When the Westport Public Library moved to its current site in 1986, it was on — but not part of — the Saugatuck River. Not until renovation a decade later did the library take advantage of its spectacular location, with the addition of broad-windowed reading rooms, and an upgrade of the patio near the riverwalk.
The Levitt Pavilion got there 1st — it opened in 1973 — and for far longer it too has been a riverfront property in name more than fact.
Now the Levitt is ready for a facelift. A $5 million public-private partnership will provide a new performing stage, with amenities, and an actual entry pavilion. It will also bring the seating area closer –aesthetically, if not physically — to the river.
Though the entryway (with a concession stand, bathrooms and ticket booth; think Longshore, near the pool and tennis courts), and the enhanced stage (with more comfortable facilities for performers), have garnered most of the attention, the riverwalk aspect could have the greatest impact on the pavilion-going public.
Right now, the library riverwalk peters out where the Levitt begins. Thick underbrush obliterates much of the river view — and provides a perfect setting for a homeless encampment that few Westporters realize exist.
The proposed renovation — now working its way through town bodies — is one more way to make existing town-owned land more user-friendly. This fall, we’ve seen great improvements to the Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve and Pasacreta Park.
Now — after 36 years – it’s the Levitt’s turn.
It’s an idea whose time has come. But as we upgrade our premier outdoor performing arts center — as we make it truly a home away from home not just for concert-goers, but everyone who wants to embrace the river that runs through our town — let’s make sure we also take care of the men and women for whom the site is the only home they have.
The Levitt face-lift is going to be a fantastic project. I got a chance to see it as part of the Parks & Recreation Commission (I’m a member) and have watched it move through the town approval process thus far.
Thanks for your “shout out” regarding the pedestrian path that will be extended around the circumference of the Levitt peninsula as part of this project. The Park & Recreation Commission felt very strongly that this path needed to be an integral part of the development plan. For me personally, the path has been on my “Westport Wish List” for more than a decade.
I’m so glad that these projects were merged and are moving forward. Once all approvals are gained, hopefully there will be a vibrant financial response from Westporters when fund-raising begins. If so, we’ll see construction begin in fall 2010 and we’ll enjoy our first Levitt performances, our newly-opened views and our first hikes along the path by summer of 2011.