By Ernest DesRochers
To the Editor:
NORWALK, Conn. — There is a Chinese proverb that says if one man lies, and a hundred repeat it as true, then the lie becomes the truth. As a 22-year resident of the City of Norwalk and one whose children were all very well educated in our public schools, I have to say that I am mystified by the politics that proposed new real estate developments have engendered during this political season. The latest is candidate Riling’s claim that the city development process is dysfunctional and stalled development projects have cost the citizens of Norwalk valuable tax revenues.
As anyone who wants to become mayor should know, attracting new development is not easy and takes time. Market cycles that come and go have a direct effect on new development. The process becomes more complicated when political hyperbole enters the equation.
Naysayers can say what they want about development in the City of Norwalk, but what has occurred in the past few years is nothing short of a miracle. I see greatness in the leadership we have had in all aspects of our local government. Our country suffered through some of the most difficult economic times to happen in 80 years and Norwalk has survived in better shape that anyone could have imagined.
Norwalk has new development everywhere in the retail and residential, commercial and office sectors and public sectors. We are in the midst of a renaissance, the likes this city has not seen in a generation. One only needs to drive around Norwalk to see what is going on. Shall we do that now?
SONO is now a mixed use mecca with retail, apartments, a successful aquarium, adequate parking, new office, water dependent uses, and hopefully a new major regional mall that will make Norwalk a destination. Under construction is the 108-unit Norwalk Company apartment building with its retail and parking garage. Recently completed is the mixed use Avrick Building that is now retail, office and residential. Also completed is the ice hockey rink in the old Nash Engineering site on Wilson Avenue.
In the downtown area, Wall Street has new apartments with Avalon. West Avenue has Waypoint under construction with its 325 apartment units and retail with the 95 unit residential and commercial Phase II not far behind. Of course there are our local gems the Lockwood Matthews’ mansion and the Stepping Stone Museum (also expanding) and unless I forget the hospital is in the midst of a 95,000 square foot expansion of its facility along with a new 638 car parking garage.
In the Route 7 / Merritt Parkway area there has been major development there. The 96-room Hotel Zero recently opened with its first class restaurant. Across the street in the former 30,000 square foot Hour building is a first class medical and general office development that re-imagined an existing use. Not far from there the Summerview residential development with its 50 units located on West Main and Summer Street which has transformed an entire neighborhood into something new for the 21st century.
Over in East Norwalk there are several new developments. The first is the Pepperidge Farm 53,000 square foot Innovation center located near the Westport border. That development retains high paying jobs for Norwalk and it is part of a very nice mixed use commercial and 235 unit residential development that was completed in 2008.
In addition to the above, Avalon is nearing completion of 240 residential units in Norden Park and under construction in Norden with an expected early 2014 completion data is a 168,000 square foot data center. Finally there is the 84 unit Maplewood Congregate Care center on Strawberry Hill in the former Fitch School.
On Connecticut Avenue there is the recently completed CVS store that has transformed an unsightly corner with poor traffic conditions into something that is far nicer with much improved road conditions. Down the street from there is the Lowe’s site that will start construction soon and across from that is the recently completed Fire Department.
The taxpayers of the city of Norwalk are in the midst of a once in a lifetime change in the city and folks are complaining as if our city was a bad place with nothing going on. Average monthly permits have exceeded the rolling 21-year monthly average in each of the past 24 months both in terms of number of permits and dollar amount. Third parties like the Wall Street rating agencies judge the city not only what it is doing but what the future holds. That is why Norwalk was awarded a AAA bond rating once again. An ever improving high quality tax base with well thought out expenditures.
Norwalk was also just ranked by Connecticut Magazine as one of the best large towns in Connecticut. Specifically, Norwalk ranked #1 for both education and community involvement. Our city was also cited for its strong economy and low crime rate. “Thanks largely to thriving local economies, good local schools and relatively low crime rates, Stamford and Norwalk earned the top two spots in our inaugural ratings of the state’s eight biggest cities.”
I see a great city not one on the edge of failure – what about you?