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.”
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.
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 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.”
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.
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 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.”
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.
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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