono, newer Sono Field House, and lots of sports fields at Vets Park in East Norwalk so adding a new sports venue is questionable for 95/7.

  3. Suzanne

    If you’ll notice, I did not mention baseball for that very reason.

    Vets Park has public sports fields and is not appropriate to money making ventures for sports not usually considered but very popular as mentioned above.

    There are restaurants on Wall Street and in SoNo but that does not preclude anyone eating at anyone of them. Likewise, an outdoor rink (think Rockefellar Center) converted into a skateboard park (monetized) rather than an indoor practice venue as in SoNo would be more applicable to 95/7.

    I am not referring to “let’s go play a game of ball” type venues. I am proposing a multi-use facility that is monetized for multiple purposes – not just sports but also cultural events.

    Anyone can say “nay” right out of the gate: everyone has been asking for a better idea than a Mall. I am saying this is one of them.

    Maybe not the big bang for your buck, gazillion in delayed tax revenues presented instantaneously (over seven years) with lower than living wage Mall jobs idea, but an idea nevertheless that will not leave an abandoned or limping glassed in building after twenty five years for future generations to figure out how to deal with. (And how do we know that disposing of this building will not cost as much as the taxes realized over its lifetime?)

    Over the long term and for future generations, for creating traditions, for creating money, for contributing to tax rolls, OVER THE LONG TERM, this is a better idea than the Mall whose model for development is being destroyed all over this country (Sacramento and Albuquerque are not part of the Rust Belt) and with a “lifecycle” as explained by a commercial real estate professional on these threads, that may last 25 years.

    In 25 years, athletes will still be competing there, concerts will still be held there, young people (and older) can still use the rink/skateboard facility, rowers can still compete, films can still be shown and it will be a great “connector” that everyone likes to talk about between the disparate city centers. It could also provide the revenues needed for SONO and downtown because of its adjacency to those places, i.e., go for a lunch before a game, go for dinner after a concert, pick up to-go for consumption during a film. Many parks with such series are kept afloat by such activities.

    No “Made ins…..” Just a Norwalk for Norwalk venture.

  4. I love Suzanne’s suggestion of a multi-use outdoor sports and cultural events location. The thought of another straight-forward mall in Fairfield County is disheartening. As eCommerce continues to grow at its current pace on the national level, never mind its global growth, large retailers are scaling back on square footage and moving much of their business online. We need far more than just another place to shop that has an inevitable expiration date.

  5. Rod Lopez-Fabrega

    I’m with you on the idea of a sports center, Suzanne.

    Here’s what I had to say about that way back on May 11 (to some ridicule from a few posters):

    Genuine, well-built, affordable housing will do it. Better access to intra-city public transportation would help the drones get back and forth to the hives. More Mom and Pop stores would be a blessing, a periodic street market could be a real attraction, a public swimming pool with a bubble cover for winter, a working bowling center, a well-located, well supervised skating rink – whatever it takes to get people out to do something other than look at store windows for stuff they cannot afford. Let’s face it, our attempts at “affordable housing” are a joke. Even Habitat for Humanity’s offers to build such housing has been rejected.

    As for covered swimming pools, take a look at the Wilton YMCA. Their outdoor Olympic-size pool is in use 12 months of the year. Actually, we’ve already made a start in that direction with the Norwalk Sports Center, but it’s not located for easy access. All these things have great potential to cost less and add attractiveness than the option of more mortar and faux-bricks containing “luxury” apartments or another Big Box filled cheek to jowl with boutique stores that soon move on to greener pastures, replaced by sports cap outlets.

  6. cc-rider

    I think the Mall would be a traffic mess for the area.

    The trouble is the 15 million plus price tag of the property. Who or what entity is going to pony up that much money for something that is not making a substantial profit?

  7. Suzanne

    cc-rider – that is a good point. However, when I tally that up to the tax breaks being given to GGP as an incentive to build here, I wonder if the same courtesy would extend to a sports/culture center that would include mixed demographics, out-of-doors activities, like mentioned by Mr. RLF above including farmer’s markets, antique shows, etc. With some wisdom and real game time, I think the monetary requirements could be solved.

  8. Amanda

    I ask again…what towns would this mall be serving? One member of the zoning commission claimed this could be our “anchor”. We have 4 malls within a 25 mile radius every direction, not to mention high end open air shopping in nearly every surrounding town. How would a redundant mall be special for Norwalk? We can and should do so much better. We need to think outside the box.

  9. Amanda

    (And in this case, it’s a big ugly box)

  10. FYI, GGP paid $35 million for the 95/7 property.

  11. Corrine Weston

    I also love the idea of a sports center, something for the youth of Norwalk to enjoy. Since the closing of the YMCA, the need to offer some type of facility has never been greater. Youth Center anyone.

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