Library-to-mall discussion venue changed; organizer provides details

Updated 7:40 p.m. Wednesday, 4/29: The meeting venue has been changed, and details have been added.

NORWALK, Conn. – There will be a public meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 4, at the Norwalk Public Library on Belden Avenue to discuss the concept of moving the Norwalk Library to General Growth Properties’ proposed SoNo mall at the 95/7 interchange on West Avenue.

According to Library Director Christine Bradley, Library Board member Mary Pugh called the meeting to follow up on a presentation made to the board March 12 by Norwalk 2.0 co-founder Jackie Lightfield. Bradley said Library Board President Stan Siegel asked Pugh to “put forth a recommendation for the Board to consider relative to the presentation, impact, and how to proceed.”

According to the meeting minutes, “Ms. Lightfield showed how her idea of a new Library would fit and she showed other Mall libraries in Maine and Portland. There was discussion that Downtown Norwalk (Wall Street) is on the brink of great change and revitalization now that the mall is a possibility by creating interest.

“There was discussion on parking along with NCC classrooms in the mall. Ms. Lightfield explained that the Wall Street/downtown location includes a bus stop, post office and it is ideal to have a new library as part of this project.”

In a NancyOnNorwalk story dated April 2, Lightfield said the current library buildings would not go away, but “the entire library system could be rethought. You don’t need to offer the same services in each building…” “… To me that means that it would be nice to have a facility that overlooks the Long Island Sound that can function as classroom, auditorium or gathering space for individual or large group size,” she continued. “A conversation about a new library shouldn’t be limited to just whether it is at the mall or not, however the deal to have one there is a real possibility.”

Relocating the library – or some of the services – to the mall could solve a major problem for the Belden Avenue site: parking.

“There has always been a parking problem at the main library and it has been exacerbated recently by the new owner of 11 Belden, Milligan Realty, chaining off the Mott Street entrance to their lot, which is directly behind the library lot, and adding signage stating that violators will be towed,” Bradley wrote in a Tuesday night email to NoN.

Milligan is said to be planning to develop property near the library and is going to need surface parking to make it work. According to Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan in a story reported April 27 on NoN, Milligan is “working proactively” with the library to come up with a solution.

Wednesday, Pugh contacted NoN regarding the change of venue for the meeting, which was originally planned for City Hall. Pugh also added a few details about what those attending can expect.

“We will be making a list of all the pros and cons; ideas, suggestions, etc.,” she said. “Some of the attendees may be able to contribute some answers, but that may wait” until a second meeting.

Pugh said the meeting is planned to last until 8:30 p.m., but could go until 9:30 if necessary.



22 responses to “Library-to-mall discussion venue changed; organizer provides details”

  1. John Levin

    Editor: I believe the proposal is to “expand” the Norwalk library to the new SoNo Mall rather than “move” or “relocate” it. The latter implies existing locations will close, right? Some clarification is offered along with further contradictions in the body of your article.

    Also, Jackie Lightfield’s idea is brilliant. Let’s see it happen.

    1. Mark Chapman


      The words are the ones used by those involved.

  2. Mike Mushak

    The current library leadership is doing an awesome job, as the booming attendance figures and popularity of our library system attest to.

    Remind me again why this system needs to be “rethought”? After the amount of “rethinking” we witnessed by the same folks for Wall Street parking, that ignored public safety and relied on anecdotal unscientific comments from questionable sources found on a quick internet search (example: Eric the employee from Wiggy’s Liquor Store in Austin TX who said business was down 20% from reverse angle parking on a fully occupied vibrant street filled with crowds). This snippet was delivered with confidence as “fact”, so I have to put this mall library idea in that same context of exaggerated claims and dubious research.

    In this case, I will remain open-minded on this subject until all the “facts” are presented and vetted for their accuracy. I certainly won’t come out and declare it “dumb” and try to throw the supporters under the bus, as happened recently in the Wall St. parking debate.

  3. Eric Parrish

    I am open-minded to hear the proposal but I am currently against it.

    As a father that has children that use the library, I do not want to drop them off at the mall, I mean, library.

    How about the public space be used to fill the gap of the closing of the Norwalk Museum?

    The new mall should be used to further bridge the gap from the uptown, Wall Street area to the SoNo Historic district. This new mall could serve as the missing link or it could be the one thing totally out of place for the area. I hope the common council continues to push with whats best for Norwalk and not rush to get this project built.

    I’m sure if people put their heads together the parking situation at the current library could be resolved. It sounds to me like the developer buying up all the surrounding property has his own agenda in regards to the library property. Can me paranoid but, something seems fishy.

    When the new police station was to be built property owners lost property through eminent domain. These weren’t buildings or homes, they were primarily empty lots. If any case for eminent domain were to be clear it would be the parking lot directly adjacent to the library. There is no structure on it now so no real lose for the property owner.

    The Library will be a huge part of the revitalization of the Wall Street area to come.

  4. Suzanne

    Growing the system makes sense if you value libraries as integral to healthy communities. Having to choose between an historic “Carnegie Library” vs. a convenient annex for shoppers?

    While I appreciate the kind of culture, thus far alien to the Mall concept, a library (or museum) might introduce, the likelihood of distraction as Mr. Parrish has described above, that is, the commerce pull vs. the written word?

    I am sure that nothing but commerce holds interest for GGP.

    The only lip service to public space I’ve heard most recently is to outdoor “plaza’s” on West Avenue. The minimal square foot teaching annex for NCC seemed to have been proposed and rejected and then taken up again.

    That’s square feet where, all of it, GGP sees lost revenue.

    I would concentrate on Milligan Reality to create more parking at the existing location and try to think of a positive revenue reason to persuade GGP that a library in the Mall is a good idea.

    GGP is not in any way benevolent in the sense of Public Good or Community, having not demonstrated any interest in it other than to appease and then get what they want anyway.

  5. Non Partisan Voter

    I didn’t know we needed a new library, but why not put it at the blighted eyesore of a building called Riverview Plaza on Belden Ave? The City could easily take the building by imminent domain because of its blighted condition – it’s fair market value given the condition it is in is probably next to nothing. The upper floors have nice views of Norwalk up the river and down to the Sound, which seems to be the impetus for moving the library to the mall. Seems like it would be easier to access than fighting with shoppers, especially at holiday time to park and get in and out of without going through multiple floors of parking garage and shopping floors. It would probably be less expensive than building on the roof of the mall and tying up valuable retail parking spaces in the mall garage, while still located in central Norwalk, convenient for everyone.

  6. Michael McGuire

    Eric Parrish – spot on!

    Allowing development of the immediately adjacent land around the existing library without addressing the dysfunctional parking at the library is a textbook example of how not to do things. The Planning Commissions and staff should be all over this.

    Milligan (the proposed developer) can still build a project here but the City needs to first take what it needs now (and compensate Milligan accordingly). If the City waits its another lost opportunity and we are stuck with a still dysfunctional library for decades to come. Dysfunctional only for its lack of parking.

    Funding? Make the funding of the eminent domain taking part of the GGP approval.

    As a member of the Wall Street Task Force I think its imperative to address the parking at the main library first and foremost. I would hope our leadership does not get confused by the mall/library issue but instead sees these as two issues as separate and distinct items.


    Open Discussion of possible new library venue
    The venue for this meeting has been changed.

    The meeting will now be held at the Norwalk Libary on Belden Ave in the auditorium
    7:30 to 8:30 (possibly until 9:30 if we need the extra time)
    May 4

    We will be making a list of all the pros and cons; ideas, suggestions, etc.
    Some of the attendees may be able to contribute some answers, but that may wait until meeting 2.


    1. Mark Chapman

      @Mary Pugh

      Thank you. We will update the story.

  8. Who said “moving” ? we are discussing ALL the alternatives with the proposed new library.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Mary Pugh

      Library Director Christine Bradley wrote in an email late Tuesday night: “Mary Pugh called the meeting at city hall on Monday. Mary is a long standing library board member. She invited Jackie Lightfield to make a presentation at the March 12 library board meeting about relocating the library to the proposed mall. (my emphasis)

      Relocating means moving. If you continue reading the story, it says “relocating the library — or some services –…”

  9. EveT

    Only in Mary Pugh’s comment is it made clear that the new venue is the Belden Avenue Library’s *auditorium.* Some of us didn’t even know there WAS an auditorium in the library.
    The new opening sentence glosses over the fact that the venue is being moved from City Hall Community Room to the library’s auditorium.
    Imagining the meeting being held in the library, one might picture attendees crowded around the reading tables in one of the open areas by the stacks.

    1. Mark Chapman


      Here is some info on the auditorium and here’s a link to the library page with a list of its other facilities:

      Auditorium has a 175-person capacity

      computer projector (by special arrangement)
      DVD/TV on cart
      easel with paper
      Laptop computer (by special arrangement)
      Overhead projector
      Reversible chalk/marker board 4’x6′
      Reversible marker/bulletin board – 3’x4′
      Slide Projector
      Video projector

  10. Sara Sikes

    Dear Mary,
    Why move the hearing to the library, which you know only has parking for less than 20 people? Unless maybe the Library Board has already made a deal with Milligan to unchain
    their adjacent parking lot.That would be awesome. Otherwise, what is the point of moving the venue?

  11. Audrey Cozzarin

    Does the library system not belong to the taxpaying citizens of Norwalk? Sounds like this “public hearing” may exclude the public from commenting during the event. And yes, where will we park now that the hearing is at the library?

    I have collected signatures on a petition asking for increased parking at the main library on Belden Avenue. Patrons already love our library and only request enough parking which is perfectly reasonable. Most people signing the petition say they are not in favor of a mall, much less spending the time, effort, and money to create another location that diverts from the gem we already have near Wall Street. Any discussion of relocating, giving the Belden Avenue Carnegie building over to Milligan Realty’s wrecking ball and the $$$ they’re salivating over makes people pretty mad pretty fast.

    I would say, from my recent experience in collecting signatures, the PEOPLE of Norwalk love their library as it exists, only wish for a reasonable parking situation, and would like something in Norwalk to stay stable and reliable. In the end, it is cost-effective in more ways than one.

  12. Yes, parking is an issue. Perhaps people can go in on the Belden Ave entrance and park in the large lot- BUT I don’t know if that is allowed. They might be ticketing or towing folks away, not sure about that.

  13. Audrey Cozzarin

    Mary, re parking: I have heard library staff tell patrons that parking anywhere except the tiny library lot and scanty on-street parking is “at your own risk.” But, attending this hearing will help illustrate the rather unwelcome, unfriendly situation of the near-empty parking lots that ring the library.

  14. Don’t Panic

    It is stunning how many arguments in Norwalk’s downtown come down to parking. Just stunning…

  15. Lifelong Teacher

    Well good luck getting people to attend. Maybe in the evening it will be easier. Or maybe it’s being held here because they don’t WANT people to come, The parking situation is absurd. Someone earlier mentioned parking for twenty people. I can’t imagine where.

    Many of us are heading to Wilton or Westport where it’s just not so much of a problem getting in the door.

  16. Audrey,
    The meeting is being held to get all the comments- Pros and cons.

    This is a listening meeting, not a presentation. We want to hear all points of view.

    I am going to try to see if we can get permission to park in that lot.

    Thanks for your comments


  17. EveT

    Any luck getting permission from Milligan?

  18. Cubes

    Put the library in the old Norwalk Y or Virgin Atlantic. They’d both be closer to the hospital and further from the mall, with parking.

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