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Plans Unveiled For South Norwalk Makeover

NORWALK, Conn. – Preliminary plans for a major South Norwalk revitalization were scrutinized Tuesday night by the Norwalk Housing Authority's Board of Commissioners.

Phase 1 of the development , which would replace the aging Washington Village, would consist primarily of public and affordable housing, in part to allow the current occupants to move in, said Tim Sheehan of the Norwalk Redevelopment Authority. It is planned for a vacant lot on Day Street.

Commissioners must move fast on the proposal for Phase 1 to make an Oct. 1 deadline to apply for tax credits, which would partially fund the development, Sheehan said.

The starting point presented by representatives of Icon Architecture is a mix of three- to five-story buildings. The goal was to replace the 136 housing units that date to the 1940s, and the proposal includes 140 units, with 40 percent of them public housing. The development would include three-bedroom town homes facing the street, giving private entrances to families. Parking would be on the ground level, allowing the homes to be above the 100-year floodplain.

Phase 1 features 51 housing units, with 26 one-bedroom apartments, 20 two-bedroom apartments and five three-bedroom townhouses that feature outdoor stoops and front yards. A main lobby cuts through the middle, and a laundry is planned for each floor.

At 700 to 750 square feet, the one-bedroom apartments will be twice the size of those in the complex now. Two-bedroom apartments will feature 900 to 950 square feet, up from 620 to 700 square feet. The three-bedroom apartments are planned for 1,100 to 1,150 square feet, an increase from the 860 square feet in the current three-bedroom apartments.

Amenities include an eat-in kitchen as well as a dining area, with the refrigerator tucked behind a wall so it isn't visible from the living room.

Only 26.6 percent of Washington Village's current residents are committed to staying there, according to a survey published on the NHA website . A total of 44.5 percent say they need more information. Most – 75.8 percent – want better security in the complex, and they'll get it if they stay: A security system will feature cameras at the door so occupants can see who's coming to visit before unlocking it from their apartments.

They also want parking, and 41 parking spaces are planned for under the building and 48 for behind the building.

Commissioner Cesar Ramirez and others said they were worried about flooding below the building and wondered whether it could be raised.

That isn't likely, according to Steven Heikin of Icon Architecture. "You're not allowed to just build the site up to the flood level because what that means is pushing the water somewhere else," he said. "There's a solution to it; it may not be what the folks on this board would like to see happen."

The soonest construction would begin would be fall 2013, he said. Trinity Financial is a partner in the project.

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