David Waldman: Westport Has Positive Stories. Let’s Promote Them!

David Waldman is a major presence in downtown Westport. Most recently he developed Bedford Square. His current project is a retail/residential complex on the site of the former Save the Children headquarters, on Wilton Road.

A few minutes ago, he sent an open letter to some of the town’s media, politicians and civic leaders. He wrote:

I put you all on the same email because Westport needs your help.

For the life of me I cannot figure out why no one appreciates all the incredible things downtown Westport has going for it: its beautiful architecture and history, incredible businesses and retail stores, world class restaurants. cultural venues and events, the Levitt, library, river, Farmers’ Market, and more.

None of the above seems to have translated into a real (and appropriate) sense of pride and excitement from the residents of Westport.

(Photo/John Videler)

All I seem to hear everywhere and all I seem to read in every publication, blog and news story, is a negative sentiment about downtown, retail and Westport.

Things like:

It’s too hard to get downtown.
Traffic is an issue and we need to address the intersections which are creating the traffic.

There are no mom-and-pop shops.
I am always amazed when I hear this since downtown is filled with many incredible mom-and-pops and small independent stores.

One of Westport’s mom-and-pop stores.

The landlords ruined the street by raising the rents.
I guess no one in Westport knows what supply and demand is.

It floods. 
It does, but it is always quickly re-opened, and measures are being taken by landlords to address and help mitigate these issues. That said, the town has a tremendous amount of infrastructure needs which cannot be pushed down the road again and again.

It is hard to park. 
This too has been improved with the new Elm Street lot and the combination of the Achorn’s lot with Baldwin.

It lost its charm.
I could not disagree more.

(Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

Amazon killed it.
Amazon changed the way people shop but it in no way killed downtown.  Downtown, like all great shopping and dining areas, has begun to change with the times. In the end you cannot eat, live and play in the internet. You can’t go to a library or arts festival in the internet.

The mall will be the last nail in the coffin.
Not everyone wants to shop in a mall. And if the mall is successful, it could be a benefit for downtown.

I miss the movie theaters. 
The Westport Cinema Initiative and other groups continue to try and make this happen.

It’s dirty.
Measures are being taken to solve this going forward through unified maintenance, new pedestrian amenities, unified garbage areas and porter service.

All of this negative commentary has led, in my opinion, to a sense of self-pity from our residents that our downtown is somehow second-rate and not worthy of praise or admiration. I hear this all too often from all too many people. If it keeps happening, the town will continue to lose it luster.

Parker Harding Plaza (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

So, what can we collectively do promote Westport in a more positive way?

In the end we need to start making the stories about the great things that are happening and the great things that will happen downtown. We need our residents to stop feeling bad about their downtown and start seeing just how vibrant and incredible it is.

How it provides a sense of community, how it provides a commercial revenue base which allows us to continue to maintain our lifestyles while keeping taxes lower. Stories about positive developments, incredible events, new stores,  new businesses and the individuals who run them.

We need to change the narrative so the residents of Westport again realize just how incredible their downtown is, and how important it is for the health of our great Town.

You all have control over the narrative.

Thank you for listening. I hope this will begin to start a more productive conversation. Westport never needed a PR person more in its history than it needs now. Westport has to take a more active role in promoting downtown.

65 responses to “David Waldman: Westport Has Positive Stories. Let’s Promote Them!

  1. When you appreciate the good, the good appreciates….

  2. Interesting comments. I guess I don’t understand supply and demand as Mr. Waldman glibly states. I would expect the many empty store fronts on Main Street I walked by Sunday would suggest that businesses are failing. I also understand from the store owners I’ve spoken to that their rent is often 30-40% of the operating expenses, and that the rent increases in the past few years have simply eaten up whatever profit they’ve been generating. Sales & revenue are clearly not growing at a rate to cover the rent increases for many store owners and thus, they close. Yes, others may leap into Westport thinking that they will succeed, but the turnover of stores downtown in the past 5 years would suggest that Westport’s retail community is simply not a growing destination for shoppers, and that increasing costs eventually do play a role in the recent commercial failures we’ve seen. I personally love to walk downtown and do whatever shopping I can locally. But like all businesses, there needs to be a value proposition for customers (goods, service, etc.); and they need to be able to operate in an economically sustainable manner.

  3. Agree, if the residents of Westport want a downtown shopping area then they need to promote and be positive about the benefits to the Town of the shopping area we now have. The retail world has changed but the need for Westport to have it’s very own retail area has become more important than ever. Without a vibrant retail area the economics of living in Westport will be demolished.

  4. This is disingenuous. I’m all for positive views – as well as realistic ones. There are more chains and high-high-end shops, more empty storefronts.

  5. GOOD SUMMARY DAVID . . I WOULD THINK THAT THE MAIN STREET VACANCY RATE WOULD ENCOURAGE LANDLORDS TO LOWER RENTS. HAS THIS BEEN EXPLORED?

  6. I would to see jim Marpe and Jen tooker and melissa Kane and all our state reps and state senators and jim. Himes and Dma And chamber please do a walk downtown I live down here I love it so i m asking after the election we all get together walk With the press and say how lucky we have a Great Downtown and it can get better we all need to work as a team

  7. For some reason the laws of supply and demand do not seem to apply to downtown Westport. To the best of my recollection, Talbots Petites left in 2012 and the space it occupied is still empty. Every shop I talk to who is leaving says it is because their rents are going up and yet there are more vacancies every day. What can the town do to create more incentives for landlords to lower rents and penalize empty storefronts? The market may eventually drive a correction in the long run, but in the long run we are all dead…

  8. David — You are absolutely right. We have so much to be thankful for here in Westport. I think you have contributed tremendously to making Westport an even more gorgeous downtown. It is difficult to find developers today who are so thoughtful about preserving the architecture of a town in a manner consistent with the history of a town. Whenever I drive by the old YMCA building and see what you have done, I am filled with gratitude that you made the construction so high-end, beautiful, and historically respectful.

    I also want to thank Matt Mandell, as the Chamber Chair, for all the innovative things he has done to promote downtown businesses and restaurants. The Supper & Soul events have been terrific. Matt chooses great music!
    I would also like to extend a deep debt of gratitude to our Representative, Jonathan Steinberg, for all the work he has done in getting monies for the Levitt, the Library, the Playhouse and more, to enrich the culture and beauty of Westport even more.
    Westport has terrific people serving on an unpaid basis in town government, and they, and the wonderful residents who compose this town, are also part of the reason it is a great place to live!

  9. David.
    I know you are doing a lot for the town and I think you have some really brilliant and smart ideas to make downtown Westport more attractive and livable and you are trying to connect the dots, aka integrating spaces, like the idea with the bridge over to the Saugatuck side or integrating Sconset Square.
    I live in the very southern part of Weston, so naturally Westport is my place to go shopping.
    Sometimes I go to New Canaan and for some reason, every time I’m there it is another feeling when you walk down Elm Street and the surrounding streets. It’s more cosy, more small town feeling. It’s a feeling I never have when I walk up Main Street or the surrounding streets.
    Rationally I can’t explain why, but I tell you I’m not the only one who thinks like that. I hear words like, empty, steril, no charm, no warmth etc etc
    I think it will not be done by only changing the narrative, being positive or telling positive stories about what’s happing, talking about events, new openings, etc.
    I think Westport needs a branding to make it a point of attraction, I don’t see any real ‘Westport Brand’, something that is edgy and modern to attract younger people and on the other side keeps up the charme and warmth of a New England town.
    When I first moved here six years ago, it felt more lively. Now it doesn’t, it’s tragic that half of the stores are empty on Main Street and that doesn’t support a positive feeling or narrative either.
    And here we come to one of the arguments which you think are negative:
    “The landlords ruined the street by raising the rents.” and you give the answer “I guess no one in Westport knows what supply and demand is.”
    Well, there can’t be that much demand, otherwise the stores wouldn’t be empty, but their is plenty of supply (empty stores), or the demand is there, but the people can’t finance it.
    So how changing the narrative, when one of the main points, the appearance of downtown gives such a triste picture?

    • I also go to new Canaan a lot, not nearly as many empty stores as Westport…

    • In response to my supply and demand comment. My point was, when supply was non existent and demand thru the roof (1996-2015/6) rent began to climb. As older mom and pop leases expired, fashion, makeup and furniture brands began to back fill those spaces and the Landlords all benefited as rent rose. They did not rise because we asked them to rise, they rose because the sales being achieved by these new Tenants justified the rent and thus, as sales continued to increase, Tenant began to pay more and more rent. What is disingenuous is to assume if you were the Landlord you would somehow take less money then is being offered to you. I think not. At the same time, the residents of Westport also benefited because its commercial base continued to grow. This kept our property taxes homes reasonable and competitive and allowed our Town to provide its residents with the lifestyle’s they moved to Westport to find.

      Fast forward to today and it is clear that supply now out weighs demand. While rents saw a peak in the mid 2000’s at $140-$160 per foot, today asking rents have fallen below $100 per foot (and could fall further). So yes, the Landlord’s who have vacancies will have to continue to improve their properties in order to attract tenants, unfortunately there just are not that many new Tenant’s looking at this point in time. In the last few months this has begun to change. Peloton just opened in the old Sperry Topsider space, Sundance clothing company is moving into the old Ann Taylor space and Lulu Lemon is expanding into the old Nike store. Additionally, a number of pop up stores are filling in the vacant storefronts. At Bedford Square, WAFU Korean BBQ and Noodle Bar just opened in our Courtyard (across from Amis) and Lillian August, who had been on the street in the prior years, is opening next spring adjacent to the new William Sonoma. Also, Tecknow, a mom and pop business venture started by Westport native Phil Levieff, just opened off Elm Street.

      • Korean BBQ- FANTASTIC. When did it open?

        David-thanks for investing in Westport. We desperately need it so we have a vibrant town.

  10. I agree it seems people spend more time nit picking than smelling the roses that exist all over the town including downtown.
    To paraphrase the great Yogi Berra…..No one goes there anymore, it is too hard to fnd an empty parking spot.
    The town might do simple posts in local media about the roses available to smell, or create more experience opportunities such as the “Slice….”

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      I would agree with this point, and expand on it a little. I don’t have the time to go down and wander and find my way around the new buildings. Give us one of those local hand drawn maps like so many areas have, that show the locations of the various stores and how to get there. I think this would benefit everyone.

  11. Celeste Champagne

    I hope everyone reads and absorbs this commentary. It is sad to see the empty stores on main street that once housed Chico’s, Ann Taylor, etc. As for the mall, which is not due to open for another year, saying that is scaring away businesses seems absurd. But then I am “born to shop” and feel the more the merrier–especially when it includes Nordstrom’s & Bloomingdale’s.

  12. It seems that the landlords would rather have an empty store for a few years, producing no income but hoping that someday someone will rent the space, rather than lowering the rents and actually renting it.

    • Most of the vacant storefronts are vacant because the buildings require flood-proofing. This can not be done while a Tenant is in the space and that is why we have more then a few vacancies on the parker harding side.

  13. All good thoughts. But I might add that the future of brick and mortar retail is experiential. I can find any item on line and often times cheaper. The stores downtown need to offer more instore experiences. Williams & Sonoma has always done this extremely well. Offering classes in store and tastings. Others have not. They are simply transactional. I would encourage all store owners to offer more unique experiences. I also think Main Street needs a social anchor. Like a Pain Quitidien. Where people can gather and socialize and then venture out.

  14. First, I feel this part was unecessary and a bit of a turn off:
    “The landlords ruined the street by raising the rents.
    I guess no one in Westport knows what supply and demand is.”

    Honestly? No one? Do you really guess that?

    Simply look at the turnover rate of stores on main street and lack of balance between chains and independent shops. It would be great if rent could be offered to independent retail & restaurants with more of a sliding scale.

    Second, I think we could use a great independent bookstore, an independent kitchen / home entertaining shop (not williams sonoma) and a few more cafes serving brunch, lunch and maybe dinner. What we don’t need are more banks, which detract immeasureably from a sense of charm and personal connection. Or Nail salons. I think we have enough of those in town as well. This is largely a family town, so I think retail serving families would be a good draw, including kids shoes, a stationery store, an ice cream shop, a bakery, even a small wine shop. To me, downtown still feels too much like a mall sometimes and there’s not enough of a draw to go there on a regular basis to socialize or shop. There are pockets of charm, but overall and main street in particular feel a bit lacking in soul and not overtly welcoming, with the exception of the cozy nook containing Tavern on Main and Saavy & Grace. Aux Delices is also a great spot, and I’m thankful they’re doing well! Additionally, I hope those LED Chistmas lights will be reconsidered and swapped out for warmer tones & greenery this year.

  15. “For the life of me I cannot figure out why no one appreciates all the incredible things downtown Westport has going for it: its beautiful architecture and history, incredible businesses and retail stores, world class restaurants. cultural venues and events, the Levitt, library, river, Farmers’ Market, and more…
    All I seem to hear everywhere and all I seem to read in every publication, blog and news story, is a negative sentiment about downtown, retail and Westport.“

    David, I think overall you have done a lot of good for downtown and I know you read “06880” at least some of the time because I have seen you comment here occasionally. So I am completely baffled as to how you can make the specific remarks I have highlighted above when Dan Woog publishes so many stories that publicize the many terrific and fascinating aspects of Westport—from cultural events to town history and beauty to the diverse offerings and services of area businesses to the accomplishments of local residents (including students).

    Yes, he also publishes stories that deal with negative happenings around town. But that is hardly the totality or even the focus of “06880”.

    So how is it that “all (you) seem to read in every publication, blog and news story, is a negative sentiment about downtown…”?

    In fact, Dan does such extensive publicizing of local cultural events on “06880” that a couple of us nominated him for a “Champion of the Arts Award” given by the WAAC. I can’t think of anyone more worthy of that award given all he does to promote the array of cultural happenings in town.

    • Fred, my comments were based on what I see and hear and read and yes, my open letter (which was meant to start the conversations we are having now) lumped everyone into one basket. For that I am sorry. That said, even with the positive stories which are of course run in all of our publications, blogs, it is the bad that seems to receives more air time and it has translated into a sentiment which, as I said, is unfortunate but hopefully reversible.

  16. Gerald F. Romano, Jr.

    David Waldman,
    I think the Glue to Down Town Westport was my Friend and Cousin
    Lee Papageorge. I ate there for over 30 years. He was the Icon “Oscar’s Deli” who drew the business people and shoppers to Westport when he passed and ‘Oscar’s Deli closed he took something with him. To me it was the end of an “Era”
    A New “Era” is coming…
    Sincerely,
    Gerald F. Romano, Jr.

  17. Valerie Ann Leff

    Isn’t there some kind of tax situation that makes is more advantageous for landlords to keep properties empty than to lower rents?
    Downtown Westport could be charming if there was a movie theatre, some good restaurants, an independent bookstore, office space for non-profits and more interesting shops. But the chain stores make it feel dead, Acqua closed, the Rye Ridge deli has lousy food and terrible service, Tavern on Main doesn’t have normal table service at night (they are fine for lunch), and yes, the place feels like a ghost town after 6pm. Church Lane is alive, because there are decent restaurants there like Spotted Horse and Pink Sumo as well as the Aux Delices Cafe. Saugatuck is alive for the same reason. Imagine a lively downtown Westport that felt like Chapel Street in New Haven. How about a boutique hotel with a great lobby bar? A toy shop? A Yoga studio? A health food restaurant? I can’t wait for the mall, because great towns are not make up of chain stores.
    My sense is that the landlords are just too greedy, they are being subsidized by tax laws and demand is definitely not meeting supply.

    • Chapel Street is a) in a City not a Town and b) part of a college town. Rye Ridge is excellent and Michael and Scott try hard to fill the very large shoes of Lee Papageorge.

  18. SUPPER & SOUL is this Saturday Night, the Dinner and Concert event that is everything Downtown. Here you can have a dinner and a show and then stick around and enjoy the late night scene. This is something the Chamber of Commerce has put together to make Downtown more interesting and inviting.

    Rising star Kasey Tyndall who Rolling Stone called “A bad ass rock-country artist” and the “#1 new country act to see,” will perform at the Seabury Center.

    For $75 you get a 3 course meal at 1 of 7 downtown restaurants, the concert and then happy hour pricing after the show at any of those 7. THIS IS DATE NIGHT IN A BOTTLE

    Support downtown, suppprt the Chamber’s efforts and at the same time have a great evening in Westport.

    http://www.westportwestonchamber.com/supper

  19. AMEN!

  20. David –

    We don’t always agree, but on this I 100% agree with you – our Downtown is (still) a jewel, with so much going for it; and I dare say the after 6:00 pm vibe is picking up.

    Is there room for improvement – of course, as with everything. But I don’t start from a negative view; Westport has a wonderful “downtown” which we should be proud of while we continue to work to improve what needs improving, and protect those defining characteristics that makes it such a wonderful and unique area, which continues to draw people here.

  21. Thank you, David, for such a thoughtful analysis! We are, in large measure, our stories. This is as true for our town and country as it is for us as individuals. Think of how Nelson Mandela changed the narrative of South Africa or how Annie Sullivan helped alter Helen Keller’s perception of her disabilities. These are famous examples and perhaps easy to dismiss. But they point to the same truth David does: Our perceptions of reality shape realty. Westport is indeed a wonderful place. A rarified place with tremendous natural beauty, a plethora of cultural amenities and great shopping. But as more and more vacancies pop up on Main Street and the Post Road, I’ve been increasingly worried about Westport’s future and have been more and more vocal about my concerns. I see now, though, that I’m not helping matters. It would be far more productive for me to stop saying downtown Westport is dying and start focusing on our town’s wonderful assets—and, of course, to patronize more of the shops and restaurants that are its lifeblood.

  22. David – I very much appreciate the care, patience and expertise that you have brought to our downtown development. I have been a Westport resident since 1973 and of course the town has seen many changes over those 45 years. I would observe that the same thing is happening in Saugatuck and the results are outstanding. It requires a people to have a vision, to commit a tremendous amount of capital and to be incredibly patient with our town bureaucracy and the many commentators who are quick to insult but slow to make the personal commitment that you and a handful of others have made. What you did for the Westport Y and how your rehabilitated their former, dilapidated downtown space, is amazing. By the way, your purchase price of course helped financed their incredible new facility which is a tremendous asset to our community. There are plenty of commentators who all have the perfect retail mix of independent vs national chain, longstanding merchant vs newcomer, but few do much to really impact our downtown. For those that do, thank you very much. You have done a lot and it shows and many in our town are very appreciative. Thank you for all your efforts. Thank you for your open letter – it has sparked a good dialog here and elsewhere. I know you believe in our town and many, many of us appreciate the impact you are having.

  23. Later hours on Friday/Saturday evenings might help with folks who aren’t able to shop during the week, but are down town for dinner and already in a pro-consumption mindset.

  24. Any chance Westport could get a Le Pain Quotidian ? I feel like we need more places to meet for coffee (in addition to starbucks and Aux Delice) on the main street. We are excited about the Korean BBQ and any other restaurants added.

  25. The narrative is going to change all by itself with Coleytown Middle School closed at least through the ‘19-20 school year. Perceptions of downtown will be the least of our worries.

  26. I am in total agreement with David Waldman. And Melissa Levy, you are so right, when we focus on the positive, that is indeed what we then see more of and ultimately manifest. We live in an amazing community.
    I truly believe that the future of retail and small towns lies with human connection and the tapestry we weave as our lives interconnect.
    In fact, I am such a believer, that I have partnered with Laura Maged in the ownership of the retail store WEST (117 Post Rd East). Another female owned local business that is a part of Westport, the town we call HOME.

  27. Thanks David Waldman for your insights and positive analysis. Westport has a wonderful downtown that continually improves and changes with the ups and downs of the economic cycles. My employer, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services New England just moved our office to a fabulous new location above Bar Taco & we are thrilled to be there. We now have spectacular views of the river and downtown!

  28. Michele Perkins

    One of the problems is that Bedford Square has supplanted Main Street. Main Street is not only devoid of retailers, but restaurants, coffee shops, movie theaters, and book stores as well. Westport’s town planners would do well to study the downtown areas of towns such as Darien, Wilton, New Canaan, and Greenwich. By comparison, Westport is a disgrace.

  29. Catherine Walsh

    David,
    I ‘m so glad you wrote this. The constant negativity is hard to take . As you point out, many of the Main Street shops are actually rented and are awaiting renovations or flood proofing. I love downtown. I shop at our shops, and eat at our restaurants. This summer was amazing with the music and events that many of our restaurateur’s provided. I find that the people who do most of the complaining are not participating in what is happening on a daily basis in Westport. Please keep doing what you’re doing. Perhaps the naysayers will eventually get off the couch and start living. ( BTW-I will continue to argue with you at P&Z meetings until we get it right)

  30. David, I think some of these comments are excellent. I think many residents want to see Main st. downsized. That is, no more chains. We’ve all seen enough gold plated GAPs, nail stores and banks. A theater (stage) would be perfect downtown. Once, the Art Center and “Theatre Artists Workshop of Westport” shared the same place. We were both asked to leave because Westport needed the space. Our theatre is still in Norwalk. TAW deserves to be back. You should add a small “black box” theatre to one of your buildings. Great theatre could be created within walking distance. The cinema effort will never happen unless it only shows foreign or older, specialized movies. Distributors will never allow a good film to be sent to a one-screen movie house especially with Bow Tie just down the road. Of course, the main thing to be aware of is the Saugatuck River putting Main St. under water. It is following the script of Global Warming. It’s sad. There’s not much we can do. Flood walls and sandbags won’t be enough.

    • When you leave Bow Tie where do you eat? Not next to the movie theatre. We have great restraurant choices in Westport and we are so close. Every person leaving that theatre has to drive. Westport has added some great spots to eat. Some in town and some across the river. It’s busy. We have a great town and great venues. Hope David adds more.

      • Agree with Bart. Mr. Waldman, has made Westport an even better place to live, work, dine and shop. Thanks for investing in Westport, David.

  31. Nice to hear from a positive viewpoint.
    Well done.

  32. Over the years the comments have all pointed to one problem, that retail is like social media: good when it is mostly local, but not good when it gets taken over by bigger interests. And unfortunately, like social media, the nationalization seems inescapable because there is too much money to be had (and spent) by the national chains. – Chris Woods

    • Not true and hopefully this mom and pop nonsense will stop. Have you been to Lulu Lemaon recently? Packed. How about Athleta? Packed. And who do you think works there. Local Westport people.

      We could use a few more restaurants and a fun bar along with the one at Bar Taco. But that will take Westporters to frequent them
      As we learned with the Black Duck.

      But David has told us more is coming and it is exciting. Our downtown is wonderful and about to get better.

  33. Maybe off topic abit but has anyone considered the uniqueness the Saugatuck river has pertaining to downtown ? New Canaan doesn’t have it , neither does Darien. Maybe one way to allow Main Street to continue to improve is to connect it back to the river . I recall hearing of places being reborn around the water aspect the area and have done very well since. Lots of small old New England Ports of call (aka towns) thriving because they keep it real , unpretentious, cool and accessible . Anyway to get the New Haven line connected to main st. in a stylish /cool way?

    • I wholeheartedly agree, I was in Kingston up the Hudson the other day, they revived the whole waterfront with restaurants, galleries, cafés, small stores etc. Even a boat tours start from there to go out to the Hudson.
      Very nicely done, very lively.
      But that means, the whole backside with the rear entrances of the stores, which have never been really inviting and the parking lot of the Parker Harding Plaza has to be changed.
      It would also make sense to have a connection to the other side of the Saugatuck via a pedestrian bridge, as it once was planned by David Waldman.

  34. Come visit Keene, NH to see what makes a vibrant downtown. It is always hopping!

    • Pat-thendiffernce in CT is the state is having serious financial issues and it’s not a happy place to be. Many homes for sale and people talking all the time about leaving.

      I expect the nasty comments back but it’s the truth.

  35. Every comment above has relevance. Both the good, the bad and the suggestions. If they all could be realized, Main Street would become a place for Westporters to congregate and shop again. David Waldman must not ignore the comments that dis the street if he wants to make it hop again. The residents know what is needed, he shouldn’t ignore nor rationalize the negative comments but should find a way to incorporate them If there could be a questionnaire on 06880 it would be interesting to see many more residents’ comments. I KNOW really nice mom and pop stores cannot afford the rents, so he has to consider that if he wants REAL mom and pop stores to exist, which we residents sorely miss. And I’ll add my comment to the problems: there are not enough handicap parking spaces, people with disabilities often cannot park the distance from the Elm St lot or beyond, to easily reach Main Street. I wonder if David has ever visited the downtown of Northampton, Mass- it’s a true delight for everyone. VERY FEW IF ANY CHAINS, and a lot of Mom and Pops. Franchises do exist there, but nothing is GLITZY or tawdry. The way our Main is going we’ll soon have a McDonalds or A Burger King. How about a return to a cafe that was here in 80s like Atticus where all artists and residents seemed to gather during the day? and a REAL hardware store now that Ace is gone?

  36. Rebecca Ellsley

    With the holidays coming we all could use some cheer. Please consider warm white lights and lots of greenery to decorate and make town look festive and cheery. If store owners can’t afford to decorated then landlords should. Maybe have a festival of smaller shops in a space that can split up the rent so it’s afforable. By having a few temporary shops helps bring people to town to shop some of the more established stores. We have a wonderful town but Main Street feels sterile and lost.

  37. Laurette Shrage

    This is a wonderful article. Westport has much to offer. New Years Eve for example in Downtown Westport is always memorable. The Westport Playhouse, town Hall theater, are two of my favorites. Then there is a wonderful German restaurant we recently discovered and we must not forget The Spotted Horse with it’s great atmosphere and menu. We have been living in Weston for 20 years and continue to discover the great things available right here in Weston and Westport. No need to travel anywhere else. Thank you David for pointing out how special it is here and how lucky we are.

  38. Don L. Bergmann

    Many of us have worked with David and thanked him personally for his fine physical contributions to our great Town. His letter and all of your responses provide an intellectual contribution, one also full of emotion, sensitivity, interest and many good ideas. To all, stay involved and thanks again David.

    Don Bergmann

  39. Bill Boyd... Staples 66

    Very good thoughts from all..it seems like a “perfect storm” has affected the downtown…I moved here with my family in 1959. The YMCA was a social anchor…kids were there every day and parents came to pick us up. The Y is gone…times change…much more competition for shopping dollars… So..yes…a social anchor is needed..Oscar’s was one… The Y another…kids don’t have the free time we enjoyed fifty years ago…it’s an accumulation of factors….I think it will get sorted out as the issues are addressed…Westport is lucky to have Mr Waldman.

  40. What a great article! Thanks, David and Dan for posting.
    As a shop manager in Bedford Square, I cant say enough great things about our downtown. Every week there is something fun going on for everyone. My best friend always said “if you had a great time, you brought it with you.” Come visit Westport and see what great new things are happening downtown.

  41. I probably go to downtown Westport one or twice a month at most. There are no places to buy everyday necessities like groceries, wine, housewares, hardware, pharmacy. These staples are moving steadily to the far edges of town, requiring one to traverse an increasingly traffic-clogged U.S.1

    Nor is there an inviting selection of places for walk-in casual dining: Rye Ridge and Spotted Horse, yes, but otherwise, fancier places you wouldn’t just walk into off the street.

    Without daily-shopping anchors — and as others have mentioned, without the Y and the movie theaters — downtown has become a place for special occasions and infrequent purchase categories.

    Even in remote Weston, our tiny town center has all the necessities in one place. For greater selection, we prefer to go to Fairfield and Wilton.

  42. It’s about time we had this discussion; thanks to David for getting it started. I am not a naysayer about downtown, which is a vibrant place for many reasons. But there is a lot of room for improvement. I would start with redesigning Parker Harding Plaza to take better advantage of the riverfront and replace whatever parking is lost with a modest parking structure on the Baldwin lot with liner buildings between that structure and the street. I would encourage repopulating the area by changing the zoning regulations to reward construction of apartments. I would relax zoning restrictions to provide a realistic opportunity for a movie house and community event venue on or near Main Street, (an initiative recently proposed by the Coalition for Westport but rejected by the P&Z [with 2 abstentions] for reasons which seem to have more to do with the specifics of the proposed amendment than with the concept.) And finally, I would encourage consideration of what are sometimes called “experiential” uses which attract community participation, to vary the primarily retail character of Main Street.

    • Catherine Walsh

      Larry, as you well know, movie theaters have been a permitted use in downtown for more than 30 years. When the P&Z commission makes decisions on text amendments it’s always about the specifics and the impact of every item in the text amendment on the entire town. Your text amendment was turned down for many reasons and it’s documented in our resolution.

      I do agree with you and encourage “experimental” uses. This summer Rothbard and Ale and Jesup Hall stepped up and added a new dimension to the dining scene in town. They both added outdoor music and events which were enormous successes.

      I also agree with you regarding Parker Harding. I know a plan is being moved forward and it couldn’t happen soon enough for me.

    • Again,,,,, Mr. Weismann is spot on.

  43. As someone who has lived in town since I moved here from NYC, and a non driver, I have always loved the ease and charm of downtown Westport. Regardless of your budget you can shop at The Gap or Vince; you can have happy hour at Pink Sumo (cheap and fun🍣🍷🥢), or splurge on a delicious burger at Le Penguin. Joe at Rothbard is constantly coming up with fun themes at his yummy restaurant— whether you’re a family with kids or hipsters there’s something for everyone!
    I’ve never been an online shopper: I finally started using Chewy because it was breaking my back carrying kitty litter… but I can attest to the fact that the UPS guy, FedEx, et al delivers nonstop on my tiny street.
    I have many young mothers as clients, and the ease they find in doing all their shopping online is a subject I don’t touch anymore.
    As Sarah of Dovecote says: If you want a thriving downtown you have to shop there.
    Cheaper isn’t always better when you’re left with strip malls and big box stores.

  44. What Cathy says about theaters being a permitted use is correct, but I would respectfully suggest that there is a difference between “permitting” and “encouraging” a particular use, and that the current restrictions on size, coverage, setbacks, height and the like neither accommodate nor encourage theaters. I think that the P&Z fails to understand that relaxation of restrictions and tailoring the regulations to promote that goal are the most effective tools for achieving that end.

  45. Three cheers for Downtown Westport.

    To us, it’s familiar so we don’t appreciate it so much. The Route 33 and PostRoad intersection can be a traffic jam problem at around noon and five o’clock, but it is usually okay. Otherwise downtown is a pretty easy place to get around. Having learned to park in Manhattan, downtown Westport is a snap. The library is a mess right now but it will soon be amazing once more. Bedford Square is amazing and I’m looking forward to seeing David Waldman’s finished “Save the Children” project. A question is: Will he put a pedestrian bridge across the Saugatuck River? Lastly, it isn’t downtown, but 06880 is also amazing.

  46. My wife and I travel a fair amount around New England, and I’ve been increasingly troubled by the fact that so many locales seem more interesting than my own. This has long baffled me, since a town possessing as much wealth, creativity and artistic sensibility as Westport has for many years should be one of the region’s jewels.

    Mr. Waldman seems to be telling us that Westport actually IS such a place and, if I’m reading him correctly, he’s blaming its increasingly prosaic reputation on our own collective bad attitude. And while he’s right that the problem does become circular to a degree, he’s wrong to be suggesting that to fix things all we have to do is get our minds right. He provides a long list of the complaints people have and then pretty much dismisses them all.

    I’ve thought for a long time now about what it is that other New England towns have that we lack. I’ve concluded that the unfavorable contrast boils down mainly to the differing ways in which places have integrated their own histories into their growth. Westport has become a tear-down culture and it shows in both our residential and commercial development. “Charm” is an over-used word but I suppose it captures as well as any at least one dimension of what I’m getting at here. And charm, by its nature, has to emerge organically over time. It can’t be imposed quickly by large developers and top-down planners, no matter how good they are or how talented the architects they hire to design new structures.

    God bless the people who have now apparently rescued the Black Duck, and thanks to Dan for publicizing this situation. This is just one example though, and the place is still seemingly a doomed anachronism. It’s nothing but a funky little dive, but people feel good about themselves and about one another there. Other restaurants, bars, stores and entertainment venues attract their own unique clienteles, some upscale, some downscale, and the interaction among all these diverse groupings is what creates a vibrant local culture.

    You could shoot a cannonball down Main Street after dark and not hit anybody or probably even wake many people up.

    I can’t offer any grand solution for the problem I’m talking about here since grand solutions can only aggravate it. I would just ask, as others have, that own town leaders be more sensitive to protecting what we have left before it’s too late. They should see their jobs as creating a political infrastructure that’s conducive to organic growth in the years ahead.

  47. Having moved from the Scarsdale area, I have a huge appreciation for Westport’s downtown. Has anyone been there or lived there? There’s metered parking and the nastiest meter maids stalk the meters, even with the meters the parking is horrific, every time you bump into a friend you’re both looking at your watches because everyone’s meter is always about to run out, there are almost no good places to eat a real meal, and most of the store fronts are banks, jewelry stores, and then real estate office after real estate office. My friends from that area come to Westport as a destination-downtown to shop, eat, and roam around. I, for one, love the effort that has been put into making our downtown relevant and pretty. Thanks!

  48. The fox guarding the hen house is blaming the chickens for staying away?

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