Tag Archives: Downtown Plan Implementation Committee

Downtown Committee Plans Ahead

The Downtown Plan Implementation Committee met this morning. They discussed:

  • The Baldwin parking lot upgrade. It’s in the final approval stages, including the Representative Town Meeting next month. The goal is for work to begin early next year.
  • “Streetscaping” also goes before the RTM in September.
  • “Wayfinding” (signage and orientation) is progressing. There is a possibility of using ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds.
  • Next steps — including a pedestrian bridge, and an “emerald necklace” were discussed
  • Also discussed: a very early idea for Jesup Green (reclaiming more green space near the river) …
  • … and potential docking on the water once the river is dredged. The committee recently received a budget earmark from the state for this work. The Army Corps of Engineers will conduct an environmental study this fall.
  • One more topic: the addition of the Imperial Avenue parking lot to the list of priorities. This may include a more permanent, multi-use structure for the Farmers’ Market (ideally also for parking during non-market use times), and an upgrade to encourage more day parkers to use the lot.

Chair Randy Herbertson cited “momentum” for downtown improvements.

In other Downtown Plan Implementation Committee news: The group has a new website. Click here for information about parking lots, pedestrian access, maintenance, sustainability and technology upgrades.

The Downtown Plan Implementation Committee looks at both sides of the river.

 

Randy Herbertson Has Plans For The Downtown Plan

Better parking. Enhanced river access. Tech upgrades, including vibrant WiFi.

Those are some of the initiatives planned for downtown.

Now all Randy Herbertson has to do is implement them.

He’s not alone, of course. The revitalization of Main Street, Jesup Green and environs is a huge task, with public and private partnerships and investments.

But as the new chair of the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee, it’s Herbertson’s job to see it all through.

Randy Herbertson

He’s hardly parachuting in. He and his wife Deborah have been here since 1998. But although they chose this town in part for its cultural offerings, for more than their first decade Herbertson was “that guy who saw Westport only in the dark.”

He owned a marketing and design firm in New York. She commuted too. It was only after he sold his business and opened The Visual Brand on Church Lane — and Deborah became creative director at Terrain — that he got involved in local affairs.

He went big. David Waldman encouraged him to join the Westport Downtown Merchants Association. He sat on the town website steering committee and the Westport Library board.

And Herbertson joined the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee.

The “plan” is the town’s Master Plan. Developed 7 years ago, it is now “a bit outdated,” Herbertson admits. But it’s a start.

The new chair hopes to prioritize the plan’s 4 or 5 major initiatives, by cost and complexity.

One key issue: Reimagining parking. First up, Herbertson says, is the Baldwin lot off Elm Street. That’s the easiest

Parker Harding Plaza is more complex. It involves rethinking green space, and the lot’s relationship to the Saugatuck River.

A slender ribbon of green separates the Saugatuck River from Parker Harding Plaza. (Photo/Amy Berkin)

Jesup Green is the most complex. The ultimate vision, Herbertson says, is to flip the current parking with the adjacent green space. That would emphasize and maximize river access, while adding perhaps a playground or skating rink.

The greening of downtown, including technology upgrades, could solarize much of the area. A stronger WiFI network would enhance music capabilities.

Herbertson’s committee will also figure out how to create “more stop-and-pause places. People want room to move freely outside, then stop and dwell.”

The DPIC head points to the COVID-induced closing of Church Lane as successful. It led to increased dining and shopping, Herbertson says. Now he wants to build on that success.

Another issue: the best way to manage services like trash pickup and recycling.

“A good downtown is the heart and soul of a community,” Herbertson says. “It’s great to see that ours is becoming that again.” New businesses — restaurants, book stores and more — are opening up. Some are start-ups; others have relocated from elsewhere in town.

Among the new businesses downtown: Capuli restaurant.

During his time as president, the Westport Downtown Merchants Association reinvigorated the Fine Arts Festival. They added special events for different populations — a fashion show, beer fest and more — and advocated for enhanced public/private partnerships. Cables were buried; sidewalks and curbs added.

Herbertson calls his roles with the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee and Downtown Merchants Association “synergistic.” The DPIC is an advisory body, he notes; the town controls all rules and regulations.

But, he notes, “everything the DPIC touches is something the WDMA is involved in.”

He also sees synergy with other initiatives in town — for example, the revitalization of Saugatuck.

“COVID taught us the importance of the retail community, as part of our town as a whole,” he says. “Whatever happens in one place affects the rest.”

So what does Herbertson’s idea downtown look like?

“Highly walkable,” he says.”Real strong integration of natural resources, especially the waterfront. Every space filled with a selection of things that are unique an good for the town, where people can stop and pause.

“And something for all ages.”

Downtown Westport. (Photo/John Videler for VIdeler Photography)