Norwalk Center Task Force sets sights on redevelopment

NORWALK, Conn. – Members of the newly dubbed Norwalk Center Task Force met briefly for the first time Wednesday to announce their intention, with lighthearted comments punctuated by nostalgia, to rejuvenate the area surrounding Wall Street.

Mayor Harry Rilling said the group would focus on an area roughly encompassing “West Avenue from probably the turnpike to Wall Street and from Wall Street to Main Avenue and up to Cross Street and whatever boundaries the task force decides to set.”

It had originally been billed as the Wall Street Task Force. It will resemble the SoNo Task Force in that it has a similar mission, to aid an area that struggling due to a lack of development, he said.

“I have found that by putting together people of various degrees of expertise, various degrees of concern for areas, that have a common goal, we can accomplish a lot of things,” Rilling said.

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A Norwalk press conference concludes with a hand shake between Town Clerk Rick McQuaid and Mayor Harry Rilling, with Councilman Jerry Petrini sandwiched between them.

Members include Jackie Lightfield and Maribeth Becker of Norwalk 2.0, Councilman David Watts (D-District A), State Rep. Chris Perone (D-137), Councilman Jerry Petrini (R-District D), New York Bakery owner Dominic Muro and Town Clerk Rick McQuaid, who came to watch the press conference and wound up joining the group.

Petrini owns My Three Sons on Wall Street.

“That area on Wall Street is a diamond in the rough,” he said. “Everybody who grew up here can remember – we basically had two centers in Norwalk for shopping. It was down in South Norwalk and over on Wall Street where all the stores have come and gone. With some thought, with some perseverance, Wall Street can work. I mean if you give the people something that they need and they want and you do it right they will come. Sometimes you need a little help getting there.”

“We’ve had a lot of interest in the Town Clerk’s office in the history of Wall Street over the last year,” McQuaid said. “At one time Wall Street was the ‘in’ place. It was a bustling place and I do believe it will be bustling again.”

Rilling said recently that Wall Street’s long delayed developments – POKO’s Wall Street Place and M.F. DiScala & Co.’s Head of the Harbor – were on the verge of getting going. He repeated that Wednesday, saying the information comes from his regular meetings with developers.

“Things are moving along,” he said. “We are cautiously optimistic that those projects will be started in the very near future.”

Perone said that he has seen a trend in cities that are looking to redevelop, a trend that Norwalk is now following.

“There is a formula, basically. They do assemble a group,” he said. “They look to issues that are impediments to growth, economic and they also solicit input from the folks in the community. … Just the idea of getting the community behind an effort like this and focusing on it is the way this starts. If we just sort of work the process we’re going to have a very good result at the end of this.”

Rilling said he remembered the flood of 1955, from which the area has not recovered. He ticked off childhood memories formed in his first nine years, when he lived on Berkeley Street and walked to the theater to see movies with his siblings.

“It’s just a matter of breathing new life into it, getting people as excited as we are and have them to start investing and starting small businesses in the area,” he said. “I think it’s only a matter of time until it is a thriving area again and we want to be on top of it.”

The first meeting of the task force will be Friday.


7 responses to “Norwalk Center Task Force sets sights on redevelopment”

  1. anon

    Can someone please do something about the burnt out building in the middle of the block on Wall Street. It’s been like that for about 3 years now. How long can someone let a commercial building look like that. It makes the whole block look a little like Detroit.

  2. Silence Dogood

    Hope and Change. Norwalk style.

  3. rburnett

    It’s about time someone took some positive action. This area has been devastated since the flood of 55. There has been no growth what-so-ever. What used to be downtown Norwalk is now an embarrassment. Imagine being from out of town and driving down Wall Street. We have become numb to the blight and empty storefronts to the point we no longer take notice of them. Kudos to Mayor Rilling – he gets it and he wants to do something about it.

  4. EastNorwalkChick

    The age of the enclosed “Mall” is over, the age of the “outdoor walking Mall” is just beginning, the Wall Street area would be perfect for this. I think they should bring in some major retailers like they have done in downtown Fairfield and Westport to act as anchors to draw people there. This task force should talk to these towns and see how they did it, ask what worked and what didn’t, take the best and improve on it.
    We draw people to Norwalk with the Children’s Museum and the Maritime Aquarium, but we don’t hold them here for long, one and done because there is nothing else, other than high end restaurants, for them to go to. Major retailers, with a mix of smaller boutique type shops will keep them coming back.
    Time to stop thinking about Norwalk as the poor relation to the more affluent towns in the surrounding area and bring back once was ours, a bustling downtown where everyone came to shop.
    Pie in the sky, I know, but this is how I envision the Wall Street area, like it was when I was a kid who walked there almost every Saturday with my friends, “to shop”….now let’s not screw this up.

  5. Benthere Donethat

    What a JOKE! I can’t stop laughing.

  6. Piberman

    Once again politicos on a task force to save Norwalk. Business folks to the rear. If only we could get more people involved Norwalk could be saved. Task force here, task force there, task force everywhere ! At least it takes our endless supply of politicos off the streets so they can talk ignorantly past each other.

  7. Dorothy Mobilia

    Exciting news. Anyone who has done any traveling through cities that have revitalized their aging centers can testify to the exciting social and economic changes people with vision have encouraged and accomplished. Norwalk has so much potential. It has an amazing history going back centuries and natural attributes that only need a helping hand. Best of luck to the task force and the excitement the members demonstrate and can generate among those who remember better days, as well as present and future generations that can recharge the city they call home today.

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