Quantcast

Norwalk gets $30 million federal grant for Washington Village

Applause follows the announcement from HUD Office of Economic Resilience Director Harriet Tregoning (center): Norwalk is being awarded a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant.
Applause follows the announcement from U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Economic Resilience Director Harriet Tregoning (center): Norwalk is being awarded a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant.

Updated, 3 a.m., complete story. 

NORWALK, Conn. — The Norwalk Housing Authority has gotten the big news it has been waiting for: NHA’s application for a $30 million U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant for the Washington Village makeover has been approved.

“This is what I call government in action, and I mean that in three words, not two,” Mayor Harry Rilling said. “Because we have seen sometimes that we get stumbled and government can’t get moving because of lack of cooperation. This is a cooperative effort between our federal, state and local governments and our community agencies that really is going to pay off.”

Norwalk (pop. 87,000) is the smallest by far of four cities to be awarded the $30 million federal grant, that was announced Monday by HUD officials. Other recipients are Pittsburgh (pop. 305,800) and Philadelphia, Pa. (1,526,000), and Columbus, Ohio (822,550).

“We are prepared to start construction on Phase 1 in October with our developer,” NHA Deputy Director Candace Mayer said. “But that part didn’t include the robust family services that are going to enable families to change their lives and pursue their dreams in ways that they haven’t been able to before.”

Phase 1 is expected to be ready for occupancy in spring 2016; when it is, 40 Washington Village families will move in, Mayer said.

“I am so excited these people that live here are now going to have their quality of life improved exponentially,” Rilling said. “They deserve to have us working hard on their behalf to provide the best housing that we can possibly provide. I am so excited, this is an amazing day.”

Speaker after speaker emphasized the collaboration that led to getting the grant. Every apartment was flooded during Superstorm Sandy, Mayer said, explaining that was a “game changer.” The new apartments will be storm resilient, she said.

U.S. Rep Jim Himes (D-Greenwich) said this is the largest grant the city has ever received. Sen. Chris Murphy talked of appliances routinely shorting out in the current apartments.

For residents, “The whole day looks different when Washington Village is redone,” Murphy said. “The whole life looks different when Washington Village is redone. When you think about it in that respect, $30 million is a reasonable investment.”

“This $30 million is a great beginning, but it will take a village to rebuild Washington Village,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in an emailed statement. “These dollars – a monumental and powerful investment – will rebuild and rejuvenate the bricks and mortar ‎of this community, but that is only the first step. I applaud the residents of Washington Village, the city of Norwalk, and state and federal officials for their long-term commitment and common purpose not only to the physical structures of this community, but to the education, public safety and economic development‎ needed to fully revitalizing this historic community.”

HUD Office of Economic Resilience Director Harriet Tregoning said the total of the grants going to four cities would take 850 distressed housing units and turn them into 1,400 housing units with mixed incomes.

She admitted past errors. “Too often in the past, the federal government has not helped on revitalization efforts as much as we could have and in some cases actually hurt,” she said.

Rather than building new apartments in areas that have no jobs nearby, unsafe streets and no infrastructure, HUD is looking to lift neighborhoods up, she said.

“We have made it the top priority to put the UD back in HUD. So we’re all about urban development,” Tregoning said.

There were 44 applicants for the Choice Neighborhoods grant. Six were selected as finalists in March. Tregoning mentioned the close proximity of the South Norwalk railroad station as one of the virtues of the site — “excellent transit and economic opportunities.”

Mayer said that when Phase 1 is complete, four of the 11 apartment buildings in the current Washington Village will be demolished. The selection of 40 families that move into Phase 1 will be decided first by the size of the apartments available. The next priority will be who is living in the buildings to be demolished.

It hasn’t been totally worked out, she said. “Until the other day we had a couple of different scenarios,” she said, scenarios that included Choice Neighborhoods and scenarios that didn’t.

Residents, who declined to be identified, said it was a day for celebration. One referred to shabby apartments and said that, yes, the appliances do short out.

“When they do the inspections they tend to fix as many things as they can, but the buildings are so old it keeps happening. My apartment is not that bad. I have been lucky,” she said.

Washington Village Tenant Council President Ray Dunlap, a seven-year resident, said it would be especially good for the children. He also emphasized the community collaboration that led to getting the grant.

“People was talking about this before I even moved here because they wanted to redevelop you know, because the apartments were basically too small and they was in a flood zone,” he said.

NHA Commissioner Beverly Krieger said Norwalk got the grant because the authority is very well run by Mayer and Executive Director Curtis Law.

“We just haven’t had the kinds of problems for a housing authority that so often occur in housing authorities,” she said. “I don’t think that was missed by HUD, that they are excellent administrators. I think that’s important.”

Original story: 

Updated 5:56 p.m. with quotes from U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Sen. Chris Murphy.

NORWALK, Conn. — The Norwalk Housing Authority has gotten the big news it has been waiting for: NHA’s application for a $30 million U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant for the Washington Village makeover has been approved.

Mayor Harry Rilling called the grant a “game-changer” and said the quality of life for residents would improve “exponentially” for Washington Village residents.

Norwalk is one of four cities to be awarded the $30 million federal grant, it was announced moments ago by HUD officials. Other recipients are Pittsburgh (pop. 305,800) and Philadelphia, Pa. (1,526,000), and Columbus, Ohio (822,550).

Construction on Phase 1 of the new Washington Village is slated to start in October. The project will replace 150 units with 1,400 mixed income units

“This is an amazing day,” Rilling said.

U.S. Rep Jim Himes (D-Greenwich) said this is the largest grant the city has ever received.

“This historic investment will transform South Norwalk and create new opportunities for its residents who suffered so much in the aftermath of Sandy,”  Himes said in a prepared statement rMonday afternoon. “Revitalizing Washington Village will make South Norwalk a safer and more economically vibrant part of the city, and this grant provides the ability to do just that. This is the largest and most meaningful federal investment in the history of Norwalk, and I am extremely proud to have helped make it happen.”

Connecticut’s two U.S. Senators also chimed in with emailed statements.

“This $30 million is a great beginning, but it will take a village to rebuild Washington Village,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “These dollars – a monumental and powerful investment – will rebuild and rejuvenate the bricks and mortar ‎of this community, but that is only the first step. I applaud the residents of Washington Village, the city of Norwalk, and state and federal officials for their long-term commitment and common purpose not only to the physical structures of this community, but to the education, public safety and economic development‎ needed to fully revitalizing this historic community.”

“The families that call Washington Village home want to see their community thrive,” Sen. Chris Murphy said in his prepared statement. “They deserve an upgrade, especially after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. This historic grant will transform lives and open up new economic possibilities for the neighborhood. I was proud to fight hard for this funding and I’m thrilled to see how this award will be used to benefit the region.”

Forty current Washington Village families will move into Phase 1 when it is complete.

This story will be updated.

 

Comments

27 responses to “Norwalk gets $30 million federal grant for Washington Village”

  1. ellen

    Thought FD Rich and the 99 Washington Pearl project took the headline of the day. Great news for Norwalk. This helps, a bit, to ease the pain of our repeated loses applying for RTTT education grants. Congratulations Norwalk. Hopefully NHA will get it right and ensure the project is done correctly and corners are not cut and Norwalk gets its due.

  2. One and Done.

    Yeah, multi-generational welfare recipients get even more handouts of money that we don’t have to spend. Let’s celebrate as we confine even more generations of dependents into these gang run facilities. Like the ones on School street we re-did 20 years ago, these too will be ruined in no time and the rest of our grand children will get to pay for it.

  3. Norwalk Voter

    @one and…
    I feel very sorry for you. It seems you have nothing better to do than bash every good thing that happens in this city. Too bad you did not attend the event where the announcement was made. You could have heard the details of the grant application and the proposed project. Very sad to see how negative you always,always are.

  4. One and Done.

    Norwalk Voter, I feel very sorry for you thinking over and over again that this is a solution that is beneficial for anyone. In your warped sense of what is right you feel like you are doing good, but the reality is you have sentenced generations of decent folks into living in slums run by gangs. The reality is you love housing projects so long as they aren’t near your ivory tower and so long as your kids don’t have to live there. This is a sick cycle of poverty that we have continued to foster in the name of compassion, when if anything it is the opposite. Making people dependent for everything is even worse than slavery. It robs the inner spirit and human need to accomplish and succeed. Sure there are diamonds in the rough, but largely we have instituted generational welfare and enriched a few contractors and state workers along the way at societies expense.

  5. Norwalk Voter

    once again
    @one and…
    I feel very sorry for you. It seems you have nothing better to do than bash every good thing that happens in this city. Too bad you did not attend the event where the announcement was made. You could have heard the details of the grant application and the proposed project. Very sad to see how negative you always,always are.

  6. EveT

    Great news that the grant has come through. I hope they will take flooding into consideration with the new construction. Previous news stories reported that residents would have to move their cars to high ground whenever a major storm is coming because the parking area would flood. That does not sound like a wise plan.

  7. LWitherspoon

    Pittsburgh’s population is about 300,000. Columbus’s is about 800,000. Philadelphia’s is about 1.5 million.
    .
    Norwalk in contrast is a mere 90,000 or so. How did we manage to attract funding that typically goes to much larger cities?
    .
    What does “mixed income” mean? If a substantial majority of the 1,400 new units are at or close to market rates, this project will be a boon for SoNo.

  8. One and Done.

    Norwalk Voter. I read the story and know that this same model is one that has failed now for decades and generations. The details are the same lies over and over again. We would be better off taking the money and buying these folks homes in decent neighborhoods with positive role models. You would rather keep them in the projects away from you and you pat yourself on the back while picking my pocket to fuel this folly. Of that I am positive. You have negativity confused for your insanity, which is defined by doing the same stupid things over and over and over again.

  9. Things that makes u go hmmmm

    Of course they will take into consideration about the flood. They are going to fix that up because it will not be projects anymore. The question should be exactly where the people that is living there now where are they going. Is this another exit 6 situation. Something smells fishy

  10. One and Done.

    @LWitherspoon. For one Pittsburgh is at least 3 times the size and Columbus might be 10 times. But that isn’t the reason. Norwalk is in the cross hairs of the Democrat National Committee and state Democrats as well. Creating as much low income housing and as many dependent wards of the state is a strategic move to make sure Norwalk and Fairfield County remain forever blue in electorate makeup. The results of which will end up having Norwalk resemble other strongholds like Waterbury, New Haven, Hartford, New Britain. We were the fifth or sixth largest city in the state and having it run by Republicans is unconscionable to them. Norwalk is already over quota for low income housing, but to them there is never enough welfare and voters and they could really care less if they destroy our city. Our do nothing, rubber stamp council will likely seal our fate. Just do the math. 1400 units X 2 kids per unit that generates no taxes @ $18k per student = an additional $50 million a year in taxes that we’ll have to pay.
    .
    All this isn’t anywhere as sad as the failed experiment of housing projects. There is a very human cost to this social engineering.

  11. Mike Mushak

    Great news!
    .

    There seems to be a misunderstanding as to what this project is about by at least one persistent commenter here.
    .

    This project is NOT a traditional obsolete housing project, which are NOT funded or built any longer by HUD or any other agency after the failures of concentrated poverty were realized since the 50’s and 60’s era projects mostly failed and the lessons were learned. The HUD Choice Neighborhoods Program mixes market and affordable units, and are managed with strict rules and on-site security. They have succeeded across the country, in cities as close as Stamford. They neither look like public housing not have the chronic issues of crime and drugs like the old housing projects did. They help to break the cycle of poverty by lifting up everyone with decent housing and a healthy living environment.
    .

    The project will contain 136 public-housing units, 67 workforce housing units (80% of state median income of $103k, or about $80k for a family of 4), and 70 market-rate units.
    The combination of workforce and market housing adds up to 137 units, roughly equal to the 136 subsidized units, which despite popular perceptions are NOT free housing, but are paying units based on verifiable income. No matter what you believe about public housing, we do have many folks who work full time who live in public housing who simply cannot afford market rate housing in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country . They do not have choices as many of us do who make more money, and many hold lower-paying jobs that are absolutely essential in our economy.
    .

    This project will transform South Norwalk forever, and help many folks who are struggling to survive in sub-standard housing that floods frequently. The new project is above new flood levels, and is designed following new standards to be “climate change resilient” meaning it can bounce back quickly after a flood with little or no damage (except cleanup of floating debris). The first floor garages which are below the 100 year flood level (but still higher than the current Washington Village housing units) )will obviously have to be emptied of cars into the Webster Lot or our many public garages, which is not difficult with storm forecasting we have now.
    .
    So many folks worked so hard on this project and deserve praise including those in both the public and private sectors, and I am excited that we are finally replacing our obsolete housing projects which most cities are doing now around the country.
    .
    We can’t wait to see this amazing project move ahead!

  12. srb

    There clearly is no magic formula for moving people out of public housing and there are a lot of endemic problems, but Washington Village is one of the oldest public housing projects in the US and other cities like Stamford got similar funding for Southwood square almost 15 years ago. This is supposed to be a mixed housing area with some set aside for FMV. Southwood Square has problems but far less than its predecessor, Southfield Village had. Moreover the facilities themselves have stayed in good condition. Anyone who doesn’t see this as a win-win for Norwalk has an incredibly jaded attitude. Lots of positive vibes going on in Norwalk in the last few years from SONO icehouse, to now a new gymnastics center and swimming facilities. Lots of new developments including the one started by FD Rich, Ironworks looks GREAT, Waypointe is enormous and provides loads of housing and PTECh offers more opportunities for the school system.

  13. One and Done.

    Y If it is so wonderful then build it in Darien or Wilton. We have more than our fair share. and if stamford is so wonderful please explain why nobody’s building any million dollar houses or businesses near those new projects. don’t worry I’m sure the council will buy the bull crap and end up building this anyway and us taxpayers will just get to pay for it forever without any real benefits other than crime and overcrowded schools

  14. srb

    Darien and Wilton don’t have the oldest housing project in the Connecticut. As for Southwood Square, there are million dollar homes in the vicinity as well as multi-million dollar businesses, though I didn’t know that’s the proper methodology for judging success. Time to see the glass half-full- or at least not constantly empty.

  15. LWitherspoon

    @Mike Mushak
    .
    According to the article: “The project will replace 150 units with 1,400 mixed income units.”
    .
    Is that correct, 1,400 mixed income units, i.e. about ten times as many units? You refer to 136 + 137 units. What about the balance?

  16. Mike Mushak

    LWitherspoon, great question based on the article, and a great catch on your part. I missed that number in my speed reading on my iPhone or I would have commented on it immediately. I voted to approve this project on the Zoning Commission and there are definitely not 1400 units. There are 273 units. This looks like a typo or a mistake by a source they used. I hate to say it but NON is human like the rest of us. I’ll send an email to NON to ask for a correction. Nancy will be typing a bug OOPS soon enough I suspect!
    .

  17. Mike Mushak

    I meant a big oops, not a bug oops.

  18. New Era

    finally something great for south norwalk

  19. TG

    Fantastic news! I hope it moves quickly!

  20. Scott

    The problem with housing is miss management and lack of support. My wife was a single mother working two jobs and was the last person to get a unit at School street when it was new. When it was a new facility things were very strict and the residents were heavily screened. Over the 4 years that she lived there she and I (we were dating) saw a steady decline in the residents allowed in. It went from hard working people who needed a leg up at a difficult time in their life to entitlements playing the system. I know people that spend their entire life in housing who have good jobs and new cars. If there was more of a hands on approach to help people with a plan to get up and out we wouldn’t need the volume of housing we have. My wife and I did it and now we’re homeowning tax payers without our hands out.

  21. Debora

    Mike,

    Can you address the flooding concerns for adjacent areas like Ryan Park raised by the Duleeps last year?

    Also, I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the concerns about moving cars in advance of a storm. The assumption that people will be here to do so is a big one. And moving 136 cars will be a logistcal nightmare if there are other preparations going on at the time (or if infrastructure is already restricted by a series of storms.)

  22. Mike Mushak

    Debora, the flooding issue in the park and in other areas nearby is a valid concern to everyone including the developer, who are required to solve drainage issues with a comprehensive engineering study and actual implementation before they get their certificates of occupancy. Paying for these studies before HUD approval was infeasible, but now they will happen with this latest news. Certified engineers will design and have to sign off on the improvements, and I trust they will make sure there will not be trapped floodwater in the park or anywhere else with the raising of the abutting street, as it would defy their professional oath to protect public health and safety.
    .
    This issue was not enough to kill the project in the Zoning Commission’s minds including my own, which was why it received unanimous approval, and I personally put my faith in the engineers to solve the problems with smart solutions. This city owned land is too valuable to not develop, it helps preserve a local community that has existed for generations, and many coastal cities including NYC and Boston are creating flood resilient standards which this project follows, to deal with rising sea levels and more intense storms.
    .
    Human ingenuity will have to step in or the alternative will be abandoning entire low lying sections of cities to nature, which we are not ready for now at least in this century. This is not the Ninth Ward in New Orleans built below a man-made levee prone to failure, where I do agree it should have been abandoned as many planning experts argued but property rights advocates won out in that case and it is being redeveloped, albeit slowly.
    .
    South Norwalk will flood again in the future, and so will other parts of Norwalk. No one is arguing abandoning the lower areas of Rowayton, East Norwalk, or the banks of the Norwalk River up to Wall St, so I was suspect that some of the push to not develop this project in a flood zone was based more on other issues perhaps besides the flooding.

  23. Sjur Soleng

    “Climate change resistant”. Lol

  24. potaxpater

    this will end up being housing for illegals that are flooding norwalk with criminals right now as we speak.

  25. One and Done

    @Scott. Good for you. You are one of the diamonds in the rough I mention. I wonder if your life wouldn’t be easier if we weren’t sacrificing private sector opportunities due to heavy taxation to pay for free rides. But you bring up the point I make when you talk about the travesty that school street has become. They lie up front and in a few years no one will want to live there because of mismanagment. NHA is a borderline criminal enterprise.

  26. Debora

    Mike,
    Thanks for the response. Let us hope your faith in the engineers is well-founded. It will be interesting to see how the traffic studies are scoped, given the very narrow focus seen with some of the newer projects (such as BJ’s).
    I can’t speak for other people’s motivations, but my concerns about building in a flood plain are grounded in concerns that we are not “walking the walk” with respect to our own federal and statewide ambitions not to keep building and rebuilding in floodprone areas given the trendlines from global warming.
    Looking at these projects in isolation, as redevelopment does, instead of planning for the entire region is bound to have unintended consequences and will likely just keep shifting problems from one area to another.

  27. Mike Mushak

    Debora, I agree with you that we lack a regional approach to planning in CT, and especially here in Norwalk. The reasons are well known and I have expressed my opinion about that many times in the past. No need to address that subject in detail again. Change is coming, albeit slowly.
    .
    The fact is that SoNo will be a higher density transit-oriented district despite the best efforts of certain P and Z staff to kill that idea, and is a concept supported by many studies and plans that taxpayers have paid millions for. The Washington Village project falls into this category of transit oriented project, and if we had followed our own studies and reduced parking requirements in SoNo by at least 30% by now according to the recommendations of our 2012 Parking Master Plan (http://norwalkct.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/3928), page 28, this project would have required much less parking and saved taxpayers millions in construction costs. Many folks in subsidized housing already rely on mass transit, and all trends and statistics point to less car ownership in the future.
    .
    We also have a glut of public parking in SoNo, expected to be 14,000 spaces per square mile by 2020 under current regulations according to a national consultant we hired, a crazy number because it is so unnecessary and so wasteful. The idea that our key P and Z staff tenaciously hold onto 1970’s era parking requirements in this district is just bizarre, which winds up keeping housing less affordable for everyone, even market rate, because the average $20,000 cost to build a structured parking space must get recouped in the purchase price or rent charged for new apartments (http://www.mapc.org/resources/parking-toolkit/parking-issues-questions/costsandaffordability) All because of one or two P and Z staff members object to national trends and who ignore our own professional studies (mostly commissioned by the P and Z nemesis Redevelopment Agency with the well known petty personal animosities between the respective department heads).
    .
    We repeatedly are told by professionals that our zoning code and other planning and parking standards are obsolete, yet our key staff and current commission leadership refuse to listen to them or change anything. It is both silly and sad to witness this huge waste of both public taxpayer and private investment, that also keeps housing less affordable for everyone regardless of income, and keeps Norwalk a traffic-clogged mess with a dependence on cars to get around everywhere. In fact, the 2012 Parking master Plan recommends eliminating ALL parking minimums by 2015, after we were supposed to have reduced them 30% by 2014. We haven’t done any of that and with the current Zoning Commission Chair and Co-chair resistant to any smart changes at all over the last few years and into the future until they are switched out, we are likely to miss all of the recommended deadlines in the important study that would have encouraged smarter development and made housing more affordable for everyone. The strange thing is they gave no good reasons to resist it, only that staff told them it was a bad idea (remember anything professional consultants recommend, our P and Z staff is dead set against). So much for an independent commission structure supervising staff that our city charter envisioned and is enshrined in our by-laws, which are largely ignored by the current commission leadership. Oops, I digress again!
    .

    Sjur Soleng, the phrase is climate change “resilient”, not “resistant”. Huge difference there. Here is a simple definition: “Climate resilient development: development that has the capacity to absorb and quickly bounce back from climate shocks and stresses.” I agree, for example, that fragile barrier islands with luxury single family homes should not be continually rebuilt at taxpayer expense every time a hurricane passes by. The ratio of infrastructure to housing density and economic activity simply doesn’t warrant the trouble or the expense over the long run. But in historic dense cities with large economic activity and large populations, climate resilient development makes sense as the planning profession is now acknowledging.
    .
    These are NYC’s new “climate resilient” guidelines, http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/sustainable_communities/sustain_com6.shtml, the concepts of which were used in designing the new Washington Village.

Leave a Reply


Recent Comments