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Wall Street Place is a poke in Norwalk’s eye

Wall Street Place, in October.

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Dear Editor:

The other day I tried going to see a movie at the Garden Cinema, the one theatre in Norwalk where you can be confident you will get to see premier foreign and domestic films that don’t always play at more commercial theatres.  But I had to return home.

Why?

There was no place to park. 

Why?

(Photo by Yvonne Lopaur)

POKO Partner’s Wall Street Place.

What a mess.

Gone are the parking spaces that used to be available to the patrons of the theatre, shops and restaurants in the area.  In its place is a monstrosity wrapped in Dupont’s white Tyvek with a fence around it referred to now as simply POKO.

POKO is poking the city in the eye.

City officials:  please do the patrons of the Garden Cinema and the restaurants and shops in the area a favor and get rid of it.

Tear it down and bring back the parking spaces.

Then work on figuring how to avoid POKO like boondoggles in the future.

(Photo by Yvonne Lopaur)

The whole process that led to the mess needs to be investigated transparently.  Who initiated the project?   How did the Planning and Zoning Commission, other municipal bodies, and the Common Council end up approving it?  How did it end up getting state support?   Etc.

And most immediately:  what is going to be done to clean up the mess before the Garden Cinema, restaurants and shops in the area are driven out of business?

 

Yvonne Lopaur

24 comments

Rick January 29, 2018 at 4:23 am

Yvonne your not alone so many of us have been hurt by the political process.

The city should be ashamed of itself, those who support so many things don’t gives rats behind of those working so hard for the city without taking a dime.

For over fifty-seven years, Treasure House Thrift Shop has played a warm and vital part in the life of Norwalk

http://treasure-hse.org/

Has Bob Duff The Mayor, the former Mayors the self appointed urban planners have they all forgot about the damage this stalled project has created?

one example

Its primary activity is the Treasure House, a thrift shop whose total profit is donated to the growth and development of the hospital and supportive activities such as the following:

Buying equipment for various departments of the hospital, such as therapy pediatrics
Supplying funds for special gifts
Buying layettes for indigent mothers
Support of the Little Chapel at Norwalk Hospital.

Who would own a business and not be hurt by whats gone on?

The damage has been done.

Jeanne January 29, 2018 at 6:44 am

The theater is a gem and has been a draw for people not just in Norwalk but all our neighboring communities. Losing the parking lot was a huge disappointment.

wineshine January 29, 2018 at 8:01 am

Ever hear the old phrase, “the beatings will continue until morale improves”? When will you folks get it? As taxpayers, your convenience, sense of logic, and feelings don’t matter in this city. Get with the program. The insults to your quality of life will continue until you understand that great minds are in charge here!

Rem January 29, 2018 at 8:07 am

The simplest solution would have been building underground parking below POKO with an “easement” for public parking of existing tenants in the area and the rest reserved for the tenants of POKO. But yes, of course that would damage the ROI. Surface parking is as cheap as dirt, and subsurface parking is not. Would have solved this dilemma however.

Sue Haynie January 29, 2018 at 9:30 am

Rilling has been Mayor for over 4 years. He owns the Poko problem–the parking lot was destroyed under his watch and, at the time, touted as ‘progress’. It”s not just a black eye, it’s a drain on taxpayers and a noose around the neck of legitimate Wall Street businesses.

EverMindful January 29, 2018 at 9:38 am

@Winshine.. on a different topic I guess the same could be said of the BOE. They are the masters of the universe and our taxes. Poko may be a needle in the eye of Norwalk, but the BOE and its unchecked ego and budget will become the iceberg that sinks the ship. We will be Bridgeport sooner rather than later.

Christine M. January 29, 2018 at 10:44 am

Agreed. I wanted to park *somewhere* near Cafe Aroma yesterday, and I was cursing all the way around the block. (We ended up parking at the Yankee Doodle garage, but still…)

Paul January 29, 2018 at 11:15 am

I hate to throw a blanket on the negative party but there is a large parking garage (Yankee Doodle) located about a 2 to 3 minute walk to the Garden Cinema. Maybe a little walk in the time it takes to type a negative comment will be good for your spirit. Might find a little local coffee shop (Cafe Aroma) on the way to patronize the Norwalk economy.
Have we become such suburban denizens that we demand to park next to everywhere we go and can’t walk a block?

Donna Smirniotopoulos January 29, 2018 at 11:33 am

Mayor Rilling owns some of the mess, but I agree with Lopaur that the entire process that led to this white elephant in the middle of the urban core needs to be investigated. If the site becomes parking again, that’s a five million dollar parking lot paid for by taxpayers. The excuse put forward that the developer’s illness alone led to the default and halt has very little to back it up aside from angry screeds from commissioners who want to hide from their past mistakes.

Six years worth of articles on POKO here and elsewhere is a trail of tears.

Rob January 29, 2018 at 11:57 am

Christine- so basically, you circled the block 4 times and cursed at how there’s no parking, and then you parked at the empty parking garage across the street from where you wanted to go?

Milly January 29, 2018 at 12:58 pm

Why is there an apartment building that went bankrupt 2 years ago and nothing has been done to tear it down – since they did not get to far in building it – or finding someone to finish it. No problems in Norwalk are ever resolved – look at that burnt out building on Wall street – no work is being done on that and it has been years.

Jlightfield January 29, 2018 at 1:25 pm

First there is, as others have said, parking available at the Yankee Doodle, Mechanic Street lit and even (sometimes) the Main / High street lot.

The failed Redevelopment project of Wall Street Place, however, is not Mayor Rilling’s fault. The blame lies with former Mayor Knopp, who continues to misguidedly use city funds for parking projects that fail. The Isaac Street lot was given to the project to leverage development. Of course library patrons used the Issac Street lot too. But now because the project is in limbo, as it has been for over a decade, Knopp had the audacity to lease parking spaces next to the library. I guess it’s because Norwalk is such a pedestrian city, and walking across the street from the Yankee Doodle garage is unacceptable. Too bad the $5 million grant to improve the pedestrian experience at Mott/Belden/West was frittered away by the Redevelopment Agency’s planning exercises.

Meanwhile, the fairly new Martitime Garage across from the Aquarium sits largely empty most days. After years of infill development and the removal of surface parking lots, visitors to Norwalk have chosen: surface lots are preferred. But not too far away from destinations, apparently.

Let’s help Norwalk define itself. In the comments pick your definition of Norwalk: suburban city or pedestrian city.

Yvonne Lopaur January 29, 2018 at 2:09 pm

@Paul
The issue is one of sensible urban planning. The building POKO constructed on the corner of Wall and Isaacs Streets turned a vibrant city space where the Garden Cinema, a major asset to our community, and other popular establishments are located into what is likely to become a wasteland. City officials who gave POKO the go ahead to construct a large apartment complex in that spot demonstrated a lack of vision. And the Garden Cinema and other establishments in the area are suffering from the effect to that failure.

Bill Nightingale, Jr January 29, 2018 at 3:42 pm

Redevelopment Agency – despite many red flags and warnings – multiple administrations – despite warnings.

No one held accountable

Alan January 29, 2018 at 3:54 pm

POKO is a second abandoned eyesore on Wall Street which testifies to the weak political leadership of the City. Even if completed, the building is oversized for it’s location. The automated garage was as likely to be built as the hotel at new Mall. POKO never should have been approved in the first place. Good leadership would have demanded a better design for our downtown which would have been an asset to our community.

The question for now is what to do with POKO and the burned out Duleep Towers next door. Good leadership would seize and sell both properties. Perhaps one could become an elementary school in the center of the City. Apparently City Hall is pleased with the “shabby chic” look of Wall St.

Michael McGuire January 29, 2018 at 5:43 pm

There are solutions to these challenges.

An effective blight ordinance for commercial properties coupled with the political will to use it would have dealt with Duleep.

Creating the most conducive environment for maximizing value of downtown commercial buildings (apartments included) will go a long way to enticing a developer to step in and take on the POKO project. POKO suffers from “excessive complexity” in the highly leveraged deal structure it currently labors under.

How do you create this environment? Reactivate the Wall Street Train Station. Norwalk can leverage the Head of the Harbor North development and require the developer build the train station.

The value enhancement of having a train station one block away from the 91 units project proposed for the High Street Lot would more than cover the construction costs of building such a simple station.

Where there is a will there is a way. I’m hoping our leadership has the will!

Rick January 29, 2018 at 6:24 pm

The city is not up for definition until it becomes a destination.

We saw what this did in Sono its made it a bowery by our self appointed urban planners what a mess we have now, leave wall st alone pass out the bats and let them duke it out.

We need to be left alone and let the taxpayers decide on what they want to pay for.Not some fancy Canadian company like stantec

Rusty Guardrail January 29, 2018 at 8:01 pm

The Wall St area was a shabby mess when I moved to Norwalk in the 1970s, and is worse now. It’s wretched, but the citizenry plainly doesn’t care.

Voter apathy allows the city to be run by townies who will NEVER fix it. Lisa offered a professional approach, but most Norwalkers I talked to last fall knew nothing about the election, and only seemed to care whether or not their taxes were going up.

Milly January 30, 2018 at 8:06 am

Rusty – I think you have your tineline wrong – in the 1970’s into the early ’80s downtown Norwalk was full of stores and not shabby at all – that came much later. There was Woolworth, Fullams, Howlands, Kiddy Town, three banks, the renovated theatre was a huge movie theatre, Norwalk stationery store, a men’s store, a book store, etc. But i do agree – now it is a dump.

Hello I Must Be Going January 30, 2018 at 10:33 am

@Rob, walking a few blocks IS an issue, thanks to the local speed racers who tear through Wall Street at any given moment.

And walking any distance around that area at night (especially if you’re female) is no walk in the park, m’kay?

US Blues January 30, 2018 at 1:06 pm

I agree with “hello..”, walking any distance at night in downtown Norwalk, especially if a woman, is dangerous. As for the parking lot on high street & main is ridiculous. Putting yourself in a HIGH risk situation is just plain stupid. That is a very dangerous area at night.

Jeffrey Hall January 30, 2018 at 4:51 pm

Yvonne, the point is that we can’t HAVE both “sensible urban planning” and an unelected, unaccountable Redevelopment Agency. It’s always been true for us, it always will be true, and unless we figure out a way to make neighborhoods faster that the Redevelopment Agency destroys them, then we are going to wind up living in a concrete jungle of cheap bars, no good employers, few long-time families, no parking, and no soul.

Al Bore January 31, 2018 at 4:56 pm

Well said Jeffrey Hall driving through Norwalk you can see less of the skyline each day as apartment buildings and the new mall block your view. Norwalk is being destroyed by an incompetent redevelopment agency, city government, traffic, and ruled by developers that do not live in Norwalk they just destroy it, then go home. What a shame.

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