NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk leaders met Wednesday for an open house highlighting funds for the Martin Luther King Corridor Initiative.
“Since 2019, the MLK Corridor Initiative identified more than $7.6 million priority investments in economic and community development, education, housing and safety improvement,” a news release said. “Subsequently, the City was able to secure critical funding that will address nearly all identified priorities.”
The funding includes:
- $3 million from the State
- $3.5 million from The SoNo Collection, money paid when GGP sought approval to remove a planned hotel from the project
- Additional funds contributed by the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency.
“The City has also committed $8.2 million in Citywide efforts from Federal funds through the American Rescue Plan Act that will enhance and benefit all residents of Norwalk, particularly South Norwalk residents,” the release said.
Three years ago, South Norwalk leaders began discussing their Martin Luther King initiative. It was a “a true collaborative effort,” that “really did start from the grassroots level,” Common Council member Darlene Young (D-District B) said Wednesday at the South Norwalk library. While it feels like five years, “And I have to say, when we finally came together with the City workers, so it was easy.”
“I’m just excited to see that we are finally at the beginning stages of something life changing for Norwalk for its people,” she said.
The City and Norwalk Redevelopment Agency announced two programs.
“The first program supports $1 million worth of residential facade improvements in owner and tenant-occupied homes. The second program is a first-time initiative for low-interest loans offered to residents in South Norwalk for home improvements including roof and window replacement, and other important mechanics,” the news release said.
“In November 2020, the Redevelopment Agency launched the MLK facade program,” with about $280,000 to spend, improving 13 homes, Norwalk Chief of Economic and Community Development Jessica Vonashek said at a January Council meeting. After learning in early 2021 that the City would get a $3 million State grant for the the MLK Corridor Initiative, “We came up with the list of 75 things worth $7.3 million, knowing that we only had $3 million to really move forward.” Given the ARPA funds and the GGP money, “We’ve been able to fund almost 90% of the priorities and goals that were identified through the group.”
She explained, “There were definitely four very strong focus areas that came out and one of them was housing improvements. The second was traffic mobility and connectivity. Third was green space and park improvements in a fourth was neighborhood safety and beautification improvements.”
At that point, the façade program expanded; $750,000 would go toward façade improvements at owner occupied and renter occupied dwellings, capped at $25,000 per unit or $100,000 per building.
The loan program has $500,000 in funding, she said.
“If someone needs a new boiler, someone needs new heating system, someone needs new electrical system, and there’s a health and safety issue, we have the ability, the Redevelopment Agency will have the ability to be able to actually lend out the $500,000 and then administer the loan over time,” she said. “We just feel like this is a huge step forward for the city of Norwalk. It’s not something that we’ve done before. And so we’re really excited about it and something that the MLK Corridor Initiative Committee felt very, very strongly about.”
State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) touted Wednesday’s event via a Facebook post.
“People all across Norwalk celebrating major improvements to South Norwalk through the MLK Corridor Initiative. This is ground up, not a top down and will make a real difference to families, children and businesses in the area,” he wrote. “… These are the type of investments I want to bring to Norwalk – they support the community’s dedication to safety, children, the environment, housing and business – they speak to the importance of people, the community and our collective effort in supporting each other.”