The neighborhood around South Norwalk train station has long been a community on the edge. It's on the edge between upscale SoNo and the struggling neighborhoods to the south. It has the asset of small-scale walkable retail, but the burden of crumbling buildings and high crime.
There is a study to consider how to develop the neighborhood. Transit-oriented development is booming in the U.S., while other forms of development struggle. Recently, I was sent a survey asking my thoughts on the area. Below were my thoughts. What are yours?
- What works well in the South Norwalk Railroad Station neighborhood?
* recent station improvements, including the station cafe
* minimal setbacks
* retail south of station (Ely Ave) and east of station (Main St)
* connected street grid
* frequent bus service
- What need improvement the South Norwalk Railroad Station neighborhood?
* dilapidated buildings
* sidewalks of uneven quality
* existing retail does not draw anybody to the area
* pedestrian access to station is via unpleasant station driveways
* more direct platform access (recent removal of a stairway to the NY-bound platform has added 2 minutes to the walk from SoNo, reducing the TOD radius)
- Who are the key stakeholders (individuals, organizations, groups of business, groups of people) in the South Norwalk Railroad Station neighborhood?
Others would know this better than I.
- What do you see as your current role in or connection to the South Norwalk Railroad Station neighborhood?
* advocate for more livable Norwalk (http://livablenorwalk.org)
* local resident
* local businessman operating transit technology company (http://routefriend.com)
- Do you have specific ideas about what could or should occur in the South Norwalk Railroad Station neighborhood?
* mixed-use: retail on ground floor, residential or commercial above
* seamless connection to Washington St and to Water St (walk should be along retail storefronts, not parking lots).
* no height limits: the bigger the better
* special emphasis on commercial office space
- more potential to draw transit commuters than residential use has to generate them
- less sensitive to crime issues than residential
* parking should be on-street at market rates. Any off-street parking should be below-ground or above-ground with ground-level retail. Parking minimums should be reduced or waived as the neighborhood is well served by transit (both bus and rail) and there is limited additional road capacity.
* sidewalk construction and lighting improvements along MLK Blvd
* rebuilding stairway to NY-bound platform, reducing the walk time from Main St/Washington St to the platform from 7 minutes to 5 minutes.
- What do you think is needed to implement your ideas?
* zoning changes
* developer participation
* Connecticut DOT and Norwalk DPW buy-in, so we can develop the neighborhood without expanding road widths and eroding the pedestrian environment
- Any other issues you would like us to consider?
* Improving the safety of the neighborhood will be critical to attracting development. Balancing the desire for development with fairness for the lower-income residents will be a major challenge. (Good luck!)
* Other ideas to consider:
- mixed-use path on east side of MLK Dr from Washington St to Lowe St
- bike lanes along Monroe St / Hanford Pl
- improved street connectivity south of the station
- direct connection from station to Flax Hill/Taylor to bring development up the hill (would require stairwell or pedestrian bridge)
- Do you plan on participating in any Stakeholder Committee Meetings?
- Do you wish to keep any part of this confidential?