Downtown: 5 Months Since Sandy

Not to get all Chicken Little here, but shouldn’t Tuesday’s post — about the closing of Klaff’s — be a little worrisome to Westport?

The downtown lighting store — a Taylor Place anchor for at least 2 decades — is the latest victim of Hurricane Sandy. Though the showroom was not damaged, the stockroom and storage area downstairs were ruined. The store was closed for 2 weeks, and never recovered.

Meanwhile, on nearby Main Street, Chico’s and Sunglass Hut remain closed. It’s been over 5 months since the super-storm struck. And Sunglass Hut is on the far side of Main Street — away from the river.

Downtown Westport is far from dead. Paper Source and Steven Alan have moved into the 1st new building there since the Nixon administration, while the Westport Downtown Merchants Association — a clever, energetic group — brings life, creativity and human beings to that part of town.

The sign says, "We are temporarily closed. Please visit our other boutiques nearby!!" They're in Fairfield, Stamford and Milford.

The sign says, “We are temporarily closed. Please visit our other boutiques nearby!!” They’re in Fairfield, Stamford and Milford.

And yet…and yet…what’s the future of Main Street? How much flooding can those low-lying streets and parking lots endure? The next time — and there will be a next time — how many more corporate headquarters will say “See ya?” Even before the next time, how many leases coming up for renewal will not be renewed?

Sandy flooded the Westport Y big-time. And the damage did not just come from the river roaring up the road. Water rose from underneath, flooding the Y’s electrical system and nearly delivering a knockout punch.

What will that mean for development of the new Bedford Square — and what will it do to the cost of that retail/residential/office complex?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. But I do know that they haven’t been asked much, even as Main Street stores remain shuttered, and Klaff’s is ready to go.

And that lack of public discussion may be the biggest question mark of all.

UPDATE: As WestportNow pointed out yesterday, a 2nd Taylor Place business is also leaving. Chic Jolie, a women’s apparel store, will  close on April 30, and reopen the next day in Fairfield’s Brick Walk. The store was in Westport for just 8 months, but flooded twice.

12 responses to “Downtown: 5 Months Since Sandy

  1. Jamie Walsh

    And what about the other side of the river… Westport would not be the same if Art’s Deli closed after making a wonderful reappearance and the Save the Children Building? Yes, it might have been a once in a life event…but unlikely given the change in global patterns. I will say that the flood protection measures David Waldman incorporated in his renovation, to what is now the building housing The GAP, seems to have worked well and should be considered for other renovations. Problem is… water is water and it will find the path of least resistance so elimination is almost impossible unless you raise the elevation of 3/4’s of downtown Main Street and that is just cost prohibitive. Again, based on the last several years, it probably won’t be the last time we see it flood again, although I do have both my fingers and toes crossed in hope that it truly is a hundred year flood! Ahhh… Wishful thinking!

  2. isitpinworthy

    I have long been disappointed by the poor quality of much of Westport’s architecture. You mention the “1st new building [downtown] since the Nixon administration” in the context of bringing life and creativity to that part of the downtown. I drove by the new building yesterday and immediately thought of a converted Jiffy Lube. Why does it look like it used to be a garage? With the warm, inviting, impressive styles of the Y, the old town hall, the old library, Tavern on Main, the old National Hall, etc., I just wonder how this new building contributes to the character of the downtown, and how such a building manages to receive town approval. I’m sorry, I don’t see life or creativity there – I see a square brick box that would appear to have been a commercial garage in a past life that it didn’t actually have.

    • So you’d rather have an old charming building that always floods? I’d rather protect the businesses in town then worry about what a building looks like. It won’t matter what the building looks like if no one is occupying it.

    • The Paper Source is a nice store, however The Great American Stamp Store, behind Carvel’s, near Stile’s Market, on the Post Rd has similar items offered for sale, and, in my opinion, they have a better paper selection. If you are crafty, you must check out the “Stamp Store” it has a lot more than stamps!

  3. isitpinworthy

    Why do you think it has to be one without the other? A building with good architectural style somehow can’t incorporate flood protection measures?

    • Why do you think the architecture of a privately-owned building has to conform to what you feel qualifies as “character?”

  4. Kathi Sherman

    Instead of “elevating” the town and reconfiguring structures and architecture how about dredging the Saugatuck? I think it was done maybe 20 years ago and it alleviated high water problems then. Maybe it’s time to dredge again?

  5. Michael Traum

    People have short memories! The flooding will probably continue and, if you look at the post-Sandy renovations in the residential market, people will still want to live around water as this market has recovered nicely. As for these two businesses, many other businesses which were impacted far worse opened relatively quickly. I suspect that Sunglass Hut and Chico’s (over 2000 stores between them) probably have their corporate offices working on the insurance coverage to “recover” their losses. Could be where their real profit is.

  6. Westport Klaff’s was doing poorly long before Sandy hit their basement storage. Main Street is another problem.

  7. isitpinworthy

    I think the architecture of a privately owned building has to conform to certain standards because we as a society have decided that it does and that is why we have architectural review boards and zoning laws. Generally this protects property values and creates a positive public space for all who live in or visit the town. My comment was to lament the fact that in Westport I don’t feel we are doing a good enough job in this regard and consequently we have a brand new retail building that looks like a Valvoline in a prominent spot in our town center. I guess this doesn’t bother some, but I find it disappointing.

    • So if we “as a society” were to decide that all the buildings in downtown must be made of red brick, that would be OK with you. I prefer that the owners of the buildings exercise their rights of ownership unfettered by your preferences.