NORWALK, Conn. – The Manresa Island study has been released.
“The four concepts outlined in the report are: a marina and boatyard; a renewable solar energy generation and storage facility, an educational campus, and a residential single-family home development,” a press release from the City said Thursday. “All four concepts include preserving open space and public access on the island. The full report can be viewed at norwalkct.org/manresareport.”
The City and the Manresa Association in 2016 split the cost of a $150,000 study of the redevelopment possibilities of Manresa Island, known to many as the home of a defunct power plant that dominates the horizon along the waterfront.
“Getting to this point is the result of a great public and private partnership between the city and Manresa Association. We are committed to working with NRG, Manresa, and state and federal agencies to optimize the reuse of this property,” Mayor Harry Rilling is quoted as saying in the release. “This is one of, if not the best location in all of Norwalk. The site must be cleaned up and public access to the island needs to be expanded. Whatever happens on Manresa Island must provide value to our residents and reflect the desire of the community.”
The report developed by Fitzgerald and Halliday states that “the residential market presents itself as the most likely driver of reuse of the property,” based on market trends and conditions.
“This does not, however, preclude a targeted development either as a build to suit office situation or some other unique development idea brought forth by a developer,” the report states. “Given the associated cleanup costs, a fairly dense development model would be required to offset the land preparation costs.”
However, “While the market appears to favor residential development, there are multiple reuse options that could more effectively leverage the sites assets including the harbor and navigation channel, electric substation, and land area and solar exposure,” the report states. “These options include the potential for the establishment of a marina and boat storage yard, the development of a solar farm, and the on-site storage of energy.
“Manresa Island is comprised of two parcels that occupy approximately 144 acres of Norwalk’s shoreline. In 1960, a power plant was commissioned on the southern parcel by Connecticut Light & Power,” the press release explains. “The plant began operations as a coal-fired plant but was converted to oil in 1972. In 1999, the property was acquired by NRG Energy. In 2012, the site was inundated with storm surge during Hurricane Sandy and was subsequently closed in 2013.”
“The northern parcel is largely constructed of fill material and coal ash. Because of this substrate, contamination and surrounding wetlands and estuary areas, this parcel is not feasible for development,” the report states.
“Based upon the recommended redevelopment concepts, a parcelization (subdivision) of land is recommended,” the report states. “A total of five parcels are recommended to replace the existing two parcels. Additionally, the creation of a City right-of-way is recommended in place of the existing access road, connecting to the harbor and providing access to a public boat launch.”
Step one would be for NRG to complete remediation of the wetlands as required by the Connecticut Department of Environment and Energy (DEEP). Step two would be reparcelization, with parcels one and two – the northern part of the property – going to the City or to a land trust, the report states.
Recommendations for the southern parcel are:
- “Marina: Includes 110 slips, a 6 acre boat storage yard, a marina facility building, a public boat launch, publicly accessible waterfront trails and public parking.
- “Solar Farm: Includes a 4.9 MW solar array and a 0.5 acre battery energy storage site.
- “Educational Facility: An educational institution or destination facility that leverages the coastal location and waterfront access.
- “Residential Development: Moderate density residential development of up to 74 single-family homes.”
“The Manresa Association was formed in 2013 as an advocacy group dedicated to ensuring that Manresa Island is environmentally safe, provides open space and conservation habitat, and contributes to the physical beauty of Norwalk and the Long Island Sound coastline. The association is comprised of over 900 households and several local neighborhoods and clubs,” the press release states.
The release continues:
“’I appreciate the strong working relationship with the city and Mayor Rilling’s leadership in helping create this partnership. His administration has been supportive throughout this process,’ said Charlie Taney, president of Manresa Association. ‘This report is the culmination of well over two years of work. This is phase one, and we now can look toward phase two.’
“A Steering Committee comprised of staff from the Mayor’s Office, Planning and Zoning, and Economic Development, as well as Common Council members John Igneri and Thomas Livingston, and Manresa Association members Taney and John Moeling, worked closely with consultant Fitzgerald & Halliday, Inc. on the development of the report. The Committee also conducted outreach with NRG Energy to solicit information and receive feedback on these findings.
“’I look forward to our continued partnership as we pursue the timely re-use of the Manresa site in a manner consistent with the final report,’ said Livingston.”