State investing $6 million around South Norwalk train station, but will neighbors get left behind?
Better streets and sidewalks are headed to the area surrounding the South Norwalk train station – all part of a $6 million state investment in the area. Gov. Ned Lamont says it's critical to attracting young people to Connecticut, but will gentrification price neighbors out of their own homes?
On Monday, Lamont touted the funding at The Platform Sono, where loft apartments begin at $1,800 a month. The Platform's developers are receiving a seven-year property tax break, according to city officials, but are also planning 10,000 square feet of commercial space, a new public plaza, and 60 additional parking spots at the South Norwalk train station.
The governor says developments like these are essential to Connecticut's economic future.
"Let's face it. For the last 30 years, grandparents were moving to Delray [Beach] and the cool kids were going to the Lower East Side," said Lamont. "And we said, 'Oh, woe is us.'"
The money comes from the Community Challenge Grant, a program Lamont created to spur development in downtowns and near transit centers, especially in "distressed municipalities."
Norwalk has welcomed the developments. But in other towns, groups like CT169Strong have fought proposed state laws making them easier to build, saying too much density could destroy small town character.
"Hartford has no right coming in and overriding local zoning and taking away property rights," Roy Abramowitz of New Canaan told News 12 in May 2021.
Even in South Norwalk, neighbors have concerns about gentrification. To balance that, 10% of units at The Platform and The Shirt Factory Lofts next door are set aside as "affordable." And just a block away, an additional million dollars is going into upgrading middle-income housing – with additional grant money headed to the MLK Drive and Wall Street corridors.
"The way to do that is to invest in neighborhoods -- to help the people that have lived there, stay there," said Mayor Harry Rilling (D-Norwalk).
Lamont believes upscale development will have a trickle-down impact on surrounding neighborhoods, although he concedes they could get more expensive.
"But you also can't stand in the way of development that makes so much sense for a city like this," he said.