Saving Main Street

Everyone talks about the empty storefronts on Main Street.

Evan Chevrier documented them.

The other day the 9-year Westport resident — a New York-based TV producer — went up and down the fabled artery, with a camera.

This is what he found:

“Most are quick to blame greedy landlords and their unsustainable rents,” he says. “And they may be right.

“But our only chance at saving Main Street is to take our fight to the people who can do something about it.

“Most building owners have no vested interest in the preservation of our downtown area. They only care about their bottom line. And for them an empty lot in Westport is barely a blip on the radar.

“It’s up to our town leadership to step up, and stop waiting around for things to get better on their own. And they need to do it before it’s too late, and Main Street becomes a ghost town.”

Thoughts? Is this a local government issue? Can town officials affect or impact landlords? Is there a citizen-oriented, out-of-the-box solution? Click “Comments” below.

65 responses to “Saving Main Street

  1. Tom Duquette, SHS '75

    “Most are quick to blame greedy landlords and their unsustainable rents,” he says. “And they may be right.

    A nine year old kid said this? Wow. I cannot conceive of being so erudite and aware at his age. My world was about TV shows and playing with my friends. This young man is going places.

  2. How many are vacant and waiting for a lease? How many are vacant during a period of repair?

  3. Besides blaming others, there is a simple solution every resident can do – start shopping and dining downtown. No business can sustain itself with customers.

    • Exactly Randy, need to stop blaming the landlords and shopping and dining downtown more.

      • Bruce Fernie - SHS 1970

        If the landlords and their banker partners are only chasing the highest return with no concern for mix or retail offering… yes we can blame the greed of the landlords.

    • So the blame, according to the Executive Director of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association rests, in part, on disobedient and ungrateful Westport residents. It hadn’t occurred to me that the retail malaise on Main Street is actually my fault. But now I understand that it’s my duty to consume stuff that I don’t need. By the way, Randy, you’re welcome for the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars that are flowing to such boondoggles as the Elm Street parking lot. Your members were supposed to pay for that thing. Not residents. But here we are.

      • Go Morley!
        Shopping for crap one does not need is only momentarily fulfilling and maybe Westporters are waking up to that.

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      I would love to dine downtown, but besides Rye Ridge, there aren’t really kid friendly options anymore. We went to Fairfield twice this weekend, because I could bring a 2 year old and a 9 year old out to eat, Flipside Burgers and Colony. It was less than $100 for each visit, they had kid appropriate space, ambiance, and food options. We have lovely upscale options downtown, but we have a lot of families who want to spend time together.
      Maybe look for things that might be more fitting and appropriate, for the customers that are here.

    • We do Randy, but there is only so much furniture and useless items like $50.00 cooking spatulas I need. All the money that has poured into the downtown area and it just gets bigger and emptier? Give us a bookstore or something more than empty store fronts and disappearing Mom and Pops!

    • We spend money almost everyday at some business downtown and eat or purchase something at the Rye Ridge almost everyday? Not sure what we are doing wrong? Seems the blend of retail is great if you are looking to redecorate or by a housewarming gift…. but day to day…not a lot to capture our attention outside of some go to restaurants, Levitt and library.

      PS: live within a “stones throw” from downtown for over 22 Years. Got street cred!

  4. Not just on Main Street, Westport. “Downtown Norwalk,” the area around Wall Street and the late Garden Cinema, just lost Fat Cat Pizza after 14 successful years due to a rent increase. And another successful restaurant right next door, Peaches, is moving to NYC. Well, good for them.

    I just don’t get the greed of landlords. Are their operating costs really rising so quickly that they need to drive a successful tenant out by raising the rent? How does this make long-term business sense?

    NYC famously had rent control and later rent stabilization on residential apartments. Has a town every done that with commercial rentals? I’m ignorant. But this is clearly a situation not getting better on its own.

  5. This is not unique to Westport. We recently spent a few days in Manhattan- there are many vacancies there, as well as other towns. It would be interesting to hear from local landlords.

  6. I’ve got a proposal for real estate property owners and landlords. I used to represent several national REITS and also small CRE property owners and retail landlords, in a public affairs and PR capacity. There are different ways to approach the landlord/tenant relationship.

  7. Our local government does many things well. But picking winners and losers is not one of them. And, as is painfully clear from a survey of nearly any town-owned facility or site, the required culture of sustained, consistent maintenance does not yet exist in a meaningful way.

    I understand that a number of new businesses will soon be opening on Main Street, so the picture is much better than it seems at present. In any event, this challenge, which isn’t unique to Westport, is likely going to take a long, long time to sort itself out.

  8. One of the stores shown here is now the home of New England Hemp Farm.. I will say the support from the local community and our landlord has been wonderful.. agree with other readers, the more we can support our Main Street partners, the more Main Street and our town will flourish

    Again thank you all for your support

    • Matt, the photo seen here is next door to New England Hemp Farm, in the space previously occupied by Williams Sonoma.

  9. Chip Stephens, SHS 73

    As has been commented before invother letters and responses Main Street is a work in progress. Yes rates are high and getting higher, but if you look below the surface almost all if not all of the empty storefronts are under contract for new tenants with new names.
    The new tenants with rear entrance is on Parker Harding wanted floodproofing which has been accomplished over the past nine months in most of the stores. Other buildings like banana republic will be divided for smaller retail space.
    Local officials have been active, especially the planning and zoning commission, invlistening to the needs of owners and developers and have granted leeway in granting approvals under our regulations and newer Historic district overlay regulation.
    Westport downtown has a diversity of style and beauty, and diversity of ownership, developers, and dedicated parties like the DMA and chamber, none of whom want to see the demise of Westport downtown let alone lose money. Have faith

  10. Thank you Dan…once again for bringing attention to issues of great social importance to Westport and in this case the rest of our country as well. You featured a story not long ago about how Rick Yarmy of Win Properties generously allowed me to create POP’T ART Gallery @#1MainSt. which is now a non-profit to bring “local art to local people”. The big picture to all this is we have heard for a long time “Main St is dying”… all across the country. There are many reasons for this and they are real. Boutique shops give way to National Brands that can weather the high costs of running retail space. Undercapitalized small businesses without the deep corporate pockets need to “make it” fast and stay above the red line, the chipping away by on-line shopping for price, selection, and convenience, etc. etc. Places like Anthropology & Terrain have been mavericks in their thinking to create scalable boutique-y success stories but business is unforgiving by definition.
    What we have here in Westport, a living Main Street, is quickly becoming unique and rarer every day. We have the opportunity to become and remain a destination if we embrace it’s the importance of creating and curating the “culture” of what it means to be ‘Westport’….and pay for it. The message needs to come from the people who live here and the people they elect and appoint to the town hall governing bodies that have a vision for the future and the will to make it happen. It’s not a task for the faint-hearted, I advocate for meaningful funding of all the arts to keep Westport a destination especially Main St. Why? because the arts are the culture I speak of. Thank you Dan and especially Rick Yarmy and Win Properties.

  11. Quite simply, Main St. is no longer the main street. This vital artery used to be a social and cultural center as well as a commercial center and paying attention to that fact is the key. Gone are the movie theaters and related businesses that made downtown a destination. Gone are the small shops run by mom and pop. Blame who ever you want. Four miles away is a new mall. They’ve done the research and have tried to create cultural and social reasons to attract people (customers) while Westport already has the environment the mall has worked so hard to emulate. It’s time to give lower Main St. over to the pedestrians. Close Main St. off between the Post Rd. and Elm St. Create a piazza populated by cafes, restaurants and satelite shops of larger stores out into the open air. Tours, France illustrates a great example of how to save a downtown. https://www.experienceloire.com/tours.htm

    • I agree with you Carmine, there is no benefit to parking cars on main st. Having travelled Europe extensively almost every town “worth” visiting has closed main st to traffic and made it a pedestrian experience.

    • Thank you for your comment. I could not agree more. During the summer it makes perfect sense and having just returned from Italy and Spain they have heaters outside and people sit outside in 40 degree weather with blankets and heat warmers. What a social and great way to spend the winter months. Let’s close Main Street and make it for pedestrians!

  12. Is this a government issue? Is this a landlord issue? If so, then every town across America has the same problem with landlords and town officials. It just came to my attention that Kirby and Company, with 2 locations in Darien is closing. Darien has the same issue as well. By way of background, I am someone who opened a store on Main Street due to sentimental reasons and my belief if Westport did so knowing the business model was going to need constant tweaking to adapt to the changing market of retail. As a retailer who is on Main Street 60-80 hours a week, I can tell you first hand neither is the cause. However, they could be part of the solution.
    When one goes to downtown Fairfield, what do you see? What do they have that Westport and Darien don’t? I’ll tell you, college kids with their friends or with their parents from out of state shopping. Fairfield has the advantage of Fairfield University and Sacred Heart to help boost traffic which is really needed for a successful downtown. When there is traffic, the business will follow. When I was a kid, Fairfield did not have the restaurants and stores that there are now. Those colleges were much smaller back then as well. On the contrary, it was Westport that was the town of destination for shopping and eating. It can be again.
    Did anyone watch Frontline documentary: Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos? If not, please watch it. Knowledge is power. Shopping patterns are changing beyond quickly, people are shopping online more and more. That being said, Westport is a very special town. We can and people are working daily on this very issue. The DMA works behind the scenes with town officials to enhance downtown with various events, decorations, etc.
    SHOPPING LOCAL is the first answer, now how you get people to DO IT is the REAL QUESTION. I am not sure of the answers yet, but I have been trying as well. I created the first outdoor market last year which was a success to get people downtown. I also tried bringing local musical talent to Main Street last summer by having “Busking Saturdays” out on the sidewalk. I also buy all I can locally. I have done all my Christmas shopping locally as well. I do know this, Westport has and is the most beautiful downtown. I still admire its beauty every day. Every person who consciously supports local business makes the imperative difference.
    Yes, it will take us as a community to reverse the damage that has taken place. We also have to admit we are part of the problem, every time we go to the computer to purchase something, anything…we are helping to create the dilemma all towns with brick & mortar stores still left are facing. I think we can all agree, Westport Downtown is worth saving.
    I also know this, if any town can do it, it will be Westport.

    • Annette – Savvy & Grace is exactly the kind of store that everyone is all of the news about the state of downtown claims they crave – so I hope that Westport will continue to support you and all of the other businesses.
      Your thoughtful comments and first hand knowledge are very valuable to this conversation. As a Westporter who believes in our downtown and also lives within walking distance to Main Street, I see your efforts to bring fresh energy and new ideas as incredible. Thank you!

  13. We moved here nearly 3 years ago and it feels like things have been going downhill since. I desperately want to do something. I support mom and pop stores whenever I can. I am devastated that Lang’s has closed in Weston. I used them as my pharmacist and gift shop. I do know we need to change our shopping habits again to consciously support our downtown mom and pop stores. With everyone going to Amazon for the convenience it’s no wonder that our local stores are closing. If there are other things that people can suggest we do, please post. Thank you.

  14. Revitalize the waterfront , make it a destinstion for people to hang out. So many places have succeeded doing this , why cant we?

    • Yes agree. It depends on the tide cycle, when something is playing at the Levitt I will see boats sitting out there.
      Once in a while, I see a boat tied off probably to go check out the area and maybe get bit to eat.

  15. They are many communities in Europe where old store fronts get converted into residential living places. That allows for a healthy and mixed life style and has revitalized theses centers again. Just in the ‘olden days’ when people actually lived above, around or next door to shops.

  16. One way to help keep store on Main Street open is to purchase directly from them instead of online. Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn and West Elm stores receive “credit” when customers call the store to place orders. Therefore, when you’re surfing the web and come across an item from any one of these stores that you’d like to order, please call the store to place the order!! Let’s help keep Westport Main Street occupied!!

  17. Danielle Teplica

    Soul. A search for “Thriving Main Street New England” brings up links like this: https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/massachusetts/main-streets-ma/. The articles feature small town main streets that have been historically preserved to the extent that they have visual and historic charm, combined with a variety of independent businesses (general store, sandwich shop, ice cream shop) with a sprinkling of the franchises. Most of the storefronts are historically preserved. Could we prioritize recapturing the historic and unique charm of our small town so it offers something internet shopping doesn’t offer? We could keep the chain stores, but change storefronts and reprioritize going forward with incentives to businesses that provide the most promise for giving Main Street its soul.

  18. Patricia McMahon

    I’m with you Robbie.
    Make our waterfront a gathering place for this community with cafes , shops etc…
    I recently did a photoshoot for the Mystic Chamber of commerce and was so pleasantly surprised how retail and the restaurants are thriving . Extremely charming and welcoming .
    Westport needs to get back to that .

  19. I Spent Sumers for over 20 Years at my Grandparents Home on Compo Beach #39 Soundview Drive and remember shopping with my Grandparents on Main street.We used to get our grocery’s from the Westport market. The point is maybe as residents you need to spend more local $ supporting business’s.Maybe as many towns have done revitalize a purpose for making Main street a fun destination.

  20. Just taking a look every day at the years empty former home of the Remarkable Bookshop tells the WHOLE STORY. Everyone’s comment is right on . All the above comments are the reasons why Main Street is no longer the Main Street it once was. All the above suggestions and many more would have to be implemented before it once again becomes viable. I think it’s become Rodeo Drive /Madison Avenue. If the soul of this town is Main Street it needs mom and pop stores so badly, family friendly businesses , a. hardware store. an ice cream parlor etc etc etc.yes, you can find all these things elsewhere in surrounding towns. but talking about our Main Street, nothing will change until landlords change their rents to allow small mom and business to flourish. Don’t blame the shoppers.

  21. The vacancies on Main Street are not entirely because of greedy landlords, as every landlord on Main Street will make any reasonable deal and lower their rents dramatically for any logical tenant. The issue is simple – it’s called on line purchases. People no longer go shopping. They would rather play on their computers, have UPS deliver boxes, and take what they want and return what they don’t want. It is, of course, absolute inanity and if people don’t stop shopping on line, vacancies will continue just look at the massive store closings around the country – Barneys, Bed Bath & Beyond, Papyrus, Stamford Mall, and Lord & Taylor, to name a few.

  22. I am personally committed to more local shopping and less Amazon!

  23. As mentioned, the problem is far from being just a Westport problem. Long term, the market will dictate to landlords that they will have to come to the realization that they have to reduce their rents and at some point that will allow more retailers to be created. Westport could jump start the process by instituting a vacancy tax, which will cause the landlords to be more proactive in lowering rents, seeking tenants, and even lowering rents even more on a temporary basis to allow for “pop-up” tennan’s.

  24. I’d wager that any 9 year old would give a big thumbs down on Main St.
    And the new SONO mall would get the same vote from his parents.

  25. Hello from the Remarkable Theater, a nonprofit group working to bring an art-house cinema downtown that show first run independent films, documentaries, and classic movies. The Remarkable Theater will also train and employ people with disabilities! People miss the community feeling of coming downtown to see a movie, running into friends and neighbors at the theater, and walking around to shop and grab a meal before or after seeing a film.

    And, there is evidence that movie theaters have a strong stimulating effect on the local economy by creating additional foot traffic and activity, and many examples nationwide of theaters bringing life back to communities. Just one is not far away from us in Pleasantville, NY, a town that was completely turned around by the development of the Jacob Burns Theater. https://patch.com/new-york/pleasantville/jacob-burns-film-center-economic-engine.

    If you’d like to be a part of the return of movies to the heart of downtown Westport — to add vibrancy downtown, to bring something wonderful to our community, and to support the employment of people with disabilities — contact us at info@remarkabletheater.org to find out more and to get involved.

  26. The only thing I’ve ever bought on Amazon are copies of my novel
    “The Regular”, a fictionalized account of very real events that occur in the tony, high-class cocktail bars in the suburbs north of the city, in a town eerily similar to Westport.

  27. My impression from watching store openings on 06880 is there are too many stores selling things that really aren’t needed, especially for repeat sales. And there are too many stores all over town. Sell more useful stuff and convert some of the stores to housing, which might provide more customers and a downtown environment.

  28. Let me rethink my previous comment that the market will self-correct. What if the internet makes retail impossible, even if the rent was free? Sure, individual retailers might try value-added services, but this would only work for a few retailers, and with the loss of a mass of stores to draw customers from, that would bring about the loss of restaurants as well. The parking lots will become superfluous. We already saw a time when malls threatened downtowns across the country. We might have to adapt to a smaller retail footprint and rezone commercial lands for office buildings or residential use.

  29. The town needs to develop a plan which would encourage restaurants and other businesses not strictly retail to open downtown. Removing any restrictions on outdoor dining would aid in the process. Retail as we have known it for decades may never be coming back. Other options must be developed as a matter of public policy

    Main Street has ,omg been quiet at nite. Now it’s worse.

    • There are no real restrictions on Outdoor Eating Areas – you just apply for the permit. To the extent that there are restrictions, these are flagrantly ignored with zero consequence.

  30. Hard to believe there isn’t a single very well off entrepreneur who could easily afford to reopen the remarkable bookshop. Yes, you can preview books online but you really can’t browse or get a recommendation from store owner you know and trust or run into a neighbor and go out for coffee. Then we’d see if there really is a pent up demand for local retail or if we’re all just pining for the way things used to be.

  31. Perhaps we as a community could take a real constructive approach. I like what other commenters have said about making downtown a destination and the success of Mystic (& Fairfield) in doing so. I went to the Hamptons last summer – and I suggest we could market Westport as the “Hamptons of CT” and draw people to Westport. Make downtown a pedestrian walkway, bring in more art shows, food festivals, etc to create excitement (maybe a movie theater). Market Westport like other destinations are marketed with cute maps of shops in town, the beach, etc. Create the downtown area as a place to go, to see people. We have the Levitt which is so wonderful and beautiful setting – there are a lot of smart talented professionals here, let’s get together and promote Westport.

  32. Re-post from a couple of years ago…

    It’s not the landlord’s fault! The problem is not the rents, private business will figure all that out IF there are customers. Downtown is not owned by the retailers or landlords nor is it their responsibility. The streets, parking lots, sidewalks, lights decorations, landscaping of Downtown Westport is owned by the citizens of Westport and its design and function is their responsibility. It must be a public/private joint-venture! The citizen’s have to treat it like the asset it is and nourish it. Chain stores are not enough, there must be character, entertainment and excitement. If this is done right, Westport will thrive again.

    Once we acknowledge the downtown model that had been working for years is no longer working and agree the responsibility is with the Town to replace lost foot traffic and bring shoppers back by creating the correct zoning, being flexible with permits and improving the infrastructure that allows creative and entertaining uses to flourish. People will return and tenants will come back.

    Loosing the YMCA and the movie theaters were huge blows to the organic generation of foot traffic, the Town owns the streets and sidewalks, yet does virtually nothing to utilize them.

    Shouldn’t the Town take responsibility to help create a reason to come Downtown by creating an atmosphere and infrastructure that are actually attractive to citizens, young and old in 2020. This is being done all across America and has been done in Europe for centuries. Retail stores alone were once attraction enough but that is no longer the case. The new paradigm (actually its an ancient paradigm) might be staring us in the face.

    For example, would they consider any of the following:
    -Close lower Main St to cars
    -Turn the Street into a pedestrian promenade with trees, tables and chairs, benches, etc like you might see in Europe. Light the street at night.
    -Allow food carts, kiosks for artists, crafts, street service from restaurants, etc.
    -Allow every building owner to add a second or even third floor of apartments with zero parking requirement.
    -Allow awnings and balcony’s to overhang Main Street
    -Move the Farmers Market to Main Street.
    -Move the Art Show to Main Street
    -Have music on weekends, etc.
    -Allow boats, kayaks, etc to dock by Jesup Green, let kiosks set up along the river
    -Sponsor food festivals, Christmas festivals, etc. Tie Downtown food event into the events at Levitt Pavilion…
    -Jesup Green might as well be a storage facility. Use it! Show outdoor movies, have dances, cocktail parties, morning yoga, anything is better than not doing anything like we are now.

    Bring life to Downtown, people will come and tenants will thrive.

  33. And as another re-post from the past, Jeff’s suggestions are on target. I’m not sure about his belief that landlord rents have nothing to do with it – high rents directly affect prices, affordability for customers, and the number of clients to maintain profitability so I imagine escalating overhead costs have directly resulted in closings. But his many suggestions to attract traffic are obvious and being done in small artistic & quaint communities all over the world. And we have waterfront to boot!

    In Dunedin Florida they just had their 29th annual Mardi Gras parade with music, masks, costumes, music and plenty of food and beverages. Clearwater just had their annual Seafood Blues festival weekend. They just hosted an annual independent film festival. Virtually EVERY weekend there is a music or arts or crafts festival or event. They create reasons for people to come to downtown – and attract nonlocals.

    And of course the downtown becomes a pedestrian only promenade.

    People purchase most of their stuff on-line and if you think that’s changing I have the proverbial bridge to sell you. But people can’t attend EVENTS on-line and it’s really hard to drink from the computer or satisfy their appetite by eating bytes. That’s what will bring people to main street.

    Unfortunately winter season will always be more of a challenge – but just require more imagination.

  34. If possible, I would like to see Sarah Harris on Jim Marpe’s staff do some investigation as to why the many Mom & Pop stores have left Westport over the past forty or so years. I can come with ten in a minute. I wonder if their departure reflected any pattern that could be helpful as to steps to be taken now. Westport Hardware moved from Main Street to the Post Rd. I have to guess it was for a lower rent. What about the delightful card shop, the sporting goods store, Ships Restaurant, the large store next to where the Y was located, Atticus, even a grocery store, Gristede’s I think. Maybe the past experience could teach us something about the future. Also, of course, the relocation of the Y to Mahackeno is possibly the biggest single factor in reducing foot traffic downtown. Kids and adults would go to the Y and the presence of kids usually involved a parent drop off or pick up. Bedford Square is superior complex, but it does not generate as much life as the former Y. There are plans for a small park next to Bedford Square. That, at no cost to the Town, may prove beneficial.
    Don Bergmann

    • Don
      Doing a root cause analysis is always a smart thing to do when identifying and resolving a problem…but don’t hold your breath.

      I’ve said it a hundred times – Having called Westport home for over 35 years, in my humble opinion Westport has an identity crisis. This was crystalized when newly minted Westporters from LI told me how much they loved moving here because the stores and restaurants are so much like NYC. People say that they are moving here for the quaint artsy town but when the arrive they want to remodel it into where they came from.

      Who exactly are the merchant’s demographic they are trying to attract? Millennials shop on line and will rarely if ever go to a store to buy retail. Over 25% of Westporters are senior citizens, many of whom are on fixed incomes. At Mario’s a huge prime rib was $14 – now a drink costs $15.

      We really need retail like Tiffanys to attract regulars to Main Street? Places like Westport Pizzaria attracted EVERYONE.

      Identify who we are, who we want to be, who we want to attract and who we want to cater to.

      And then understand that you reap what you sow.

  35. Patrick Pellicone

    Sorry to pop anyone’s bubble. It’s all about the $$$’s and it’s not just happening in Westport.

  36. Bill Boyd..Staples '66

    Others have good ideas here.(Jeff Giannone at al)..how about making Main st a (Lower Tax)Residential Zone to encourage landlords to build more apartments? That would create a lively neighborhood where foot traffic increases 24/7…that would attract “daily” retail…a cafe or two… Maybe close the street to cars… Giving landlords an incentive to create new uses downtown (e.g. housing) could create a new “neighborhood”..people attract more people.

  37. We are at an inflection point in how communities are utilizing spaces. Perhaps the landlord/tenant model needs to be reimagined to address the way we now spread our time across all activities available to us.

    A lot of great ideas brewing on this post which shows the love we have for our town. Perhaps it’s time to spring into action. In doing some
    light research on how towns across America are reimagining their own Main Streets, I came across a site about how a town came together in Brookline, MA that might be helpful to us in coordinating a coalition in the near future.
    https://retailreimaginedma.com/

  38. The local government should be in charge to provide residents with the best stores , they want to see around. My favorite stores, such as Banana Republic, Ann Tailor etc., has gone. Where did they go?
    It means some towns can afford to have them, but Westport. So, now I need to drive to other towns for shopping & support their economy, not my own’s town. The local government should step up & put a BREAK on rising rent for Vendors in exchange, for example, to low Taxes or even to freeze for a few years in order to bring our favourite stores back, and moreover, to keep alive our favourite MAIN STREET shopping paradise, used to be.

  39. David J. Loffredo

    The local government? In which country do you live? This isn’t China.

    You’re watching the free market at work, Econ 101. Try closing main street to cars and see how many of the commercial owners sue the town. And I’m sure they either own or have some sort of easement with the parking lot behind their shops.

    You can’t blame Marpe for this one.

  40. I suggested a couple of simple experiments that would cost very little to try. Perhaps the Westport Downtown Merchants Association could lead the effort with citizen volunteers off all ages?

    Why not just start by making Lower Main Street pedestrian only say, Thursday – Sunday.

    Then bring in activities:
    -Most obvious, start by moving the Westport Farmers Market to lower Main Street
    -Create areas for small artisan Kiosks anywhere from Main Street to the river
    -Allow food trucks to park around.
    -Use Jesup Green, maybe even arrange music from 4pm-11pm.
    – Promote free access to the river for kayak and windsurfing vendors
    – Set up tables and chairs all around these activities and get shopkeepers to stay open late.
    – allow the few restaurants that remain to do table service on the street.
    – Sunday nights show old movies on Jesup Green and allow people to bring picnic dinners and wine and beer and blanket and chairs, etc. Invite local restaurants and food trucks to set up and cater food, ice cream, popcorn, etc.
    -Have collector cars shows, bless the animals, staples Orphenians, staples players, groups from Fairfield U and Sacred Heart, etc. Be creative!

    If these efforts didn’t increase foot traffic and increase sales at retailers, I would be most surprised…

  41. How about Empty Homes Tax?

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