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TMP unveils extensive plans for Wall Street area

Community members weigh in on Wall Street Corridor improvement plans, Monday in the Norwalk Public Library. (Harold F. Cobin)

NORWALK, Conn. — Enthused public officials and their consultants have revealed newly developed plans for the Wall Street Corridor.

They include a roundabout at Main Street and Burnell Bouelvard, five “iconic gateway arches” to give the area character and a revamped, asphalt-free, River Street, making it feel like a pedestrian plaza while still allowing vehicles through, except for when it’s closed for a festival.

Those are in addition to the previously touted ideas for the troublesome intersection of Wall Street, West Avenue and Belden Avenue. A walkway behind the Post Office would connect Burnell Boulevard to a newly created plaza on the intersection.

The plans were unveiled Monday at the Transportation, Mobility and Parking Department’s second Design Charrette, held in the Norwalk Public Library.

“We’re trying to take this once vibrant corridor in our downtown area, and bring it back to what it was, what the potential is, and really make it something that of which we can all be proud,” Mayor Harry Rilling said.

Rilling said State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) brought $3.5 million in State funding for the project. “We’re investing about $12 million in this whole project, as once all is said and done.”

Assistant Director for Transportation Services Garrett Bolella, left, explains concepts for River Street, Monday in the Norwalk Public Library. (Harold F. Cobin)

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Greenwich) has the project as his top priority in the next round of federal Community Project Funding (CPF) and TMP has a $3.9 million grant application into the State, TMP Director Jim Travers said.

“We’ve secured nearly $13 million. And that doesn’t include other investments, which we’re putting into the Yankee Doodle Garage and East Wall Street,” Assistant Director for Transportation Services Garrett Bolella said to about 70 people attending the presentation. “If there’s anything I want to convey tonight, it’s that we’re getting this done.”

The first Design Charette in June generated more than 3,000 comments from the public, he said. TMP collected data and traffic information, combining them with the feedback to refine the concepts, in a “reimagining” effort first announced just over a year ago.

A PowerPoint presentation slide shown Monday in the Norwalk Public Library. (Harold F. Cobin)

Pedestrians attempting to cross the Wall/West/Belden intersection have their heads “on a swivel” and “get trapped in the medians,” said John Guzze of Fuss & O’Neill, a civil and environmental engineering firm awarded a $350,000 contract for the Wall Street work.

“I think it’s going to get an entire new life. This will be the gateway to the new Wall Street proper, the future of Wall Street,” said Wesley Stout of Wesley Stout Associates, a firm working on the “curb line to the buildings,” the open spaces.

“We have a dramatically increased sidewalks zone in these plans. It’s probably about maybe 60% more sidewalks,” he said.

A PowerPoint presentation slide shown Monday in the Norwalk Public Library. (Harold F. Cobin)

A raised crosswalk down the street, adjacent to Wall Street Theater, might be painted to resemble a piano keyboard in honor of the late Horace Silver, an American jazz pianist who was born in the Wall Street area, as part of paying respect to historical elements, said Tom Cross of Wesley Stout Associates.

Sidewalks on Wall Street itself would expand from their current 10- to 12-feet width to 20- to 22-feet, providing abundant space for outdoor dining, Cross said.

Wesley Stout Associates would like to build on real estate broker Jason Milligan’s mural installations because “there’s always room for more,” Cross said. “We’re talking about crosswalk murals as well. Creative bike lane graphics, interactive bike racks … as well as sculpture opportunities that can be incorporated into the West/Belden/Wall intersection, Wall Street and other areas, including River Street.”

A PowerPoint presentation slide shown Monday in the Norwalk Public Library. (Harold F. Cobin)

Three “iconic and memorable” arches are planned to go over Wall Street; a fourth arch will go between River and Commerce Street and the fifth one would be on East Wall, Cross said. They would “create a sense of identity” for the area.

A PowerPoint presentation slide shown Monday in the Norwalk Public Library. (Harold F. Cobin)

Stephanie White of Fuss & O’Neill spoke of reimagining River Street into a festival street, a “shared street” concept that is familiar in Europe. The asphalt, curbs and the center line would be removed, making it into “a flat plane almost like a plaza.” Textured pavement would stretch from building face to building face. Vertical elements would delineate where the cars go.

The public request for trees is difficult to accommodate given what’s under the street but raised planters with bench seating could creating a treed environment despite the challenge, White said. Festive overhead string lights and playful forms harkening back to the river would create atmosphere.

A PowerPoint presentation slide shown Monday in the Norwalk Public Library. (Harold F. Cobin)

A pedestrian bridge over the Norwalk River would connect Freese Park to a largely ignored parking lot across the way, in the plans presented Monday.

“The river is a wonderful asset, we really want to embrace the river more and bring people to it. And doing so we would create this river walk along there,” White said. “There’s a small sidewalk along there; we would look to widen it, add lighting, create bump outs, this sort of esplanade-like feel.”

A PowerPoint presentation slide shown Monday in the Norwalk Public Library. (Harold F. Cobin)

Burnell Boulevard would become a two-way street. A walkway behind the Post Office would be wide and brightly lit with more festive string lights, making it feel safe, White said.

A PowerPoint presentation slide shown Monday in the Norwalk Public Library. (Harold F. Cobin)

The planned roundabout at Burnell and Main would promote “increased safety, better traffic flow and operations, lower speeds” and decrease maintenance costs, Guzze said. It would help vehicles move in and out of the two-way Burnell and provide a channel for cyclists and pedestrians close to the Pulse Point, the bus station there.

Travers said if the feedback is positive, “we’re going to move this into a design so that we could advance the project.”

TMP expects to start construction on previously announced East Wall Street work and on the planned Yankee Doodle Garage façade improvements next year. If the community approves of the newly unveiled plans, TMP will fine tune the Wall/West/Belden intersection concepts “as well as the conversion of Burnell with the funding that we’ve received already,” Travers said. “…We’re going to start to peel piecemeal parts of it off, because we’ve made a commitment that we’re going to get it done.”

Harold F. Cobin contributed to this story.

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A PowerPoint presentation slide shown Monday in the Norwalk Public Library. (Harold F. Cobin)

A PowerPoint presentation slide shown Monday in the Norwalk Public Library. (Harold F. Cobin)

11 comments

David Muccigrosso November 17, 2022 at 7:13 am

This is putting the cart before the horse, as often happens with these big comprehensive revamp plans.

If it succeeds, great. But when you make such a large project hinge on getting so many details right, it actually increases your likelihood of failure.

Wall Street wasn’t built in a day, and we shouldn’t expect it to be rebuilt in one either. This project is just as doomed as the high-rise apartments, even if it looks prettier.

In order to fix Wall Street, we need (1) zoning reform, (2) permitting reform, and (3) to narrow West Ave so it’s not so hostile to pedestrians.

Mike Mushak November 17, 2022 at 8:13 am

Awesome!

This is what smart collaborative planning looks like, through strong leadership and professionalism combined with community outreach and feedback.

Kudos to everyone involved, from City Hall staff (especially Jim Travers, Garrett Bolella, Jessica Vonashek, and DPW staff inc the first woman to head up DPW in the city’s history, Vanessa Nobre Valaderas who was recently appointed), to elected officials including Mayor Rilling, Sen. Duff, Rep. Himes, and the Common Council, to all of the local stakeholders and business owners and residents.

This process of restoring Wall Street to its once-vibrant past (as seen in all the old photos on display at the library) will snowball with the restart of the major stalled housing component (including affordable housing) that will add the crucial walkable “captive audience” population to sustain the growing Wall Street business community and cultural institutions, which was the same formula that turned SoNo around after decades of stalled efforts.

In SoNo, it was the building of hundreds of housing units (much of it dedicated affordable) that created the sustainable walkable and bikeable future for that vibrant part of town, attracting new businesses and investment and jobs, while also retaining existing residents, young folks, and down-sizing retirees who might have otherwise left our great city without these new diverse housing opportunities.

I know this because I’ve lived and owned a small business in SoNo for 25 years, and I’ve seen it happen up close, every day. And the traffic armageddon the usual naysayers predicted with all that new dense development never materialized, including with the SoNo Collection that added 2500 jobs to our community and has been a huge success. That’s what smart planning looks like.

So I say to all of the Wall Street planners and stakeholders, bring it on! We can’t wait to enjoy Norwalk’s first roundabout and CT’s first “festival street” whether on foot, on a bike, or even in a car when necessary!

Scott Vetare November 17, 2022 at 10:23 am

I just hope it doesn’t end up a cluster- you know what- like the East Ave corridor! Great idea though to revamp that area. 👏 Is been a long time coming…
Thank you.

David Osler November 17, 2022 at 3:00 pm

It looks great but why what’s the point the entire city has moved on to other things and other areas of town Wall Street is not the heart of the City the cities had decades to fix this and now they’re going panhandling for more public money for another future failed project they haven’t even finished the last one or any of the stuff on commerce Street or West avenue. The private parties that have done working there have gotten things done and done well with what they’ve done but what’s the payback on this why would we invest tens of millions of public money into an area that’s quite frankly not generating that much nor does it need to it’s not the center of business why don’t you guys spend some effort working with Sono to do something there other than housing we no longer have a mechanic shop there’s one completely useless gas station most of the commercial interests are being pushed out that aren’t restaurants try to work with the residents not come up with grand plans that have no use you want a grand plan for 40 million fix the traffic on route 1

Tysen Canevari November 17, 2022 at 9:18 pm

@ Mike Mushak. You definitely drink the kool aid my friend. 2500 jobs added because of the mall? really? That place was doomed before it started. Stores pulling out already. What happened to Sally’s pizza? How can you make a statement saying the place is a huge success? Lets thank Jim Himes for Wall street? What did he do? What did Harry do for Wall Street? He said it was doomed since the flood. You are part of the problem in this town. No dialogue. Just one sided nonsense rubber stamping what the wizard of oz says is good.

Michael McGuire November 18, 2022 at 2:43 pm

I’m on board with what TMP is doing. Most of the buildings down here have been purchased and rehabbed and re-tenanted over the past decade. Milligan had a lot to do with that. Glad to see the city getting involved in a way that only a city can. Time to put some lipstick on this budding beauty.

I really liked the idea of creating a walkway to the Yankee Doodle from the revised intersection at Wall and West via a land swap with the Post Office – very creative. Besides the obvious parking benefits this may create a ‘retail alley’ out of the back of the buildings that are on Wall Street’s north side. Most of these have overly large footprints for a tight downtown and would benefit from having access on both sides. It makes them much more flexible to meet market demands.

The River Street revision is intriguing.

It’s all good and appreciated.

Johnny cardamone November 19, 2022 at 1:45 am

We don’t need more rainbow crosswalks 😩 those of us who are born here don’t wanna see dog become the next Provincetown Key West or Greenwich Village we don’t want a homosexual takeover of the down town of our city that we love & our culture. We believe in practicing Christian tolerance, One of my first bosses was a lesbian back in 1979 , everybody is welcome here, To live peacefully all cultures religions and businesses must be respected and yes we need to help poor people not with affordable housing but with housing they can afford🥵 There is a difference and let’s see what the whole master plan is first we should create a river walk that ties Norwalk to sono & truly unites the city, not just with apartments that block the waterfront view but with a comprehensive approach that protects the natural beauty acknowledges our history and keeps things accessible to all people not just those with money or political connection.

Brian McGovern November 19, 2022 at 6:42 am

No comment on this potential development; I just think it’s cool that Horace Silver was born in Norwalk.

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