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Norwalk poised to spend $14M to buy Meadow Street property for South Norwalk school

The Hatch & Bailey site at 1 Meadow Street Ext., in December.

Story updated, 3:33 p.m.: More information; 3 a.m. Saturday: Purchase price.

NORWALK, Conn. — City leaders were set to reveal the planned location of a new South Norwalk neighborhood school Wednesday but postponed the announcement due to the tragedy yesterday in Uvalde, Texas.

All indications have been that the school will be on the Hatch & Bailey site at 1 Meadow St. On Thursday, Mayor Harry Rilling acknowledged that’s the case.

“The City, through friendly negotiation, has reached an agreement in principle to acquire the piece of private property currently owned by the Hatch and Bailey Co. at 1 Meadow Street, Ext., for the neighborhood South Norwalk school,” a news release said. “This matter will be referred to the Land Use and Building Management Committee of Common Council and the Common Council for formal approval to acquire the property. Approval of the shareholders of the Hatch and Bailey Company will also be necessary for the sale to proceed.”

A map of South Norwalk, from the City’s GIS ( geographic information system). Highlighted in green is 1 Meadow St. Extension, an 11.74 acre parcel owned by Hatch & Bailey. It’s appraised at $8.1 million. The City’s purchase price is $14 million.

The agenda for Wednesday’s Land Use and Building Management Committee indicates that the City will buy the property for $14 million.

In early 2021, Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella said the City had a 12-acre site in mind for the school. The only South Norwalk site approximating that size is the 11.74-acre Hatch & Bailey property at 1 Meadow St., according to the City’s GIS system. No other parcel comes close to that 12-acre description.

Beyond that slip, City leaders have been silent about where a school might go. Just over a week ago, Building and Facilities Manager Alan Lo recently said the negotiations were “still confidential, for a number of reasons.”

Wednesday’s scheduled news conference was planned to be at 1 Meadow St., the Hatch & Bailey property. Thursday’s news release quotes Rilling as announcing that “after more than 40 years, students in the South Norwalk community will finally have a neighborhood school.”

It explains the need for a school.

“In the late 1970s, South Norwalk lost its neighborhood school when the district closed Nathaniel Ely School on Ingalls Avenue to desegregate schools. Ever since, South Norwalk children have enrolled in various schools throughout the City outside of South Norwalk and have had to endure long bus rides to and from school,” the news release states. “South Norwalk children have missed out on the benefits afforded to students that are generally provided by a neighborhood school and many South Norwalk parents have also been subject to limitations as a result of this condition.”

The students are commonly referred to as “District 99 kids.” In 2016, Board of Education member Sherelle Harris said that when she first learned of District 99, “I thought it so unfair that young children in South Norwalk have to attend school wherever there is an opening. They have to wake earlier to be bused to seven or eight schools across town, instead of walking to school with their neighbors, getting exercise, and having crossing guards in various places to help them.”

But the Board of Education found many challenges to reversing the situation. The late Mike Barbis, who was BoE Facilities Committee Chairman when an extensive facilities study was done in 2014, often talked of needing a large parcel of land to accommodate bus loops and parent drop offs. State laws on racial balancing meant that a neighborhood school would be illegal, so a magnet school was proposed, with local kids getting a certain number of seats through a lottery system.

That’s changed.

“Based on the current minority student population in the City of Norwalk, children in South Norwalk are no longer required by law to attend schools outside of their community,” Thursday’s news release said. “This new neighborhood school will allow Norwalk Public Schools to provide all South Norwalk children, ages PreK to 5th grade, with the option to attend a brand new, first-class neighborhood school once the project is complete.”

It said, “Since entering office in 2014, the desire to provide a neighborhood school in South Norwalk has been one of Mayor Rilling’s top priorities. In 2015-2016, the Board of Education developed a school facility master plan, which included a new South Norwalk school. Notwithstanding several unforeseeable setbacks from 2016 to 2019, the City of Norwalk never gave up on its promise to South Norwalk residents that they would get a high-quality, equitable neighborhood school.”

“Children in the South Norwalk community deserve a neighborhood school and will finally get one,” said Rilling in the release. “After years of setbacks, we never gave up on fulfilling our promise to provide students and parents in South Norwalk with a world-class school in their community.”

It will “do more than provide children with a place to learn,” Rilling continued. “It will provide the neighborhood with a greater sense of community and be a place where parents and families can come together to see their loved ones participate in extracurricular activities, grow and meet their full potential, all in their own community.”

The City has diligently worked to acquire a suitable property in time to make the State’s June 30 deadline for a reimbursement grant application, in collaboration with the Board of Education, the release explains.

Hatch & Bailey, at 1 Meadow Str. Ext., in December.

“During that process and after exhausting all options, it became clear to the City that 1 Meadow Street Ext., represented the only single lot that could meet City and State requirements for locating a school in South Norwalk,” it states.

“This has been a long journey but I’m proud that we have been able to overcome numerous hurdles and put forth solutions to deliver a neighborhood school on behalf of the children of South Norwalk,” said Common Council President Tom Livingston (D-District E), who is also Land Use and Building Management Committee Chairman, in the release.

Hatch & Bailey “is a family-owned business supplying professional contractors with quality products since its founding in 1872, now 150 years ago. Originally located on Marshall Street in South Norwalk, the company moved to 1 Meadow Street Ext. in 1986,” the news release explains.

“This is bittersweet for Hatch and Bailey but we know that our property will be put to great use as an elementary school for the South Norwalk community,” said David Bailey, Director and Treasurer of Hatch & Bailey, Co., in the release. “We thank our employees for their integrity, professionalism and incredible work ethic. And I thank the Mayor, Common Council President and their team for being sensitive to our needs over the past few months.”

“This school will have four sections per grade (two sections for PreK) with a total capacity of 682 students,” the news release explains. “The Land Use and Building Management Committee of Common Council is scheduled to meet next Wednesday, June 1. They will review and make recommendations to the Common Council at a Special Meeting on June 6 ahead of the State Grant’s June 30 deadline.”

State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) recently announced that the State’s school construction reimbursement rate for Norwalk and Stamford has jumped to 60%. Compare that to the 22.5% reimbursement for new school construction Norwalk has been getting, and the 32.5% to renovate schools into a new condition.

Under the old rules, the State would have contributed approximately $14 million for a South Norwalk school, the news release said. Now it will pay approximately $40 million.

“A new elementary school here will mean so much not only to the children, teachers, and staff that’ll use this building but the community as a whole,” Duff is quoted as saying. ““A neighborhood school brings a sense of pride that can’t be measured by any blueprint. While I am proud to have led the effort at the state level to secure additional funding for this school, that effort was only successful because of the work done on the ground here in Norwalk.”

“This project is all about the children of South Norwalk and future generations,” Council member Darlene Young (D-District B) is quoted as saying. “It’s been a long time coming but the fact that students will no longer have to endure long bus rides to and from school and will have a neighborhood school will make a huge impact in their daily lives and in the lives of their families. I want to thank the City, the schools, and my fellow Common Council members for helping bring this effort to fruition.”

“The engagement of community members by the city and Board of Education to come together with a tremendous plan for this school that everyone is bought into sent the message to the state that Norwalk was ready for this new school and that we wanted it,” Duff said in the release. “Thank you to my partners in the city, the Board of Education, and this neighborhood. Together we are getting this done.”

 

Previous story:

NORWALK, Conn. — City leaders were set to reveal the planned location of a new South Norwalk neighborhood school Wednesday but postponed the announcement due to the tragedy yesterday in Uvalde, Texas.

All indications are that the school will be on the Hatch & Bailey site at 1 Meadow St.

A map of South Norwalk, from the City’s GIS ( geographic information system) in 2021. Highlighted in green is 1 Meadow St. Extension, an 11.74 acre parcel owned by Hatch & Bailey. It was appraised at $8.1 million.

About a year ago, Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella said the City had a 12-acre site in mind for the school. The only South Norwalk site approximating that size is the 11.74-acre Hatch & Bailey property at 1 Meadow St., according to the City’s GIS system. No other parcel comes close to that 12-acre description.

Wednesday’s scheduled news conference was planned to be at 1 Meadow St., the Hatch & Bailey property.

“Since entering office in 2014, Mayor {Harry} Rilling made finding a neighborhood school in South Norwalk one of his top priorities and is bringing that promise to realization. The City, through friendly negotiation, has reached an agreement in principle to acquire the piece of private property for the neighborhood South Norwalk school. This matter will be referred to the Land Use and Building Management Committee of Common Council and the Common Council for formal approval to acquire the property,” the invitation to the news conference said.

It explained, “In the late 1970s, South Norwalk lost its neighborhood school when the district closed Nathaniel Ely School on Ingalls Avenue to desegregate schools. Ever since, South Norwalk children have enrolled in various schools throughout the City outside of South Norwalk and have had to endure long bus rides to and from school. Based on the current minority student population in the City of Norwalk, children in South Norwalk are no longer required by law to attend schools outside of their community.”

In February, Activist Diane Lauricella criticized the Hatch & Bailey site as being in a 100-year floodplain.

Council Finance Committee Chairman Greg Burnett (D-At Large), on Jan. 5, observed that South Norwalk by nature has industrial areas, including contractor yards.

Building and Facilities Manager Alan Lo agreed that South Norwalk is a mix of zones but said it’s “a long process to change. And it’s really an evolution a time and growth of a community.” He said, “It’s not unusual that all these mixed uses are all intertwined within a small area. …If the goal is to provide a neighborhood school in South Norwalk, it’s very hard to avoid that.”

1 Meadow St. Ext.

1 Meadow St. Ext. City card

14 comments

S May 26, 2022 at 9:33 am

Since entering office in 2014, Mayor {Harry} Rilling made finding a neighborhood school in South Norwalk one of his top priorities and is bringing that promise to realization.

Wow 2014 – 2022!!!!!!!

Mitch Adis May 26, 2022 at 8:38 pm

So what’s going to happen the the $1,000,000 property we bought for a school on Tito Court? If we can’t use it, why not sell while the market is still hot?

Another Oops May 27, 2022 at 12:34 am

That’s one nasty looking neighborhood. Right in the middle of an industrial zone. Doesn’t look too safe either.

George May 27, 2022 at 7:31 am

Wait until they start digging. The site was the former Hains Bros. Block company.

I would bet there is contaminated soil.

The site is great for a school. Flooding, heavy truck traffic and heavy industries. What more could you ask for to promote education.

David Osler May 27, 2022 at 9:51 am

I do not understand why they picked that space when they could have picked the warehouse district on Woodward there’s already a park there and a ball field that is underutilized. Additionally I heard that the town basically went with the eminent domain tactic and there’s been no reporting on this. 3rd and finally why won’t they just use the old college site immediately next door

Seriouslyy May 27, 2022 at 10:37 am

Seriously? Why is it when Mike Barbis and other conservative BOE members suggested a school in Sono it was called “””racist””” but when Rilling the Dem does it ….its fine?

Taxpayer May 27, 2022 at 3:55 pm

Developers get the prime real estate for apartments in Sono. Meanwhile kids are hauled to learn in the industrial section nearby the city carting transfer station.

Lisa Brinton May 27, 2022 at 5:15 pm

@ Tracy Smith – try a brownfield site opposite City Carting garbage collection and Lojoies Auto Scrap and Recycling. So, if I understand where Norwalk is headed, it looks like city hall will eventually sell Columbus School, probably to a private developer for more apartments and abandon the old Ely School option (two previously used elementary schools) in favor of an industrial site that will need a lot of remediation. SMH. Otherwise, fast forward to 2050 and a class action lawsuit against the City of Norwalk and likely the state of Connecticut from the Class of 2028 for a variety of cancer ailments.

Sarah May 27, 2022 at 7:39 pm

There are myriad reasons why other sites weren’t usable. Everyone somehow thinks they know what’s best without going through the decision process. There are state regulations about acreage and almost everything else having to do with site selection that had to be fulfilled. Contrary to rumor, the city did not eminent domain this, and the former college property owner wasn’t interested in selling. I’m happy South Norwalk gets a new school. It’s been long enough.

Sarah May 29, 2022 at 12:39 am

Also, the site isn’t a brownfield — in fact, the existing CMS is closer to a brownfield (55 Chestnut). You can look it up on the DEEP website.

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