Revitalization of Norfolk’s Town Center through Acquisition & Redevelopment, and Creation of a Collaborative, Co-working Office & Community Hub

Opportunities & Challenges

The Norfolk Foundation grew out of numerous community conversations focused on the sustainability of the business district, in the wake of the several failures of the corner store at 2 Station Place, and the ongoing difficulties retailers find in maintaining a successful business. But conversations have also frequently reflected a broader interest in the emergent shape of the downtown area as suggested by the four-year-old City Meadow Project, a sunken wetland in the center of town that is gradually being reclaimed as a park and village green.

Taken together, these two concerns point to a shared vision of a lively Norfolk Center as a hub opening onto Norfolk’s network of trails and natural attractions, and to the artistic and cultural resources well represented by the Library and the Yale summer programs in music and art. Firmer integration of these aspects into the active fabric of the town could establish Norfolk as a major center for literature and the arts in New England and nationally.

Highlights

Formed by a group of concerned citizens and guided by its active Board of Directors, the Norfolk Foundation’s mission is dedicated to contributing to the vitality and sustainability of the Town of Norfolk, particularly in relationship to the Town’s natural setting and multiple artistic and cultural attractions. Partnering with Norfolk’s Economic Development and Planning & Zoning Commissions and the Board of Selectmen, the Norfolk Foundation has carried out three main projects to revitalize the town’s center:

1. The acquisition of two vacant and unattractive buildings in the heart of the town center;

2.  The redevelopment of one of those buildings into the Norfolk Hub; and

3.  Supporting and organizing festivals and events that bring people to the town’s center to experience it all.

The Foundation’s partnership with the EDC led to them successfully finding an anchor tenant for one of the vacant buildings that the Foundation acquired in the town center. The successful Berkshire Country Store offers the community what it was looking for: a place to grab a coffee, sandwich and the New York Times, and meet some neighbors and friends.

With the other building they acquired, the Foundation created the “Norfolk Hub”. This beautifully renovated space is a professionally supported, highly flexible central co-working space with three primary functions:

1. a gathering place for the community,

2. a membership-based co-working space for Norfolk’s non-profits in the heart of town, and

3. the Foundation’s main headquarters.

Additionally, the Foundation hosts events and festivals that bring others to the town center, such as the new 2-day Haystack Book Talks Festival in October, and Monday Evenings at the Hub with presentations, seminars, and workshops, and a Community Conversations forum for community gathering, debate and general collaboration.

Most importantly, the Norfolk Foundation spearheads the kinds of public-private collaborations that the town depends on to make improvements. The foundation supplies the vision, the energy, and often the funds for projects the Town approves and ultimately administers but does not want to add to the burden of the taxpayers. From the start, it has been a collaboration of the Norfolk Foundation and Town Hall, with only nominal contributions from tax funds.

Funding

Funding to acquire the two town center buildings, at a cost of $472,500, came from several Norfolk residents. Funding for the renovation of the Hub space came from Norfolk’s “Coalition for Sound Growth” and William & Mary Greeve Foundation. The renovations included:

  • new roof, including the addition of 2 pyramidal skylights
  • gutted interior and created entirely new floor plan
  • new windows, doors, electrical & HVAC
  • replaced a bathroom and added a bathroom
  • installation of security system and current technology (ethernet, phone system, etc.)

Outcome & Impact

Since the Hub opened one year ago, they have had hundreds of “casual” main space users; 175 users of the two private co-working office spaces; over 1,000 “drop-ins” (people just stopping in to take a look or find information); 132 meetings in the shared conference room, with many more scheduled into the summer; 20 Mondays at the Hub events; 10 private events with 300+ in attendance overall; and 3 new community pop-up makerspaces!  The Norfolk Hub also has 17 member-organizations, with a new “umbrella” membership serving 12+ town committees and commissions.