Tag Archives: Downtown Plan Implementation Committee

Roundup: Board Of Ed, Downtown, Scam Alert …

This week’s Board of Education community conversation was wide-ranging, robust and fruitful. If you missed

It was so successful, the board will schedule another conversation. They’ll begin with the topics they ended with: books in the high school library, and equity action planning.

The next event will be scheduled in the evening. When the date is finalized, “06880” will let you know.

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“Reconnecting the Riverfront” — the town’s plan addressing downtown parking and pedestrian access — moving into its second public engagement phase.

Initial design concepts and a second public survey are available here. The public is invited to complete the survey, and add comments.

Screenshot from the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee’s website. A public survey is on the site too.

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Sure, Buffalo got whacked with a super snowstorm yesterday.

But at Compo Beach, the temperature was a balmy 42

So these 8 intrepid folks went for a midday swim.

Happy November 18!

(Photo/Matt Murray)

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Meanwhile, around the corner, a wedding took place on the Old Mill Beach sand.

Because of the cold, it was quick — almost over before it began, reports Andrew Colabella.

No word on who the bride and groom are. Or where they headed next.

Hopefully, some place a bit warmer.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)

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More proof it was cold yesterday: A crew was at work early, warming up Hillspoint Road to fill in the cracks.

It’s one of those little things most people never see. Or even think about.

Jonathan Rosenoer spotted it, and took a photo. Thanks to all the workers on this project.

Little things mean a lot.

(Photo/Jonathan Rosenoer)

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Meanwhile, last night, a couple of hundred people enjoyed dozens of wines (and excellent hors d’oeuvres), at Westport Sunrise Rotary’s annual (but first since COVID) “Uncorked” fundraiser.

The tastings were courtesy of The Fine Wine Company. The dining came courtesy of the host Inn at Longshore.

And the money raised? It all goes to the many worthy program — here and abroad — supported by our excellent Sunrise Rotary Club.

Last night’s “Westport Uncorked,” at the Inn at Longshore. (Photo/Dan Woog)

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Scam alert!

A reader writes: “The other day I dropped an envelope into a mailbox between the diner and dance studio. I felt something sticky, and realized the envelope was not falling into the box.”

“I called the check’s recipient a few days later. They had not gotten the check. I went to the box to see if I could retrieve it. I couldn’t, so I went to the post office. They gave me a number to call.

“I called, and found out I was scammed. The sticky page catches my envelope. Thieves erase and change all the information they need: signature, amount, routing and account numbers.

“I had to go to the bank, get new account numbers, order new checks, remember all my direct deposits and notify them.

“Why isn’t something posted about this scam? The post office and bank know about it. Why hasn’t he public been alerted?

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Since graduating from Staples High School in 2013, and Middlebury College 4 years later, August Laska has done many things.

He worked for Snapchat and Disney. He co-produced an Off-Broadway show. He was a marketer.

Now — after being furloughed in the pandemic — he’s got a new gig. He owns The Old Yew Plant Shop on Horatio Street in the West Village.

It offers plants for all tastes and plant-growing abilities, plus landscaping and installation services, expert advice, and anything else city dwellers need (for their plants, anyway).

August always loved plants. But not until his temporary COVID-induced move back to Westport did he have a chance to indulge in his passion.

Work on his yard led to requests by relatives and friends. When someone asked him to do his work indoors — bingo.

This week, Off the Grid — a Village blog — profiled August and The Old Yew Plant Shop. Click here for a story that’s even livelier than Audrey II.

But August is not sitting around twiddling his (green) thumbs. He’ll open a second Manhattan location soon.

August Laska at The Old Yew Plant Shop. (Photo courtesy of Off the Grid)

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Westport’s oldest church has its newest organ.

And its most up-to-date technology.

Tomorrow’s Green’s Farms Congregational organ rededication — with a concert by renowned improvisationist Justin Bischof, in honor of organist Rick Tripodi, who oversaw the reinstallation but died just before completion — is set for 4 p.m. tomorrow (Sunday, November 20).

Can’t make it? Click here for the livestream.

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Longtime Westporter Dick Rauh is 97 years old.

But you’re never too old to have a Westport Library exhibit.

His botanical paintings will be featured in the Sheffer Gallery, from December 5 through February 28. An artist talk and reception, with Rauh and Miggs Burroughs, is set for January 20.

“I am extremely fortunate to be granted the ability to continue to function as well as I do as the years pass,” says Rauh, who took up botanical painting in retirement, after a long career in motion pictures special effects.

“Spread along these walls are the results of what I have observed looking closely at flowers over the years. Whether in my quest for the accurate I have managed to bring a personal statement is for you to judge. It is enough for me that you will look at flowers in a way you never have before.”

Rauh won the gold medal and Best in Show awards at the 2006 Royal Horticultural Society Show in London, and his work is in several permanent collections. He has taught in the botanical illustration certificate program at the New York Botanical Gardens since 1994 and was named its Teacher of the Year in 2010. He also teaches widely in  senior centers.

Two other exhibits will be featured at the Library too: “Speak to Me” (woven art by Westporter Tina Puckett), and 8 works from the Westport Public Art Collections.

Click here for more information.

Dick Rauh, and his art.

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Westport’s Thiel Architecture + Design is known for its office, restaurant, retail and residential projects.

Now they’re known by the Connecticut chapter of the American Institute of Architect too.

Thiel’s design of a Brooklyn office will receive an Excellence in Interior Architecture award. It and 5 other designs are in contention for Connecticut Project of the Year.

The design is for a company that downsized after the pandemic. The new Williamsburg space “functions less as a ‘workhouse’ and more as a ‘clubhouse,’a gathering place where employees come together to re-energize, zoom with remote clients and collaborators, and do intermittent touchdown work.”

Thiel is currently designing the future Weston Town Green, and last year worked with the Westport Farmers’ Market on a concept for a permanent home at the Imperial Avenue lot. 

Thiel Architecture’s award-winning Brooklyn office. (Photo/Sam Sachs Morgan)

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With winter near (despite the Compo swimmers, above), Westporters are stocking up on wood.

James Parisi is one of the few who chops his own.

And probably the only one who takes such a dramatic photo of his work.

Now it will warm him 3 times: Once when he chopped it. Then when he burns it. And now, when he sees it featured as today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo.

(Photo/James Parisi)

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And finally … Happy International Men’s Day!

Yes, it’s a thing.

 

 

 

 

Roundup: Father Chip, Mark Blake, Downtown …

The recent news that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sent 50 Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard had a Westport connection — and not just because Westporters know the island well.

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Edgartown helped lead the Vineyard response. The church provided shelter for 2 nights, and many meals.

That’s not unusual. St. Andrew’s already runs a winter shelter at the parish house, with cots, a large kitchen, showers and laundry.

The church’s minister is Rev. Vincent Seadale — though everyone on Martha’s Vineyard calls him Father Chip.

He was Chip at Staples High School too, where he was part of the Class of 1978. He was called to St. Andrew’s in 2009, after serving at the Church of the Redeemer in Jacksonville, Florida.

After Staples, Father Chip graduated from Colgate University and the University of Connecticut School of Law. He spent 16 years as an attorney, before graduating from Yale University Divinity  School in 2004.

Father Chip Seadale

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Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Services says:

“We, and every person who Crew Chief Mark Blake inspired, are heartbroken.

“After 61 years blessing our earth with his kindness, and over 30 years of compassionate, dedicate, and excellent service to our community, Mark passed away yesterday morning.

“An incredibly dedicated public servant and a widely respected EMT who always put the needs of others above his own, Mark leaves behind a legacy of not only thousands of lives saved on the ambulance, but countless more (for decades to come) as he educated and helped raise the future generations of EMS personnel through educational classes, state and regional programs, and as a mentor to many of our community’s emergency medical technicians.

“Always looking for a bright spot in the day, the background of this photo — a brilliant Compo Beach sunrise — was taken by Mark during one of the many sunrises he witnessed while serving the community on duty.”

Visitation is set for Monday (September 26, 4 to 8 p.m., Harding Funeral Home). A funeral Mass will be held Tuesday (September 27, 2 p.m., St. Matthew Church, Norwalk, followed by a graveside service at 3:30 p.m. at Willowbrook Cemetery.

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As plans for “Reconnecting the Riverfront” — the project to redesign parking and pedestrian areas downtown — move forward (a bit more quickly than Parker Harding traffic), the public is invited to participate.

A public survey is now open, Click here to begin.

A “visioning charrette and open house” is set for September 29 (7 to 9 p.m., Westport Library). Residents and stakeholders are encouraged to attend.

The Downtown Plan Implementation Committee is coordinating the project. with Langan Engineering and Environmental Services. The DPIC includes town department heads and residents. They hold public meetings on the 2nd Thursday of each month, at 8:30 a.m. Click here for details.

Screenshot from the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee.

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Compo’s South Beach at sunset was the setting yesterday evening, for a renewal of vows.

After 25 years of marriage, Dr. Lynn Wilson held his bride Nancy’s bouquet, as she read their words to each other. Justice of the Peace Rhona Lieberson was the officiant.

(Photo/Stacie Curran)

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Staples High Class of 2015 graduate Rachel Treisman has covered human interest stories around the royal funeral for NPR. She gained journalism experience while working for Inklings, the school newspaper — and then served as editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News.

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Registration for Westport Parks & Recreation Department winter programs begins online at 9 a.m. on October 3.

Click here to view the offerings. Click here to begin registration.

If you are unable to log into your online account, email recreation@westportct.gov or call 203-341-5152.

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On February 29, 2020, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Library sponsored another successful Supper & Soul dinner/concert.

A few days later, COVID clobbered the town.

The event was set to resume this past May. But the band got the virus, and had to cancel. The Chamber refunded all tickets.

Now, it’s full speed ahead.

The next Supper & Soul — the first in over 2 1/2 years — is set for Saturday, October 22. Cris Jacobs — who rocked the 2018 Blues Views & BBQ — brings his high energy to the Library Forum, following dinner at a variety of downtown restaurants.

One ticket entitles attendees to a 3-course meal at any of 11 eateries, plus the show, then a stop at any of the restaurants for happy hour-priced post-concert drinks.

Participating restaurants are 190 Main, Amis, Arezzo, Basso, Capuli, Da Tapas, Don Memo, Manna Toast, Spotted Horse, Goji (Wafu) and Walrus Alley. Dinner is 6 p.m.; the concert is at 8.

Tickets are $90 each for the dinner and concert. Concert-only tickets are $40. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Cris Jacobs and his band.

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Westport Country Playhouse is launching a new mobile unit. It will travel to audiences, grades 6 to 10, for live theatrical performances.

Designed to be adaptable for any kind of space, including cafeterias, libraries and classrooms, the Playhouse Mobile Unit brings to schools a 45-minute, fully staged production with professional actors, sets, costumes and special effects.

The performance is followed by a Q&A with the actors. A study guide and curriculum are provided, with classroom activities and games.

Funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Town of Westport’s American Rescue Plan Act funding for the arts.

 The inaugural play — “Scaredy Kat Presents” — captures the joys and struggles of adolescence, while attempting to destigmatize anxiety and panic disorder. Bookings are underway, for performances beginning in January.

The Playhouse offers financial aid and payment plans, along with group sales and discounts for multiple performances in one day.

For more information, email education@westportplayhouse.org or call Kendall Driffin, education and community engagement associate: 203-571-1133.

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Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church is gearing up for a full season of musical events.

On Sunday October 9 (5 p.m.), noted English vocal ensemble VOCES8 stops by on their international tour. The program includes Renaissance, jazz and the American song book.

Tickets include a post-performance reception. Click here to purchase, and for more information.

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An opening reception for the new show at the George Billis Gallery is set for tomorrow (Thursday, September 22, 4 to 6:30 p.m., 180 Post Road East).

Featured artists include Glen Hacker, Chad Holliday, Karen O’Neil and Stephanie Reiter.

“Fervent Zeal” (Chad Holliday)

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Today’s interesting “Westport … Naturally” photo — of a woodpecker, at the Westport Community Gardens — comes courtesy of Peter Swift:

(Photo/Peter Swift)

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And finally … if you haven’t heard of Cris Jacobs — the star of next month’s Supper & Soul dinner/concert — click below.

Actually, click on if you have heard of Cris Jacobs, too!

(There is a lot going on in Westport — and “06880” covers it all. Please click here to support your hyper-local blog.)

Reconnecting The Riverfront: Parker Harding, Taylor Lot Plans Move Forward

It took a while.

But Westporters are pleased with the redesign of the Baldwin parking lot. The Elm Street area has been redesigned, regraded and repaved. It works much better now.

Baldwin parking lot looking northwest, after renovation. (Photo/Dan Woog)

That’s just a taste of what’s to come though, parking-wise. Two bigger projects are in the works. They could significantly alter the way we perceive and use downtown lots — and, perhaps the way we perceive and use downtown itself.

Improvements to Parker Harding Plaza (behind Main Street), the Taylor lot (by Jesup Green and the Library) and the Imperial Avenue lot (Farmers’ Market, Remarkable Theater) have been discussed for decades — probably since Parker Harding was built on landfill in the 1950s.

Aerial view of downtown in 1949, before Parker Harding Plaza was built. The river came up to the backs of stores on the west side of Main Street.

Prior to that, the Saugatuck River lapped up against the backs of stores on the west side of Main Street (and pipes discharged sewage directly into it). The new lot may have added much-needed parking, but it created a sea of asphalt that turned the important and attractive river into a downtown afterthought.

A master plan of downtown improvements in 2015, designed by outside consultants, was complicated. Some ideas were feasible; others were not. The Downtown Plan Improvement Committee got mired in small details; then it got mired in COVID.

Randy Herbertson — the former director of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association — took over last year.

The parking lots are one of 5 pillars to the downtown plan, he says. The others ae pedestrian access, maintenance, sustainability and technology upgrades.

Parking now dominates the east bank of the Saugatuck River. Only a sliver of grass and a few benches provides access to anyone wishing to enjoy the view.

But parking may be the most visible. And if it’s improved, it drives the others.

The Parker Harding and Taylor lots are “aged, decrepit and in disrepair,” Herbertson says. “They’re not even optimized for parking and traffic. They don’t take advantage of the river. And they flood.”

The goal is to reclaim river access at both lots. Moving and reconfiguring parking — without losing spaces — could make room for a playground and expanded Riverwalk near Jesup Green, and allow for a more permanent Farmers’ Market and Remarkable Theater off Imperial Avenue. Electric vehicle charging stations would be included too.

(Photo/Chip Stephens)

The hope is for bids to be solicited early next year. Work on Parker Harder would be first, beginning in summer.

The biggest obstacle, Herbertson says, may be funding. The town is considering several capital projects, including  Long Lots and Coleytown Elementary Schools, and Longshore.

But, he notes, “the central business district affects everyone in town.” He sees opportunities for private investment in parts of the improvement plan — for example, an improved Riverwalk with native plantings and art installations, or a possible pedestrian bridge from Parker Harding to the west bank of the river.

This screenshot from the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee shows the Parker Harding lot, and its proximity to the Saugatuck River.

As Langan (an engineering and environmental consulting firm) and Connect the Dots (a community engagement firm) work with the DPIC to design the “Reconnecting the Riverfront” master plan, they plan a public charette September 29 (7 p.m., Westport Library). It’s a chance for residents to offer ideas and input.

A survey will be live soon too. Watch “06880” for the link.

(For more information, including early “inspirational ideas,” click here for the Downtown Plan Improvement Committee website.)

(“06880” covers all of Westport, from downtown to the beach and woods. To support this hyper-local blog, please click here.) 

Roundup: Michael Bolton, Lynyrd Sykynrd …

And the winner of “American Song Contest” on NBC is …

… not Michael Bolton.

Connecticut’s (and Westport’s) contestant finished 7th Monday night. After 8 weeks, the title went to AleXa of Oklahoma.

But our guy made the semifinals — the top 10 out of 55, in our national version of Eurovision. And our neighbor is still #1 in our hearts. Click here for the full story.  (Hat tip: Mark Mathias)

Screenshot from the “American Song Contest” website.

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The schedule for paving (and closing) Riverside Avenue from Charles Street to Railroad Place has changed again.

It’s now tomorrow and Friday (May 12 and 13), from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you’re dropping off or picking up at the New York-bound platform, take note!

Road paving here soon.

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There are agendas. And then there are agendas.

Here’s what the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee will discuss tomorrow, beginning at 8:30 a.m. (click here for the Zoom link).

I. Opening Remarks – Chair
A. Overall Meeting Goals
I. Approval of Minutes (4/2022 Meeting)
II. Strategic Priority Review
A. Parking Lots Reinvention
1. Downtown Lots Design Master Plan
a) June kickoff meeting with core steering team
b) Planning for public engagement and project timeline
2. Baldwin Lot – completion targeted for end of June
B. Pedestrian Access
1. Streetscape Improvements
a) Bench installs
b) Additional cans for high traffic locations
Strategic Priorities (cont)
Pedestrian Access (cont.)
2. Main Street Improvements
a) Status (bump out and re-pavement)
C. Sustainability
1. Solarization
a) Initial meetings with consultant
2. Alternative Transportation
a) Bird proposal
(1) background
D. Maintenance
1. Special Services District
a) Last Ordinance Draft
b) Cost development – RFQ

If you can’t make the 8:30 start, perhaps you can watch during dinner.

Main Street magic (Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

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The Staples High School boys lacrosse program is adding 4 honorees to their Hall of Fame.

Bill Rexford (Class of 1986), Ryan Kubie (’96), Paul McNulty (Staples ’64, head coach 2009-18) and the 16-0, undefeated regular season 2010 team will be honored at halftime of Saturday’s game against New Canaan. The contest begins at 3 p.m. The Wreckers are currently ranked #2 in the state.

Rexford and Kubie starred in the early days of Staples lacrosse. The ’10 team made history.

McNulty, meanwhile, was one of the keys to the growth of Staples lacrosse into the powerhouse it is today.

He took over a program that had had 3 coaches in 4 years. Within a year, he coached that ’10 squad to its undefeated record. The Wreckers reached 2 state championship games during his tenure.

McNulty returned to his alma mater — where he starred with Laddie Lawrence on the track team — after a hugely successful career coaching Wilton High lacrosse: 3 state championships, 2 state runners-up, and 20 All-Americans, among other achievements.

McNulty is a member of both the US Lacrosse and FCIAC Halls of Fame, and has earned numerous other honors. During his 50-plus-year career, he also coached football, soccer, tennis and track, starting at a segregated Black school in Jacksonville, Florida.

Fun fact: He was a student teacher at Robert E. Lee High School in Florida with Coach Leonard Skinner, who was notorious for sending home boys with long hair. A few of them wanted to form a band, and did not want to get their hair cut.

So they quit school, formed that band, and named it after their coach: Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Paul McNulty

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The Cottage of Westport has named a new chef de cuisine: Danny Oddo.

He was previously executive sous chef at The Simone in New York City. He also worked for Marc Murphy’s restaurant group, which included Landmarc in Tribeca, and was part of the opening team at the Paloma in the Hotel Hendricks.

“Growing up in New Jersey, my love of cooking stemmed from visiting local farms and spending time in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother,” Oddo says.

“I am inspired to have the opportunity to work with Chef Brian Lewis and his entire team to bring my experience and background to our guests, and to work with local farmers and purveyors to offer new flavors, textures and colors on our menu.”

Danny Oddo

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Its name is simple: Circle of Friends.

Its mission is clear: pairing local teens with special needs youngsters. They spend at least one weekend a month together, doing what friends do: bake cookies. Play games. Go bowling.

It’s a wonderful, low-key organization, loved by all who participate in it.

Their annual fundraiser and volunteer recognition is Sunday, May 22 (5:30 p.m., Beth Israel Synagogue, Norwalk). It’s always a warm, welcoming night. This year, special awards (courtesy of Senator Richard Blumenthal) will be presented to teens from Westport, Weston and surrounding towns. Despite the isolating effects of COVID, they’ve provided home visits and programs to their friends.

The evening promises good food, inspiring speeches, prizes and more. Click here for tickets and more information.

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Beechwood Arts’ final event of “UpsideDown at The Westport Library” is this Friday (May 13, 7 p.m.).

There’s a reception for 15 artists (with wine and refreshments). Their art will be projected on the 19-foot screen, and they’ll share stories of reinvention and inspiration over the past couple of years, when “the world turned upside down.”

Click here to register for the free event.

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The Westport Library middle school summer program includes math, literacy and STEAM activities. Each week the immersive experience covers a different topic, over 2 days.

Mondays center around a blend of inquiry, design, research, writing and the arts. The Tuesday class builds on the work from Monday, focusing on math, science and revision, testing and technology, with students creating a physical representation of their learning.

Students work together to solve challenging problems that are authentic, curriculum-based, and interdisciplinary. Click here for details.

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Rach’s Hope is a special organization, with a special mission: It helps families address the many challenges of a child’s critical illness.

Named for Rachel Doran — a 2018 the Staples High School National Merit Commended Scholar, talented Players costume designer, and founder of her own pajama company — the annual fundraiser is special too: a “PJ Gala.”

This year’s event raised nearly $40,000. Donations are still being accepted. Click here to learn more.

Enjoying the Rach’s Hope gala.

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In today’s “Westport … Naturally,” Canada goose parents teach their offspring to use the designated crosswalk.

(Photo/Les Dinkin)

Nice! Now if they could only teach it (and themselves) to not poop all over the beach …

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And finally … based on the Paul McNulty story above, you’d have to be brain dead not to know what today’s featured band is, right?

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)