NORWALK, Conn. – A plan for a model mixed-use housing complex to replace aging Washington Village on Water Street in Norwalk moved a step closer to reality Wednesday night.
Members of the Common Council's Planning Committee unanimously voted to grant property on nearby Day Street to the Norwalk Housing Authority for $1, which in turn the agency would lease to Boston-based Trinity Financial, which would develop the new Washington Village.
Trinity and the housing authority would partner to develop the project, which calls for residents of the new complex to not only come from Washington Village but also from various income levels. Additionally, the complex would feature a “green” design that would be energy efficient and offer job training and other amenities.
Washington Village also sits in an area prone to flooding, and the new development would be designed to mitigate that.
Despite its altruistic goals, the project has not been without controversy because some residents say there was not enough public participation in the process. The matter came before the council last month but was tabled in part because of questions about it.
“I ask that the committee hold a formal public hearing on the Day Street project,” said Dr. Ganga Duleep, president of the Friends of Ryan Park, a city-owned park that sits adjacent to the proposed development.
Duleep and others hold concerns that the new complex could jeopardize the park and that the $1 transfer to the housing authority smacks of a sweetheart deal. The city’s Day Street property could be a valuable parcel to sell to Trinity, some residents have said, but under the plan the company would lease the property from the authority.
Council President Doug Hempstead and other members said they supported the public/private nature of the project, which has been years in the discussion and planning phase.
“I think this is a moving-forward type of project, and I have confidence in it,” said Hempstead, adding that the city is protected and will get back the Day Street land should the development not move ahead. “We need to have some skin in the game to make this work."
The project gives the city the opportunity to “leverage public money from the federal government” to help residents, Councilman Matt Miklave said.
“This is a key effort to support the economic development in South Norwalk,” Miklave said.