A property swap in the works would create more park space while allowing a downtown restaurant to expand.
Norwalk City Council on Tuesday considered an ordinance authorizing and directing the Norwalk Community Improvement Corp. to trade a portion of the city-owned Bresson Park for a larger parcel of park property nearby.
Berry's Restaurant owner Doug Berry owns two parcels of land on West Main Street with buildings that once housed dental offices.
The city devised an agreement to trade that property for the Bresson Park parcel near Berry's Restaurant so the restaurant can develop an outdoor dining area.
"We're hoping to make this property a destination," Berry said, adding that outdoor dining areas are a boon for driving traffic downtown.
The buildings the city hopes to acquire in the deal would be demolished to create a park about twice the size of the Bresson Park parcel it now owns.
Berry would transfer the property he purchased for $30,000 to the city and pay them an additional $18,000 for closing costs, for a total transaction value of $48,000. He would also arrange to have the buildings razed, according to the agreement.
The new West Main Street park would be ideal for outdoor concerts and community activities, Mayor Sue Lesch said, and would create a green space for nearby residents. The buildings qualify for neighborhood stabilization funds, and the city plans to seek additional funding to improve the property.
Lesch and Main Street Norwalk executive director Kristie Wert are seeking input on the park's design.
A local contractor has already donated brick pavers, and a landscaping company agreed to help beautify the park with the help of the parks and recreation department.
The city opted to use the Norwalk Community Improvement Corporation to act as a liaison in facilitating the trade because as a nonprofit entity, it's not required to go through the same process of advertising for buyers and accepting bids.
Wert said the proposed agreement will provide a boost to the downtown area.
"The fact that Berry's is willing to reinvest in our community and give us green space ... it's just fantastic for our downtown," she said. "The economic impact of an outdoor dining area will be incredible."
One resident questioned whether the city considered rehabilitating the long-vacant buildings. Wert said she and other officials determined it would cost far too much to correct serious problems, including asbestos, water damage and lead paint.
The directors of the Norwalk Chamber of Commerce and Norwalk Economic Development Corporation both expressed support for the project, as did several council members.
"What's nice about this is it opens another park space next to the library, which has wonderful programs," councilman Harry Brady said. "It seems to me something that would be a very great benefit to young families."
Councilman Bob Carleton thanked Berry for "being creative and thinking outside the box" in his proposal, which has been in the works for several years.
Lesch said the properties on the proposed park could be demolished as early as this fall, with work on the park possibly beginning in the spring.
Council read the ordinance authorizing the property swap but took no action, forwarding it to the planning commission for further consideration.