To the Editors:
It was reported in recent articles that the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency is actually suggesting, with best intentions, that bringing yet more big boxes redefined as “malls” to Norwalk is the answer to awakening this town from the doldrums?
The agency has hired — presumably, at taxpayer expense — Robert Gibbs, founder of Gibbs Planning Group of Birmingham, Mich., to guide the city on development of the 95/7 site bordered by West Avenue, Interstate 95, the North Water Street extension and Metro-North Railroad’s Danbury Line. Mr. Gibbs comes well recommended. Additionally, he has listed on his own site the development of some 60 malls across the country. On the face of it, that is an impressive recommendation, but nowhere do we have an inkling of the success or lack thereof that these many malls have experienced.
Truth be told, we are not Beverly Hills, and SoNo has not become the next Rodeo Drive. Attempting to prop up SoNo at taxpayer expense with a mall will just add to the “for rent” signs.
Would it not bring this city to a more profitable condition if it spent our money to make Norwalk as livable and as attractive to those workers — the secretaries, the second- and third-tier managers, the salesmen, the pencil pushers and the lawn-mower pushers — the drones who provide support for the big corporations based in Fairfield County? Hey! We used to call them the “middle class.” Besides, we already have enough mini-mansions and more than a few real ones throughout Fairfield County.
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.