NORWALK, Conn. – An option agreement that will allow the city of Norwalk to sell two valuable Day Street properties to the Norwalk Housing Authority is likely to be approved at Tuesday’s council meeting.
The option agreement was approved unanimously at Wednesday’s Planning Committee meeting, allowing NHA to apply for a federal grant in its effort to demolish and rebuild Washington Village, the oldest housing project in the state. The city is giving NHA the sole right to purchase the properties at 13 and 20 Day St. – for $1 – if it gets a HUD (Housing and Urban Development) grant.
The combined property is estimated to be worth $2 million, causing some observers to question the wisdom of the deal.
“There’s always issues you can look at but at some point we have to look as a city and say do we leave the housing project as it is now or do we at least provide an opportunities for change to occur?” Norwalk Redevelopment Agency Director Tim Sheehan asked at the meeting.
Planning for the development – which will put affordable housing, public housing and market rate housing side by side in buildings that are raised to avoid the problems of being in a 100-year flood plain – was paid for by a HUD Choice Neighborhoods Grant. Sheehan said Norwalk was the only community in the state to win such a grant.
The grant Norwalk is applying for to build the project is very competitive, he said. Only four or five are granted across the country. The inclusion of city property in the application will show that “the city is committed to the concept and transformation of the area,” he said.
“We admittedly understand there are challenges associated with this and they’re not insignificant,” he said. “At the end of the day, if we don’t take the incremental step we don’t even have a chance to begin the application process.”
Councilman Matt Miklave (D-District A) agreed that without the grant, the dilapidated housing project will probably remain as is, flooding issues and all.
“We do not have the resources in our capital budget to tackle all the things we need to tackle,” he said. “… We have the opportunity to leverage public money from the federal government to benefit everyone in the city of Norwalk.”
Councilman Carvin Hilliard (D-District B) said the project will be good for both South Norwalk and the city at large.
“It’s not only going to improve the look of South Norwalk and the city, it’s also going to help the residents of Washington Village by bringing services to them,” he said. “If they need job training, that’s part of the plan. It’s going to add to the neighborhood and add to the economics of the city.”
Committee Chairman Nick Kydes (R-District C) tried to allay fears about Ryan Park, which sits within the area to be redeveloped.
“Ryan park is not going to be adversely affected by this development.On the contrary, Ryan Park could benefit from this development,” he said. “No one is going to be out there trying to do away with Ryan Park. … That area has a tremendous amount of potential to become a showcase, not only for the state of Connecticut but I would say for the northeast if not for the entire country. It’s a beautiful design.”
Specific terms of the deal, if the entire council approves it, will be drawn up by Corporation Counsel Robert Maslan.