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CNI Housing and Infrastructure Plan

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The housing strategy for the Washington Village/South Norwalk Transformation Plan focuses on replacing the existing, obsolete 136-unit Washington Village public housing development with a new mixed-income community in the South Norwalk neighborhood. In its current condition, Washington Village not only restricts its residents' quality of life but also hinders further public and private investment in this key area of Norwalk. Washington Village was the subject of a HOPE VI feasibility study in 2009 that explored creating a new mixed-income community to replace the existing units. The Choice Neighborhoods 2010 planning grant has allowed the Norwalk Housing Authority (NHA) and the City of Norwalk to undertake a much more comprehensive assessment of the broader South Norwalk neighborhood and build community consensus for an ambitious yet feasible plan to transform both the Washington Village site and its surrounding neighborhood.

aerial view of a community

The existing Washington Village community consists of 12 buildings with 136 apartments and a Community Building that is used as a Learning Center. Constructed in 1941 the complex has met a critical housing need for 75 years but has reached the end of its useful life from the standpoint of construction standards, code requirements and the needs of modern day life. The property is also located in the 100 year floodplain and experiences minor flooding on a regular basis when coastal storms align with lunar cycles effecting tidal surges. When major storms occur, like Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, the community experiences severe damage to buildings and personal property and places the residents at risk of injury. It was determined that the only way to address the modernization issues and achieve floodplain mitigation was to demolish the existing structures and a construct new community of elevated structures.

A partnership was created with the City of Norwalk and an agreement was negotiated where the existing Washington Village property would be combined with two adjacent city-owned lots to create a larger and income diverse residential community. The two Day Street lots have minor soil contamination issues that have prevented their redevelopment and placement back on the tax rolls. Brownfields remediation funding has been secured from the State of Connecticut that will allow the properties to be cleaned up and recovered for development.

A partnership was also created with the Boston based Trinity Financial who will act as the designated developer. Trinity will manage the construction process, assemble the investment capital needed to complete the development and manage the property once it is completed and occupied. The community will replace all 136 public housing units and add 68 low cost housing units and 67 market rate rental units. All of the apartments will be constructed to the same quality standards and residents at the graduated income levels will be blended throughout the community. The development will be conducted in three phases. The first phase will include 80 apartments and will be constructed on the two vacant lots on Day Street. Half of these apartments will be public housing units and lease compliant Washington Village residents will be relocated into these new apartments. The second phase will involve the partial demolition of the existing Washington Village structures and the relocation of some residents off site with Housing Choice Vouchers (Section8). Once the second phase is complete, 83 additional apartments will be available including 42 public housing units. After demolition and reconstruction in the third phase the final 110 apartments will have been built including the final 54 public housing units.

The new community will include a management office and community space for the residents. All of the structures will be constructed above the 500 year floodplain with parking underneath the buildings. Pedestrian dry egress will be created to facilitate evacuation should a severe storm arrive. An evacuation plan has also been developed to accommodate the relocation of vehicles to higher ground.

The guiding vision for the neighborhood plan is the transformation of this important South Norwalk area from an "underperforming asset" into a socially and economically diverse neighborhood of choice, improving the quality of life for existing residents and businesses, while maintaining housing affordability, and attracting new residents and businesses to the area.

The goals of the neighborhood plan are:

  • The neighborhood is storm resilient.
  • South Norwalk is safe and attractive.
  • A rich array of amenities that appeal to residents and visitors is found in the community.
  • Residents with diverse socio-economic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds continue to call South Norwalk home.
  • The neighborhood is a walkable and bike-able community with a cohesive public transit network.

The realization of these goals will be accomplished by:

  • Capitalizing upon existing and planned initiatives to create a shared synergy and alignment of investments and resources.
  • Mobilizing both public and private partners and stakeholders to collectively share in the achievement of the common vision for the community.
  • Establishing an implementation framework that empowers key partners and City departments to enact changes and improvements that address the challenges facing the South Norwalk neighborhood.

view of community with grass from grass level

Architecture Plans & Studies
All residential units will be designed with the same layout, finish and appliance standards. The new units will be significantly larger than the existing Washington Village apartments: a new 1BR apartment will be approximately 650 SF, a 2BR will be approximately 950 SF, a 3BR unit will range from 1,050 to 1,250 SF, and the 4BR will be approximately 1,350 SF. (See Exhibits V-7 through V-11 for comparison of existing to proposed unit sizes and layouts.) The one- and two-bedroom units will be flats and the larger units, with three and four bedrooms, will be a combination of flats and townhouses. These larger units will have washer and dryer hookups within the unit. To serve the one- and two-bedroom apartments, a gracious laundry room with a folding table, seating, and visibility will be situated on each floor of the new multi-story apartment buildings.

The kitchen designs will be clean and elegant. An open peninsula with seating will allow views from the kitchen into the dining/living space, encouraging gatherings under the pendant light fixtures. The refrigerator and pantry will be located adjacent to the peninsula, for efficient access, while the dishwasher, sink with disposal, oven, and microwave venting range hood will be located along the back wall. Most units will have a walk-in closet for the master bedroom and a linen closet in the bathroom. Finishes will be attractive and durable. Every apartment will have wood-look flooring and plastic laminate countertops.

Community and support facilities, including a management and leasing office, will be located on the first floor of the buildings near the central "Village Square" activity node at the intersection of Day and Raymond Streets The new development will comply with or exceed a variety of green sustainable design standards and will include design features that promote the personal health and wellness of all households. These green standards are now viewed as fundamental to good design practice, from an environmental, sustainability, and healthy homes perspective.

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Enterprise Green Communities Criteria (EGCC)
The new development will comply with all mandatory elements of the Enterprise Green Communities Criteria (EGCC) Standards 2011 and will be certifiable at a minimum "Silver" level and Energy Star II level. EGCC 2011 increases the efficiency of the building envelopes and systems, includes Energy Star for Homes certification, reduces greenhouse gas emissions through decreased need for fossil fuels, and promotes healthy living environments through the use of healthy interior materials (e.g., low- and no-VOC paints and adhesives, green label carpeting, formaldehyde-free products, etc.), integrated pest control, and adequate ventilation planning. The redevelopment team has extensive experience working together to build high quality, energy efficient housing in the New England region. ICON and Trinity have received numerous awards for their mixed-income LEED certified housing developments.

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LEED ND Certification
The Washington Village redevelopment program will satisfy the basic prerequisites and point requirements to achieve a LEED-ND (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - for Neighborhood Development) certification. ICON architecture has already registered for the LEED ND program and the current design reflects the criteria outlined in this standard. With the location of the new mixed-income community in the TOD district, many goals of the LEED-ND program are already present or underway in the target neighborhood.

  • Smart Location and Linkage - The revitalization program for the target neighborhood incorporates brownfield redevelopment, locations with reduced automobile dependence, bicycle network and storage, and proximity between housing and jobs.
  • Neighborhood Pattern and Design - Walkable streets, compact development, mixed-use neighborhood centers, mixed-income and diverse communities, reduced parking footprint, connected street network, transit facilities, access to civic and public spaces, access to recreation facilities, visitability and universal design, community outreach and involvement, and tree-lined and shaded streets are all either already present or planned for the target neighborhood.
  • Green Infrastructure and Buildings - Many of these elements will be incorporated into the design and construction of the new mixed-income community.
  • LEED-ND Certification Checklist

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The neighborhood infrastructure plan for Washington Village/South Norwalk is based upon the key needs identified by both residents and community members through the resident survey, resident information fair, community open houses, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews; and an analysis of neighborhood data and physical conditions.

The primary infrastructure challenges are:

  • The vulnerability of the community to flooding.
    Located within the 100-year flood plain, the occurrence of Super Storm Sandy in October 2012 only served to highlight the vulnerability of the area to storm surges. However, flooding is not limited to storm events; Water Street also floods when there is a full moon and high-tide. Infrastructure investments in improved drainage and the creation of a dry egress for Washington Village residents will be achieved by elevating Day and Raymond Streets.

  • Ryan Park, the primary open space in the neighborhood, is underutilized. A lack of active programming and facilities, plus loitering by unsupervised teenagers and homeless persons, detracts from the value of the park to the community. Capital investments to redesign and add recreational amenities are needed to meet the needs of the local user group and support the healthy use of the park. This is discussed in greater detail in the Critical Community Improvements Plan.

  • Community does not fully leverage opportunities presented by the South Norwalk Rail Station. With over 2,000 passengers passing through the rail station on a daily basis, several key investments in connectivity and changes in zoning are needed to maximize the positive impact of the station. Pedestrian improvements (sidewalks, crosswalks & lighting) and the addition of bike lanes are planned following the Complete Streets model are planned to connect the neighborhood to the existing transit hubs. This is discussed in greater detail in the Critical Community Improvements Plan.

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Floodplain Management
Washington Village and its immediately surrounding area is located in the 100 and 500 year flood plain. This area was most recently impacted by Hurricane Sandy on October 29-30, 2012 with widespread flooding in and around Washington Village, leading to substantial property losses and the temporary relocation of many Washington Village residents. The recently completed Tighe and Bond study recommended a series of measures to enhance the storm resiliency of the Washington Village area including raising the intersection of Day and Raymond Streets, relocating existing overhead wiring and cable facilities to underground structures, and relocating existing underground switchgear and transformers to pads above the base flood elevations.

The Washington Village new residential development will follow FEMA regulations and guidelines in accordance with the National Flood Insurance Program. These guidelines permit parking at the existing grade level (8.0'). The 500 year flood plain elevation is 11.9' and the 100 year elevation is 12.0'. The site design strategy, still in the concept design phase, is to maintain the ability for potential flood waters to flow back off the site without being retained in any depressed areas, while ensuring that any normal on-site storm water management is conducted to the city's storm drain system, which will be upgraded in this area along with the street reconstruction. The first floor residential elevation is proposed at 18.5', putting the first habitable floor level at 6.5' above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) of 12.0'. (See Exhibit V-6, Flood Mitigation Section). From the street side, a combination of private entry stoops, grading and landscaping will largely conceal the grade-level parking from view, while maintaining air circulation within the parking area. The owner (Trinity Financial) will be required to carry flood insurance for the new development. Dry egress will be provided from the buildings to the raised intersection at Day and Raymond Streets and to other areas outside of the flood plain area.