Freese Park Artist Village

Background

The Freese Park Artist Village project was conceived in 2013 and launched in May of 2014. The project tookplace over three weekends.

Norwalk 2.0 has been engaged in programming a series of arts, exhibits and community projects in the historic Norwalk downtown in order to improve the neighborhood support economic development and bring people to our beautiful historic downtown These neighborhood includes, Wall Street, The Norwalk Public Library, Mill Hill Historic Park, Freese Park, the Town Green, Main Street, Issacs Street, Garden Cinema, Belden Ave, and West Ave..

For several years, Norwalk 2.0 has sponsered artists to exhibit and produce work. The result has been an slow kindling of interest in the area and a few sparks of revitalized storefronts in the Norwalk Center area. Current development projects can be indicators that there Norwalk 2.0 has infused new vitality in a blighted and difficult area. Today the area hosts several arts organizations and many development projects. It is also the site of the new infill housing in downtown Norwalk since the recession, a 569-unit, six-story development by Belpointe Real Estate, a $250 million investment.

The area is still plagued by a high-percentage of vacant stores, particularly along the pedestrian spine of Wall Street.

With the support of the CT State Department of Economic and Community Deveopment (DECD) Office of the Arts, four shipping containers were obtained. The purpose was to provide a low-cost, standard unit that may be adaptively re-used or modified to create temporary, interim place representing what Norwalk could be.

GOALS

  • Provide new and desired uses for downtown that enhance the vibrancy of the district.
  • Serve as gathering areas for people that provide benefits or resources to community members.
  • Serve as inspiration to other communities addressing distressed downtowns.
  • Create new opportunities to engage the evolution of the Norwalk Center and surrounding neighborhoods.

 

A call for artists was initiated offering seed funding  for projects that ranged from $500 to $1,500. A total of  seven projects were selected.

“Creating a Vibrant Downtown.”

Norwalk 2.0 had recently collected input, feedback and suggestions from community members through a series of workshops, events and community conversations. Priorities expressed by the community include:

  • enhancing neighborhood identity
  • increasing connectivity between the neighborhoods and focusing on the pedestrian 
experience to and from
  • neighborhood gateways
  • wayfinding and signage
  • pedestrian lighting, distinctive design and architecture
  • affordable and mixed-income housing and affordable and mixed-income gallery and 
live/work space for visual and performing artists
  • bike facilities including bike lanes and bike parking

 

Desired events and activities include:

  • informal markets for crafts and hand crafted goods
  • performance spaces,
  • informal gathering spaces and space to host community events
  • pop-up restaurants, cafes and beer gardens (and food trucks) with outdoor dining
  • pop-up retail
  • community gardens
  • incubation space for small businesses
  • space for education and life-long learning in the arts, yoga and exercise, cooking and 
other subjects
  • interactive and temporary public art including murals, lighting and projections
  • opportunities to record and retell the history of the area
  • flexible, and multi-purpose space which serves the evolving needs of the community

Shipping container projects and proposals should support the development of a dense, diverse, walkable and sustainable urban community.

Project Goals

This Call for Ideas is to solicit concepts for uses and visually compelling modifications to shipping containers that provide new and desired uses that compliment the vibrancy of Norwalk Center, serve as gathering areas for people and provide resources or benefits to the community, as well as serving as inspiration for other communities addressing distressed downtowns. These projects should enhance the vibrancy of the area and create new opportunities to engage the evolution of the area.

Eligibility

The Call for Ideas is open to anyone anywhere. Teams were encouraged to include an artist, architect and/or a design professional.

Results

Over 4000 people attend the three weekend project.