Key to Wilton Center’s ‘vibrancy’ is attracting larger, younger population, first selectwoman says

Wilton Center’s vibrancy could be boosted by the growth of the town’s population while also becoming younger. Master planning and a planned pedestrian bridge are also two factors that would bolster the local economy and entice new businesses to open along River Road.

Wilton Center’s vibrancy could be boosted by the growth of the town’s population while also becoming younger. Master planning and a planned pedestrian bridge are also two factors that would bolster the local economy and entice new businesses to open along River Road.

Bryan Haeffele / Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — Town center is expected to undergo a serious makeover starting this year with the adoption of a master plan and a pedestrian bridge, but First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice said changes won’t stop there.

“Residents have expressed a desire for more businesses and restaurants in Wilton, particularly in the center,” Vanderslice said. “To do so, we need a population size and mix that has the capability to sustain what we have now and support something new.”

Vanderslice said Wilton’s restaurants need daytime and weeknight diners.

“They can't survive with just weekend evening diners,” she said.

Two factors that play into not only the success of current businesses but prospective ones, is the overall size and age of the town’s population.

Vanderslice hopes the bevy of apartments approved and now in planning will draw a new crowd to town, especially since a number of them are located near the site of the much-discussed pedestrian bridge.

“The approved apartments are expect to attract both empty nesters, younger adults and those working in town, such as ASML employees,” Vanderslice said, referencing the over 1,600-employee semiconductor company located at 77 Danbury Road. “Wilton's population has been aging, the approved apartments should slow down or stop that trend.”

Vanderslice said attracting younger families is very important for the local economy as they “are the future.” She also expects more residential projects to be passed in the future.

The pedestrian bridge is considered a key aspect to the town center’s growth, Vanderslice said.

“The pedestrian bridge is important to attract additional residential development in the area of the Wilton Train Station,” she said. “I have heard that repeatedly from interested developers. By allowing those residents to easily walk into the center, it will help increase the vibrancy of the center.”

Developing new multifamily housing will also boost Wilton’s affordable housing inventory. In 2020, Wilton had 3.58 percent of its housing inventory deemed “affordable,” according to the latest statistics provided by the state.

Vanderslice keyed in on the importance of the parks that surround Wilton Center as an already important asset. Use of Schenck’s Island at the southernmost tip of the center, and the Norwalk River has increased after work has been done to clear invasive species and create a large lawn area. She noted that there are “already a good number of non-residents who come to fish or enjoy the meadow.”

With more work proposed to be done within the next year, including fixing park entrances, building playgrounds and improving parking lots, Vanderslice only expects more tourism.

“The 13 acres will be an even greater draw both for residents and those outside of Wilton,” she said.

When asked what she envisions Wilton Center to look like three years from now, with more people living either in or near it, she estimated the River Road section of town could see “more people walking, running or biking in the center” and that “businesses and restaurants should be busier.”