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.
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.