Norwalk’s Washington Village redevelopment takes giant step forward

By Kevin Zimmerman

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With the redevelopment of Washington Village underway, as symbolized by a ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony on Nov. 28, Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling said the city is well on its way to realizing revitalization plans that have been in the works for nearly a decade.

“This,” he said after the ceremony, “is a great day for Norwalk.”

norwalk_washingtonPhase one of the Washington Village plan involves the construction of 80 mixed-income rental residences: 40 replacement public housing units, 18 affordable tax credit units and 22 market-rate units on two vacant parcels of land at 13 and 20 Day St. in South Norwalk.

Part of a three-phase redevelopment effort to revitalize South Norwalk, upon completion the present 136-unit Washington Village public housing project will be replaced by a 273-apartment complex, 50 percent of which will be reserved for public housing.

“Washington Village is the oldest housing complex in the state of Connecticut,” Rilling said of the site, which has been occupied since 1941. “It’s tired. Its infrastructure is in need of significant repair, it floods and the residents there don’t have the quality of life to which they’re entitled.”

Phase one of the housing development is budgeted at nearly $45 million with a completion date of March 2018. Funding came from several sources and distributed by the Norwalk Housing Authority, including:

  • $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Choice Neighborhoods Program;
  • $11.9 million from the state Department of Housing’s Community Development Block Grant disaster relief program;
  • $5.8 million from Goldman Sachs funds;
  • $1.3 million from the state Department of Economic and Community Development’s Brownfields Remediation Funds;
  • $20.7 million from Goldman Sachs Low Income Equity Housing Tax Credit Equity; and
  • $19.2 million from TD Bank construction and permanent financing.

The developer of the project is Boston-based Trinity Financial, which worked with the housing authority and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency.

“Today marks a new beginning for the residents of South Norwalk,” said Eva Erlich, Trinity Financial vice president of development. “Washington Village’s groundbreaking is an exciting milestone that will provide so many benefits to the city, from affordable housing to job creation.”

Erlich said that community partnerships have been created to offer access to educational opportunities, career development and job placement services, health and wellness programs and basic support services. Trinity Financial, the housing authority and phase one general contractor Dimeo Construction are also committed to involving qualified local small, minority and/or women-owned businesses, Erlich said.

The sheer number and stature of the dignitaries at the groundbreaking – which included Gov. Dannel Malloy, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, state Sen. Bob Duff, state Reps. Bruce Morris, Chris Perone, Fred Wilms and Terrie Wood, Connecticut Department of Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein and HUD New England Regional Administrator James Reed – indicate just what a big deal the Washington Village redevelopment is, Rilling said.

“This is something that brought together the federal, state and local governments, as well as the private sector,” Rilling said. “It’s really a pretty unique model and it’s the kind of partnership we need more of if we’re to do these kinds of things the right way. Everyone has been very pleased and very supportive of this project.”

The mayor estimated that it would be “three or four years” before the project is fully completed. “The demolition and construction will be handled in a way that hopefully will be as minimally disruptive to community residents as is possible,” he said.

As for another splashy Norwalk project, the 700,000-square-foot SoNo Collection, Rilling said he expects groundbreaking to take place in January and for the megamall to be completed by April 2019.

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