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Norwalk Council Approves Washington Village Improvement Plan

Norwalk Common Councilman David Watts is one of an overwhelming majority of council members who supported an improvement project for the Washington Village housing complex.
Norwalk Common Councilman David Watts is one of an overwhelming majority of council members who supported an improvement project for the Washington Village housing complex. Photo Credit: Alfred Branch

NORWALK, Conn. – The residents of the Washington Village housing complex on Water Street in Norwalk could be looking at a rebuilt development after years of dealing with an aging, flood-prone facility.

By a 13-1 vote Tuesday, the Common Council approved a plan to grant property on nearby Day Street to the Norwalk Housing Authority for $1 as part of an overall improvement project for the housing complex .

The plan calls for the city to apply for $30 million in federal funding to help pay for the new Washington Village, which would be developed by Boston-based Trinity Financial.

The project has the support of residents of the decaying Washington Village. Included in the plan is the construction of mixed-use and mixed-income housing, educational programs and job-training initiatives.

“Mixed-use housing will do a wonderful job of helping to redevelop South Norwalk,” said David Levinson, president of Norwalk Community College, which will be involved in the educational component. “NCC will provide education services in the form of credit and non-credit courses at Washington Village.”

Despite the altruistic goals of the project, it has not been without controversy.

The Day Street property was once appraised at about $2 million, according to officials, so some residents believe the city should sell it to the developer.

Additionally, some residents have complained that the city has not held a public hearing on the matter, instead opting for meetings with Washington Village and other South Norwalk residents and interested parties.

“Norwalk will look foolish building in a flood plain,” said Dr. Ganga Duleep, president of Friends of Ryan Park, a neighborhood group of the adjacent park. Councilwoman Anna Duleep, his daughter, was the sole vote against the plan. She said she did not oppose rebuilding Washington Village but did not agree with how the issue was handled.

But council members said the project presents a rare opportunity to leverage federal money to develop a complex that can help the residents there and also help the city.

“Who are we to tell people in Washington Village that they’re not entitled to quality housing?” said Councilman David Watts, who grew up in public housing and supports the plan. “Most of the people who have criticized the project do not live there.”