Category Archives: Downtown

Putting A New Stamp On Saugatuck

If you’re one of the many Westporters peeved by the Playhouse Square post office: Help is at hand.

A new branch opens next month in Saugatuck. Located on Ketchum Street, just off Franklin Avenue — the one-way street running from Tarry Lodge underneath I-95 — it’s got 2 things our itty-bitty shopping center post office lacks: parking, and interior space larger than, um, a postage stamp.

Saugatuck post office

The Saugatuck branch replaces the old building next to the train station, which was followed by a grim temporary trailer in a parking lot opposite Dunville’s.

As a resident of the condos behind Playhouse Square, I strongly urge everyone to use this new branch for all your postal needs. (Or not. As noted in the comments below, it’s for post office boxes only.)

And — once you’re there — bop over to Garelick & Herbs. WestportNow reports that the popular gourmet food store opens soon at 580 Riverside Avenue, across from Downunder. It replaces CM, another gourmet market.

Garelick & Herbs is also vacating its Post Road East location, opposite Stop & Shop. It will move to the Southport line, site of the former Double L Market.

Which is not far from the Green’s Farms post office. Where you can also go, to avoid the Playhouse Square mess.

Que Pasa, Qdoba?

You may not have heard of Qdoba. But your kids probably have.

As reported in “06880” way back in Enero, the Mexican grill — beloved by college students for its (relatively) fresh food and (somewhat) reasonable prices — is coming to our little ciudad.

The sign went up today:

Qdoba

Burritos, quesadillas and 3-cheese nachos can’t be far behind.

Qdoba is located in the free-standing space at the entrance to Playhouse Square. The previous tenant was Pierre Deux. Before that, it was Alphagraphics. Earlier, it was Sam Goody.

Waaaaay before that, the Crest Drive-In.

And yeah — even longer ago, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth — it was a Dairy Queen.

Dairy Queen, Westport CT 1956

Fortunately, Qdoba has its own parking lot. So traffic in Playhouse Square won’t be adversely affected — well, not too much.

On the Post Road around that light, though — ¡ay, caramba!

Mahackeno Y Opens August 29; Long Journey Ends, New Road Begins

The new Westport Family Y at Mahackeno faced years of approval and litigation delays.

But once construction began 17 months ago, the Y raced ahead.

Now — ahead of schedule — the new facility is almost ready for prime time.

The final touches are underway. The cardio and weight machines are rolling off the truck. Next month, the pool will be filled.

On the evening of Thursday, August 28, a ribbon will be cut. The next day — at the usual bright-and-early start time of 5:30 a.m. — the Wilton Road building opens for business. Throughout that Labor Day weekend, the community is invited to use the new Y, for free.

The view of the new Y, from Mahackeno.

The new Y, as seen from Mahackeno.

It’s just 2 miles from the 90-year-old Bedford facility downtown. But measured another way, it’s a world apart.

The old Y — which includes the Weeks Pavilion, shoehorned in 36 years ago next to a former fire station — had 17 different elevations on the 1st floor alone. The Mahackeno building has 2 normal stories.

Westport Y CEO Rob Reeves stands proudly by the nearly completed front entrance.

Westport Y CEO Rob Reeves stands proudly by the nearly completed front entrance.

It’s also got:

  • The Gault Welcome Center, including tables and seats.
  • A 10-lane pool — with lanes wider than the current Y’s — and an adjacent 20-yard warm water/family therapy pool.
The pool is scheduled to be filled in mid-August.

The pool is scheduled to be filled in mid-August.

  • The Vince and Linda McMahon Gymnasium with 4 adjustable basketball hoops, and scoreboards. It’s also lined for badminton, pickleball and volleyball.
  • A cafe serving healthy food.
  • A “Fort Mack” play space featuring slides and other fun equipment, to be used when siblings are in the pool or parents are taking classes.
Youngsters admire the light and airy new Y.

Youngsters admire the light and airy new Y.

  • A cycling room, with 21 new bikes.
  • 3 studios for dance, cardio and Zumba classes, and small-group personal training.
  • Adult locker rooms with steam and saunas. There are youth lockers too, plus a special one for families and dependent adults.
  • A large cardio and weight room — the Robin Tauck Wellness Center — filled with all new equipment. Large windows look out onto woods and the Saugatuck River.
Cardio machines are delivered to the Robin Tauck Wellness Center.

Cardio machines are delivered to the Robin Tauck Wellness Center.

It’s a serene setting — if you ignore the traffic speeding by on the nearby Merritt. (Every part of the building is oriented away from that side.)

The Y has planted 300 trees. They’ve regraded some of the Mahackeno land — and upgraded much of what was in the old Y.

The road from downtown to Mahackeno is fairly straight. But the route the Y has traveled had countless twists and turns.

Next month, they’ll unveil a new map. They hope it will guide them for the next 90 years.

Y - rear view

Jose Feliciano, Mimi Levitt Launch New Pavilion

Saying “I look forward to returning for years to come,” 93-year-old Mimi Levitt shined with excitement as she welcomed Westport’s newest jewel: the refurbished Levitt pavilion.

The $9 million public/private project — propelled by a $4.5 million grant from the Levitt Foundation — represents a complete overhaul of an already intriguing downtown attraction.

With a soaring, sail-inspired, state-of-the-art stage; a killer sound system; amenities like dressing rooms, food concessions, ramps and restrooms — plus a completely renovated riverwalk that now extends all the way to the point behind the pavilion — this Levitt marks the 2nd transformation of a former landfill.

Parks and Rec, politicians, architects and construction folks all took their bows.

Then Jose Feliciano took over. His kick-butt show is just the start of a summer filled with entertainment.

And there was not a mosquito in sight.

A small portion of the large crowd, and the new Levitt stage.

A small portion of the large crowd, and the new Levitt stage.

The one and only Jose Feliciano. The Weston resident donated his fee to the Levitt building fund.

The one and only Jose Feliciano. The Weston resident donated his fee to the Levitt building fund.

The lawn was full -- but there was plenty of room to relax.

The lawn is full — but there’s still plenty of room to relax.

Mimi Levitt -- 93 years young -- and her daughter Liz Levitt Hirsch.

Mimi Levitt — 93 years young — and her daughter Liz Levitt Hirsch.

Dancing in the aisle, to Jose Feliciano.

Dancing on the grass, to Jose Feliciano.

Freda and Carleigh Welsh: 2 of the driving forces behind the Levitt Pavilion's success.

Freda and Carleigh Welsh: 2 of the driving forces behind the Levitt Pavilion’s success.

The new Levitt has real restrooms. And they are already in use.

The new Levitt has real restrooms. And they are already in use.

The landscaping extends beyond the stage, out to the point where the Levitt juts into the Saugatuck River. A newly enhanced riverwalk adds to the beauty.

The landscaping extends beyond the stage, out to the point where the Levitt juts into the Saugatuck River. A newly enhanced riverwalk adds to the beauty.

Papa John’s Comes To Westport

Well, sort of.

I got a semi-frantic email yesterday, from an alert and very concerned “06880” reader. She wrote:

I was having dinner with my parents and a couple of their friends.

We were moaning about the  beach and some of the plans for downtown. Anyway, one of them asked if I had seen a sign for Papa John’s coming to Main Street in the old Remarkable Book Shop (Talbots).

I haven’t been down to investigate. Frankly, I’m not sure I can handle it. It might put me over the edge again, like Dunkin Donuts in Saugatuck.

Wondering what you know or have seen.

“06800” is a full-service blog. So I headed downtown — braving the art show crowds — and I can report that, without a doubt, it definitely is true.

The sign — at the corner of Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza — can’t be any clearer:

Pappajohn

 

 

Cool Weather For Very Hot Art Show And Book Sale

It’s a Westport rite of summer: Artists and art patrons bake on the blacktop at the annual Fine Arts Festival. Book lovers swelter in the Jesup Green tent, at the library book sale.

It’s a satisfying — if sweaty — search for gems.

This year is different. The temperature is in the mid-70s. There is no humidity. Clouds are keeping crowds away from the beach.

Compo’s loss is downtown’s gain.

Art show culptures frame the Saugatuck River.

Art show sculptures frame the Saugatuck River.

One of 130 artists shows off his work.

One of 130 artists shows off his work.

There is more artwork -- plus food and kids' activities -- on Gorham Island, adjacent to the Parker Harding lot.

There’s more art — plus food and kids’ activities — on Gorham Island, adjacent to the Parker Harding lot.

What's an arts festival without music. Bands play under a tent, next to the Saugatuck River.

What’s an arts festival without music? Bands play under a tent, next to the Saugatuck River.

Some book sale patrons can't wait to start reading what they've bought. Or maybe they're deciding whether  to buy.

Book sale patrons read up before deciding whether to buy.

The Westport Library book sale depends on the services of hundreds of volunteers.

The Westport Library book sale depends on the services of hundreds of volunteers.

Lots of people no longer needed their copies of this book. Lots of others were ready to buy them.

Lots of people no longer needed their copies of this book. Lots of others were ready to buy them.

The Downtown Merchants Association’s 41st annual Fine Arts Festival runs today — Saturday, July 19 — until 6 p.m., and tomorrow (Sunday, July 20) from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at Parker Harding Plaza and Gorham Island. Across the Post Road, the Westport Library book sale is on today until 6 p.m. It continues tomorrow from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Everything is half-price on Monday. On Tuesday, July 22 (9 a.m.-1 p.m.) it’s all free (donations are accepted).

 

 

Downtown Trees Get Priority Treatment

Remember all the hand-wringing 2 years ago, when trees were suddenly removed from Main Street? And when others were posted for removal in front of Town Hall?

Westporters love their trees. And, true to its campaign promises, the Marpe administration is making sure the next generation of trees gets the care they need.

A company cleverly named “Care of Trees” is deep-watering the roots of 5 new trees on Main Street, with an injection method. One or 2 slow-drip 20-gallon bags of water continue to nurture each tree throughout the week.

Tree care on Main Street.

Tree care on Main Street.

Taking care of young trees after planting is tricky, notes tree warden Bruce Lindsay.

“Their root systems are new. Watering is really important, to help them take hold. Street tree planting requires a great deal of planning, design, maintenance and funding to reach establishment.”

The Main Street trees were donated. The weekly cost of $300 per visit by Care of Trees comes out of the town’s tree maintenance budget. Lindsay says that after this year — once the trees are acclimated to the environmental conditions — watering will not be needed.

“The initial growing years are hardest on newly planted trees, especially in difficult site conditions like Main Street,” Lindsay notes. “Heat is radiated from cars, asphalt and sidewalks. There is limited root space and lower water access.”

The 8 new trees around Town Hall are getting the same treatment (below):

Tree in front of Town Hall

Meanwhile, Lindsay had a company trim and crown clean the trees around the Imperial Avenue parking lot, near the bridge leading to the newly renovated Levitt Pavilion.

Invasive growth was removed, and the area was scoured for safety and higher visiblity purposes. Each tree was climbed and cleaned, in a very detailed process.

Tree work being done near the Imperial Avenue foot bridge.

Tree work being done near the Imperial Avenue foot bridge.

Lindsay says, “People see me removing hazardous trees. But a lot of my job consists of stewardship: trimming, cleaning, watering. We want to make sure we preserve what we have, and mitigate any potential problems.”

Trees — their cutting, growth and regeneration — will continue to be a hot topic in Westport.

But right now, their maintenance has not fallen by the wayside.

Meet The Amazing Woman Around Whom Our Entire Universe Revolves

The 1st reaction to many “06880” entitled-parking photos is: “WTF?”

The 2nd is: “Where are the cops?”

Often, they’re powerless. They can’t intervene in private lots.

But Parker Harding Plaza is town-owned. Alert “06880” reader Amy Swanson captured this scene yesterday, around 3 pm:

Parking Parker Harding

Amy explains:

The woman in the Volvo decided her needs were more pressing than the owners of the 3 cars she blocked in, and left her car there for at least 10-15 minutes. Here she is trying to explain her way out of it.

One of the blocked drivers leaned into the car and said, “It’s people like you who give this town a bad name!”

In fact, there is a name for people like the Volvo driver. Too bad I can’t print it — this is a family-friendly blog.

But if you’ve got a non-X-rated word or two to describe people like her, click “Comments.” We’re all ears.

Another Park. Another Plan?

For many years, Luciano Park was a thriving neighborhood playground.

For 2 years during college, in fact, my summer job was supervising the small Saugatuck spot, between the railroad station and parking lot. Another counselor and I kept an eye on kids, organized a few games, and set up bus trips to amusement parks and Yankee Stadium.

Luciano Park, looking from Railroad Place and Charles Street toward the parking lot. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Luciano Park, looking from Railroad Place and Charles Street toward the parking lot. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Later, when Parks and Rec stopped funding the positions — and the area changed — Luciano Park was known mainly as the site of the annual Festival Italiano.

These days, it’s largely forgotten. And almost completely unused.

Home plate remains, but the rest of the softball diamond is gone. View is toward Railroad Place. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Home plate remains, but the rest of the softball diamond is gone. View is toward Railroad Place. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

The reasons are varied. Saugatuck is no longer a place of small homes and large families.

The few kids with free time in the summer don’t play baseball in parks. They don’t swing on swings.

No one does, anywhere in Westport — except for the very creative Compo playground, which has sand, water and food nearby.

The seldom-used playground equipment in Luciano Park. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Seldom-used playground equipment in Luciano Park. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

I was reminded of all this after receiving an email and photos from alert “06880” reader JP Vellotti. Walking through Luciano Park at 12:30 last Friday afternoon, without a soul in sight, he thought: “If there is a park in Westport that needs a master plan, this is it!”

He added:

As Westport thinks about its future, let’s give this park some thought. It need not only be for kids. Hundreds, maybe more, quite literally ‘park’ nearby every day.

Could this be a quiet place to sit before or after work? Why not add a fitness station as an alternative to the gym?

Good questions, all. And as Railroad Place prepares for the next stage of Saugatuck’s redevelopment, and residents throughout town ponder both Compo Beach and downtown improvements, why not add this tiny, valuable parcel into the planning mix?

(Photo/JP Vellotti)

(Photo/JP Vellotti)

Michele Bakes Her Last Westport Pies

Michele Stuart — owner of Michele’s Pies on the Post Road, across from the old post office — writes:

We are closing our Westport location this Sunday (July 20). We will relocate all of our business back to our original Norwalk location, and our Norwalk store will remain open. It is just 10 minutes from our Westport location.

We are excited about many new ventures. For example, we have been selling our pies on QVC. We also are excited about catering desserts for wedding, corporate events and private parties. Based on many requests, I will also do pie-making classes in the near future.

Michele Stuart, in her Westport store.

Michele Stuart, in her Westport store.

I have a young family, and I look forward to focusing on new opportunities that will allow me more family time. I thank Westport for all of their support over the last 3 years. Westport holds a close place in my heart, as I have lived here since I was 10. I am honored at the opportunity to have my store in this great town!

Come visit us in Norwalk (666 Main Avenue — Route 7 — near the Wilton line). We’re open Tuesday to Saturday (9 a.m.-6:30 p.m.) We will open on Sundays starting July 27 (10 a.m.-3 p.m.).