Seen and Heard in Norwalk: Early arrivals; mall freeloaders

The Norwalk Grassroots Basketball Team
The Norwalk Grassroots Basketball Team arrived at the Common Council on Tuesday – two weeks early. The team won two divisions in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) championships, according to Mayor Harry Rilling, but a proclamation honoring them had not yet been written. They got their photo taken anyway and will be recognized – again – at the next Council meeting.

NORWALK, Conn. – Here are some items of interest that were seen or heard recently in Norwalk:

No rent for the big boys

Here’s a surprise for you: If a mall is built in Norwalk, it’s likely that the Lord & Taylor or the Macy’s or whatever-huge-department-store-comes-in-as-an-anchor won’t be paying rent. In fact, they’ll be paid by General Growth Properties (GGP), according to urban retail planner Robert Gibbs.

Gibbs was the speaker at a May presentation sponsored by the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, which, with GGP knocking on the door, hired Gibbs as a consultant.

“A major department store in a retail mall tends to pay no rent at all,” Gibbs said. “The developer tends to pay the department store to come there. The department stores get a good deal. So they get paid a lot of money, sometimes tens of millions of dollars, to go into the center. Instead of paying rent, they spend their money on advertising and they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars advertising a week. You know, Macy’s every week has a once-in-a-lifetime sale. … They bring people to that mall. About a third of all the customers you see walking in a mall came there because of that department store.”

Seen in Norwalk: A visitor to Fodor Farm.

You therefore can’t build a mall without a major department store, he said. Someone tried it, he said. The so-called “lifestyle centers” did well for two years, then tanked when the department stores wised up and offered better service, he said.

“It’s considered very risky; in fact it’s not financeable to build a regional center without a department store,” Gibbs said.


Deserving to be shocked

U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor went down in a stunning defeat Tuesday in a primary loss that former Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) Board member Jack O’Dea described as “getting his clock cleaned.”

O’Dea said he has a saying, a play on a World War II theme, to describe politicians who are “shocked” when they lose an election.

“Only arrogance will sink more ships than loose lips,” O’Dea said.


Babies in the street

The debate over sidewalks raged at a recent Public Works Committee meeting, where the talk concerned the legality of the city sidewalk ordinance and a possible reimbursement system for homeowners who would be required to fix their sidewalks.

Seen in Norwalk: Another visitor to Fodor Farm, this one a rascally rabbit that got inside the fence protecting the gardens. He or she has plenty of similarly talented friends.

Common Councilman David Watts (D-District A) talked, as he often does, of mothers trying to push strollers down broken sidewalks. Republican Common Councilman David McCarthy remarked, not for the first time, that there is  no sidewalk in front of his Rowayton home, so, lucky him, he has no problem.

Republican Common Councilwoman Michelle Maggio, who had been waiting for a chance to speak, resorted to snarky sarcasm: “I don’t have a sidewalk, but a lot of my friends do and some of them can’t afford to fix theirs. I think it’s unfair,” she said. “At least if the streets are paved nicely all the babies in strollers will have a nice new ride.”

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Seen: A storm coming in over Brookside Elementary School.


2 responses to “Seen and Heard in Norwalk: Early arrivals; mall freeloaders”

  1. Suzanne

    OK, you have outdone yourselves. I have heard all kinds of derogatory terms applied to deer (rats with hooves, eg.) and rabbits that can potentially be so destructive to gardens. I am still a sucker for Bambi and Peter – your photos are just beautiful (including the emerging storm).

  2. piberman

    Whether the ” main store” pays rent is immaterial. more so the relative costs and benefits to City residents. The costs are pretty obvious – horrendous traffic congestion, loss of small businesses, devalued surrounding properties, loss of any real prospects for revitalization of an attractive So No and Wall/West Ave downtown and most importantly precluding future establishment of corp offices with high paying jobs. The benefits accrue to the developer and national firms. Unless one believes residents of the surrounding wealthy towns will come to fight downtown Norwalk traffic. Not even the tooth fairy believes that.

    The Mayor’s apparent support for this project is discouraging. As discouraging as his appointing of NEON’s former Bd Chairman to the BET. The Chamber’s endorsement ought to be a watchword. They too supported Big Box. After all they live mostly out of town. The mall if built may well be known as “Norwalk’s Folly.” Our politicians can only be admired.

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