Updated, 12:44 p.m.
NORWALK, Conn. – The wrecking crews have halted on West Avenue, causing at least one concerned Norwalk citizen to wonder whether the money had run out for the developers behind the Waypointe development.
"There is now a wall that looks like it will collapse if I sneeze on it, and the neighborhood looks like a scene out of Syria," Michael Ward said in an email. "What is the plan? Is this how West Avenue will look for the next two years (like 957)?"
Progress on the demolition of storefronts between Orchard and Merwin streets stopped more than a week ago when workers found asbestos in one of the walls, according to Emil Albanese, chairman of the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency. "I give the developer and the onsite managers a lot of credit for recognizing it and stopping everything as soon as they recognized it," he said.
Albanese said the site had been inspected several times, but this asbestos had been overlooked. He said it would be dealt with in the safest way possible, and crews would resume working in a week or two.
Bill Ireland, the city's chief building official, agreed. "A remedy has been worked out with state and developers demolition contractor, work should resume shortly," he said in an email. Peter Nolin of Sandak, Hennessey and Greco, a law firm doing work for the developers, said he had heard that the asbestos was "in areas of the property not shown on building department records and not discovered until demolition was proceeding." He said it's in what is essentially a subbasement.
Joe Ancona, a former tenant of the building, said it was old in 1929 when his father moved in.
Albanese reiterated that the problem has nothing to do with financing and said Waypointe will be built. "The project, as far as approvals, is way along the line and the developers have invested a significant amount of capital in it," he said.
It will transform West Avenue, he said. Albanese said he expects other projects – including POKO Place on Wall Street – to begin work this year.
Michael Ward's email was part of a discussion on Norwalk Center, a Google group created by Norwalk 2.0 to enable businesses, residents and property owners to communicate about issues and ideas concerning the Norwalk Center Downtown area.