CNI News - Press Coverage

This page chronicles the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative and Washington Village in the news.

Nancy on Norwalk logoSome Norwalk photos
By Nancy Chapman - September 18, 2019

Ryan Park Sep 2019

NORWALK, Conn. - Today we bring you photos taken Tuesday in South Norwalk, showing the state of the Ryan Park construction and the progress made in building Soundview Landing phase II, the development replacing Washington Village.

Above is a view of a recently installed Ryan Park playground, with SoNo 19 Day in the background. The former is a Spinnaker development referred to as Maritime Village when it was going through the Zoning approval process in 2014.

The Norwalk Housing Authority's effort to replace its 136 public housing units at Washington Village was supported by a $30 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant, awarded in 2014. The resultant Soundview Landing is a mixed income apartment complex, with one-third market rate housing, one-third affordable and one-third public housing. Phase I opened last year.

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The Hour Insider logoNew Ryan Park to reflect South Norwalk neighborhood's roots while looking to future
Justin Papp - Aug. 17, 2019

NORWALK - It was hot Thursday afternoon in South Norwalk, and Walter Harris sat on an upturned milk crate in the shade of his Raymond Street driveway, just a few hundred feet from Ryan Park.

Other than the audible construction down the block on the next phase of the conversion of Washington Village housing projects to the mixed-use Soundview Landing, there was little activity around the dug-up park. Harris relished the relative peace - not just of the park, which has been closed for renovation since 2017, but of the gentrifying neighborhood - in what was once known by some as a hub for criminal activity.

"It was all drugs and stuff, way back," Harris said. "It's better now, it's nice and quiet."

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The Hour logoNorwalk Redevelopment Agency approves design for final Washington Village phase
By Kelly Kultys, Tuesday, August 13, 2019

NORWALK - With groundbreaking scheduled for this fall, the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency approved updated recommendations for phase three of the Washington Village replacement project.

"Washington Village phase three is hustling along to get them into construction," Susan Sweitzer, senior project manager for development for the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency. "They have finished their design and will be moving into their final permitting phase in September."

The plans for buildings D and E, the last two to be built, were sent out for peer review, which was done by the Harriman Group.

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The Hour logoZoning Commission approves minor changes to Washington Village phase 3
By Kelly Kultys, Thursday, June 20, 2019

NORWALK - Construction at the site of the former Washington Village is "going very much according to plan," according to Michael Lozano, the senior project manager for Trinity Financial.

Lozano and members of his team gave the Zoning Commission an update on the status of the project while requesting a few approvals for updated plans for the final phase.

The first two buildings, which were a part of phase 1 are "100 percent" occupied, Lozano said Wednesday. The third building, considered phase two, is getting worked on now.

"That building is currently under construction," Lozano said. "That building is scheduled for completion in the spring of next year."

PDF Read more: Zoning Commission approves changes
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The Hour logoNew hotel sets May opening in SoNo
By Alexander Soule, Friday, April 26, 2019

Marriott International has set an unspecified day in May for the opening of its newest extended-stay hotel in Connecticut: the Residence Inn by Marriott South Norwalk, around the corner from the city's restaurant row on Washington Street.

Construction started nearly two years ago on the eight-story hotel that will have just over 100 suites, with the chain now including the Residence Inn by Marriott SoNo on its main reservations website with an "opening soon" notation.

Marriott has more than 800 Residence Inn locations, among the newest located in downtown Stamford that opened late last year after an extended delay stemming to an investigation and conviction of its original developer, John DiMenna, on charges of fraud, with the Stamford portfolio of DiMenna's Seaboard Properties getting auctioned off piecemeal in bankruptcy court.

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The Hour logoNorwalk development projects on display for CT senator
By Kelly Kultys, Monday, April 15, 2019

NORWALK - From the Walk Bridge to the SoNo Collection Mall to the construction at Washington Village, Sen. Chris Murphy received a "bird's-eye view" of a variety of projects happening in the city.

"In this job, you need to make sure you know all the local opportunities so that if some money shows up at the federal level, you know where it best fits," Murphy said.

Mayor Harry Rilling, along with Tim Sheehan, executive director of the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, Jessica Casey, chief of economic and community development, and Steve Kleppin, director of planning and zoning, took Murphy on a bus tour through the city to show off current construction and potential future sites.

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The Hour logoIn SoNo, a plan to bring people together with art
By Justin Papp, Thursday, March 28, 2019

Photo: Dennis Bradbury at her 22 Haviland Gallery
Dennis Bradbury at her 22 Haviland Gallery
Photo: Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

NORWALK - For most of his life, Pierre Antoine has lived within a small radius in South Norwalk. But for the proximity, each space has been different.

When he first came with his family from Haiti to America, they moved into the former NEON house, directly next to Dennis Bradbury's 22 Haviland Gallery. The latter is where the young Antoine made lifelong friends and gained early exposure to art

In 2018, as the Washington Village Redevelopment began and buildings were razed, Antoine moved across the road with his family to Soundview Landing, the new, mixed-income apartment unit replacing the old housing project, as part of a federal Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant.

"I think our main creative principal is unity in community. This is the rebirth of a neighborhood and we're looking for a piece of artwork that can bring people together," said Julio Pardo, a creative director and founder of a Norwalk-based firm who was contracted by the city to put out a call to artists, asking for a selection of art installation proposals for the redesigned park. Submissions accepted until April 21.

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The Hour logoClarke's showroom gets OK for mixed-use plans
By Kelly Kultys, Sunday, March 10, 2019

Photo: CNI 13 Day Street seen on left
Note: CNI 13 Day Street seen on left (Photo: Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media)

NORWALK - The Clarke Kitchen Appliance Showroom will have some more neighbors after the Zoning Commission approved Clarke Capital's mixed-use plans.

Their plans call for 40 residential units and almost 20,000 square feet of retail/showroom space on the block that runs along Elizabeth Street, from South Main Street to Day Street.

The main building, which will be on South Main Street, from the plan will be a five-story structure, with 29 apartments and the retail space. More than 10,000 square feet of the retail space will be for Clarke's existing showroom that has operated at the site since 2000. Clarke opened in 1955 as an appliance store and has grown into a wholesale distributor with showrooms across the New England area, including in South Norwalk.

"You actually have the primary retail tenant in place before construction and that's driving the construction, the opposite of about every apartment building that you've seen, which I think is a real positive," Attorney Adam Blank, who was representing the applicant, told the commission on Thursday.

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The Hour logoPublic housing: Once desired, now a decades-long decline in CT
By Justin Papp, Sunday, March 3, 2019

Mary Kingwood's home felt freshly settled.

The roomy first-floor apartment in a yellow house sits on a quiet street north of downtown - "up Norwalk," as Kingwood called it. On a winter morning, sunlight flooded through windows and a sliding glass door leading to a small porch, warming the kitchen and den. A TV sat atop a stand, encircled by plastic chairs - placeholders as Kingwood waited for her furniture to be delivered - and cardboard boxes lined the walls.

Kingwood, 73, likes her porch and the peacefulness she's found since moving two weeks ago into the Wilton Avenue home, which took her many months and multiple apartment visits to find with a Section 8 voucher.

Her search was narrowed by her congenital heart disease and the oxygen tank she must maneuver around her living space. Per her doctor's orders, only single-story, two-bedroom homes - for an aide, or her children, to watch her after she's had an episode - would do.
Several places had potential, but one had no closet space and another, she liked, "but they wanted water and electric and heat. Section 8 don't want to pay for that," Kingwood said.

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The Hour logoNorwalk police pursue new Community Outreach Vehicle
By Kelly Kultys, Monday, March 4, 2019

NORWALK - The Police Department wants to beef up its community outreach unit.

The department is in the process of purchasing and upfitting a "Community Outreach Vehicle" that will be used to provide information, a variety of resources and an avenue for the public to communicate with the officers, according to Deputy Chief Susan Zecca.

"We'll park it in the community, we'll have officers there to provide interaction," she told the Health, Welfare and Public Safety committee of the Common Council recently.

The committee approved the department's request to use up to $45,000 from the Choice Neighborhood Initiative Grant, which is administered by the Norwalk Housing Authority, to upfit the base van to include items like storage, countertops, a generator and an awning.

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The Hour logoAs Washington Village revitalization pushes forward, one family remains
By Justin Papp - Monday, January 7, 2019

NORWALK - Seeing the demolition in progress adjacent to Washington Village, and the boarded up windows in the project's still-standing buildings, FedEx trucks drive past the only apartment still inhabited. They assume the whole development is vacant.

That's a problem for Lucy Vallere, who has lived in Washington Village nearly 60 years and as of Thursday will be the lone dweller in final buildings slated to be razed. Vallere, now 63, has had a series of medical complications with her feet that have left her legs non-weight-bearing. She gets regular shipments of medical supplies that, as her neighbors have trickled out, have had to be diverted elsewhere, lest they be lost in the mail.

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