Tag Archives: Imperial Avenue parking lot

Roundup: Aloha, Bonjour …

A much-needed mid-winter touch of Hawaii came to the Westport Library Sunday night.

The Staples High School Orphenians put on an aloha-themed cabaret, as part of their fundraising efforts for their summer trip to the Aloha State.

Longtime Staples music aficionado — and former Fairfield music teacher — Ellen Kuroghlian was there. She writes:

“The benefit was outstanding. The singers were better than I have ever heard at Staples. The program included individual singers, with Broadway star Kelli O’Hara singing the last number — “You’ll Never Walk Alone” — with all Orphenians.

“David Pogue was the emcee. He worked on Broadway for 10 years, and is an expert at the piano, so he used it to emphasize a story or point. What a wonderfully dedicated father of a current Staples student, and 2 college age ones. And what wonderful gifts from these 2 pros.

“Choral director Luke Rosenberg sang too. He is a terrific performer. ‘Excellent modeling,’ as we educators say.

“Staples culinary instructor Chef Cecily Gans deserves ‘extra credit’ for the wonderful and bounteous ‘aloha-themed bites’ (which were large ones). Aliso Milwe Grace was there too, helping out.

“The performance, and the whole evening, was totally special.”

If you missed it — or just want to add something to the Orphs’ fund — click here.

Two of the many performers. James Dobin-Smith sang “My Way,” while Ethan Walmark played “Piano Man.”

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Yesterday’ Roundup item about the regular weekend pop-up clean-up projects around town led several readers to ask: When is the next one?

It’s Saturday, February 5, at the Imperial Avenue parking lot (11 a.m.). Bring gloves and trash bags, and wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty in.

There will be more than enough garbage to go around!

Questions? Email acolabellartm4@gmail.com

This past weekend’s trash pick-up on Greens Farms Road. Next up on February 5: the imperial Avenue parking lot.

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Earlier this month the mayor of Marigny — Westport’s French sister city — announced they’d be joining us, in offering aid to Lyman, Ukraine.

Marigny has not forgotten the help our town provided in the years following World War II.

Want proof? Check out the banner on the top of the region’s daily newspaper:

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Today’s Kings Highway Elementary School students have no clue about the 1980s. Some of their parents may be too young to remember it too.

But the KHS PTA hosts a “totally tubular ’80s-themed prom fundraiser” on Saturday, February 4 (7 to 10 p.m., Norwalk Inn). All KHS parents – past, present and future are invited. So is everyone else in town, no matter what you though about (or did during) that decade.

It’s a fundraiser for the school’s Outdoor Learning Center. Money is needed for raised planter beds, special bat-watching cameras, a greenhouse and more.

There will be dancing to ’80s tunes, and auction items from places like Modern Dermatology, Splatterbox, and Wakeman Town Farm, plus field passes to a Mets game, and a chance to have kids driven to school in a police cruiser.

While satin prom dresses, shoulder pads and “Miami Vice”-inspired pastel suits are encouraged. Tickets include a full open bar, passed hors d’oeuvres, and charcuterie, crudité and pasta stations. Click here for tickets, and more information.

Artists’ rendering of Kings Highway Outdoor Learning Center.

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For 60 years, Weston Emergency Medical Service has provided free care to town residents — and mutual aid to Westport, Wilton, Fairfield, Redding, Norwalk, Easton and Georgetown.

On March 25 (6:30 p.m., Rolling Hills Country Club, Wilton), the 100%-volunteer organization celebrates those 6 decades in a very Weston way.

Tony Award-winning director/longtime TV and movie star/proud Weston resident James Naughton will emcee.

Dan Micciche — music director of “Wicked” — will perform, along with other Broadway stars.

Weston EMS hopes to raise $100,000 to continue their mission of neighbors helping neighbors with the highest level of emergency care services and state-of- the-art equipment — all free.

An online raffle begins March 10. Tickets will also be available at the gala, plus silent and live auctions.

To become a sponsor, advertise in the program, or donate a product or service to the raffle or auctions, email abelport@westonems.com

Tickets are on sale now.  To purchase tickets, click here and scroll down. Questions? Email gala@westonems.com. 

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Sarah Jane Cion returns to Jazz at the Post this Thursday (January 26, shows at 7:30 and 8:45 p.m.; dinner at 7).

First place winner of the 17th annual Great American Jazz Piano Competition, and a thoughtful composer, her songs “Cat in the Hat” and “Golden Song” were featured respectively in “The Mule” and “Thor: The Dark World.”

Joining Sarah Jane are bassist Peter Brendler, drummer Michael Camacho and saxophonist Greg “The Jazz Rabbi” Wall.

The cover charge is $15. Reservations are strongly recommended: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.

Sarah Jane Cion

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It took a while for last year’s jetty project to be completed at Burying Hill Beach.

Now — with crowds gone — it’s a perfect home for gulls.

Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo comes from one of the few folks at Westport’s “other” beach: Eric Bosch.

(Photo/Eric Bosch)

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And finally … if you’re ready for the ’80s (as in, the Kings Highway Elementary School fundraiser — story above), then you must get up and dance to this:

(“06880” hasn’t been around since the 1980s. But we’ve covered Westport — and have not missed a day — since 2009. Please click here to support your hyper-local blog.)

Photo Challenge #411

There must be a reason an iron fence sits at the top of the Imperial Avenue parking lot driveway.

It doesn’t protect anything — not the nearby Westport Woman’s Club, Remarkable Theater or Farmers’ Market.

It probably predates all of them (maybe not the 115-year-old Woman’s Club).

Only 3 readers — Andrew Colabella, Amy Schneider and Len Peterson — identified the site of last week’s Photo Challenge. (Click here to see.)

And no one added an intriguing back story.

Perhaps this week’s image will be more recognizable. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

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.) 

Pic Of The Day #1879

The Yankee Doodle Fair is still a week away — it opens next Thursday, June 16. But the first rides have already been delivered to the Imperial Avenue parking lot. Summer can’t be far behind. (Photo./Fred Cantor)

Roundup: Parks & Rec Registration, Downtown Improvements, Zenabi …

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Registration for many Westport Parks & Recreation’s spring and summer programs begins online at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, March 2. Registration for Camp Compo, RECing and pickleball begins later: 9 a.m. on Monday, March 28.

Spots go quickly. Click here to see all the choices.

The website is not exactly user friendly. Now is a good time to log onto your online account to verify information. Problems? Email recreation@westportct.gov or call 203-341-5152.

For address changes, email recreation@westportct.gov. Additional proof of Westport residency may be required.

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Want to improve downtown?

Put your money where your mouth is!

The town of Westport seeks proposals for Downtown Improvement Projects at Parker Harding Plaza, Jesup Green and the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

Bids will be received until 11 a.m. Thursday, March 3 at the Town Hall Finance Office (Room 313, 110 Myrtle Avenue). Copies of the bid documents can be downloaded from the Town’s website. 

Responses will be opened the next business day via Zoom. For meeting access, email rkotchko@westportct.gov.

Send your bid in to improve Parker Harding Plaza.

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In 2018, I ran a story on Zenabi. Profiling a company located in the old Town Hall (Don Memo) building on Main Street, it began:

I’m not quite sure what Zenabi does. A spokesperson says it’s a “new pioneering tech and artificial intelligence company that helps Fortune 500 companies find signals in their data that drive growth and value.”

Their website says that Fortune 500 companies trust them to “help understand and grow individual relationships.” They also “enable companies to scale their ability to personalize interactions and offers.”

The hook was an upcoming “Brains & Bands” night hosted by Zenabi. I wrote that its press release

describes this as “some of the most brilliant minds in technology, business and music come together for an epic evening of inspiration and innovation…this self-proclaimed team of ‘Pirates’ and ‘Black Ops’ of the artificial intelligence world” — I guess that’s something else Zenabi is or does — “have the set the stage for titans of industry to share their paths to success with the local community.”

My skepticism was well placed. Zenabi — which later moved to Riverside Avenue and/or Church Lane — imploded.

But not before receiving $1.5 million in PPP funds.

Billy Penn — part of the WHYY news team at the Philadelphia PBS station — has taken a deep dive into the many deceits of the company’s founder, Billy Ibanez. They include false claims about associations with the Philadelphia Eagles and CIA, and many more.

Click here for Billy Penn’s long, and very fascinating, story.

A screenshot from the Zenabi website.

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The United Methodist Church of Westport is collecting clothing, toiletries and non-perishable food drive for their neighbors in Bridgeport.

The drive is set for Saturday, March 5 ( 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the church, 49 Weston Road). Volunteers will gather donations from car trunks.

Gently used or new items include children’s clothing in all sizes; women’s clothing, sizes 4 to 16, purses, accessories and shoes; men’s clothing medium and large, pants size 32 to 36 waist shoes sizes 7 to 10, and outerwear all sizes.

Also needed: toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, soap, shampoo and body lotions; peanut butter and jelly (plastic jars only), canned ham, tuna and chicken, boxed macaroni and cheese, cold and hot cereals, hearty soups, canned vegetables and fruit.

Questons? Email kimberlyweigle@att.net.

Food, clothing and toiletries will be collected at the United Methodist Church. (Photo/Dan Woog)

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Dick Steele was honored this month at the Stratford VFW. The World War II Marine Corps veteran — and father and father-in-law of former Staples High School teachers Kathy and Jeff Lea, respectively — just turned 100.

Steele was 20 years old when he enlisted just after Pearl Harbor. He earned his golden wings, was promoted to 2nd lieutenant, and deployed to the South Pacific. His bombing squadron attacked Japanese positions on the island of Yap.

After the war he returned to civilian life only. He was recalled to active duty as a captain in 1952, to train a new generation of dive bomber pilots during the Korean conflict.

His fighter attack squadron flew 310 combat sorties, totaling more than 550 hours. His was the last Marine aircraft engaged in combat during the war. He retired with the rank of major.

In 2008 Steele became involved with the Connecticut Air & Space Center’s restoration of a Corsair fighter plane, the same aircraft he flew in the Pacific Theater.

Happy 100th, Major Dick Steele! (Hat tips: Adam Vengrow, Don Pavia)

Major Dick Steele

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February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month. Westport’s Domestic Violence Task Force is doing its part, sponsoring a pizza and movie night — followed by a discussion on healthy relationships — tomorrow (Wednesday, February 16, 6 p.m., Toquet Hall).

The event features the movie “Sierra Burgess is a Loser.” For more information, click here. To fill out the required COVID waiver, click here.

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There is plenty of nature all around Westport’s many ponds — including Nash’s. Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo was taken there, by Linda Stern.

(Photo/Linda Stern)

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And finally … today is the birthdate, in 1809, of International Harvester co-founder Cyrus McCormick.

Movies In Westport: Remarkably, They’re Back

For a parking lot, the Imperial Avenue space is impressively versatile.

Besides a spot for commuters (remember them?) taking buses to the station, from May to November it’s the site of the Farmers’ Market. It’s where the Blues, Views & BBQ Festival held cooking contests.

This weekend, the sea of asphalt turned into a drive-in movie theater.

Heading to the show.

The Remarkable Theater opened its summer series there, with 2 classic films: “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Caddyshack.”

It was a win-win. The theater offers employment to people with disabilities, while families and teenagers packed the place for fun, wholesome entertainment.

It was like a throwback to the previous century — and not just because of the movies shown.

A few neighbors worried about noise. But there were no outside speakers. Sound came through the magic of FM radio.

Oh, yeah: Friday’s showing was a benefit for the Westport Woman’s Club. Proceeds helped make up for the loss of their big undraiser this year: the Yankee Doodle Fair.

You know. One more event that makes the Imperial Avenue spot more than just a parking lot.

Two more films are scheduled for next month. Watch this space for coming attractions.

 

Bringing your own candy is much cheaper than the multiplex.

(All photos/Jen Meerow Berniker)

Remarkable Theater Premieres Friday

A remarkable new era begins Friday.

That’s when the Remarkable Theater opens its summer drive-in series, at the Imperial Avenue parking lot. (The same site as the Westport Farmers’ Market.)

It’s a win-win. The theater offers employment to people with disabilities, while providing safe, socially distant entertainment for the town.

Two classic films are on tap this weekend: “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” on Friday; “Caddyshack” Saturday.

Opening night is a fundraiser for the Westport Woman’s Club — the Imperial parking lot’s next door neighbor. With no Yankee Doodle Fair this year due to COVID-19, this is a great way to support their food closet.

Tickets for Friday’s fundraiser are $100 per car. Other shows are $50 per car.

Tickets go on sale at 3 p.m. today. Click here to reserve a spot.

Follow the Remarkable Theater on Facebook and Instagram to see upcoming shows, or to make suggestions for movies you want to see next.

(The screenings are made possible with the financial support of the Connecticut Department of Developmental Disabilities and the ARTHA Foundation, and help from the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Library.)

The entrance to Westport’s newest theater.

Roundup: Parks & Rec Rules; Drive-In Movies; Assumption Food Drive; More


New Parks and Recreation rules!

As of today (June 13), doubles play will be allowed at the tennis courts at Longshore, Staples High School, Town Farm and Doubleday (behind Saugatuck Elementary School).

Also as of today, dogs will no longer be required to be on leash in the off-leash area of Winslow Park or other town property where dogs are allowed.

As of Wednesday (June 17), one pickleball court at Compo Beach will be open for singles play with restrictions.  It’s first come, first serve.

Also as of Wednesday, both platform tennis courts at Longshore will be open for singles play with restrictions.  Advanced reservations are required, and can be booked online 5 days in advance, or by calling the Longshore tennis office at 203-341-1180 2 days in advance. No walk-ups allowed!

Registration for Parks and Rec and Wakeman Town Farm summer programs begins Wednesday. To see programs and register, click here,


And in more Parks & Rec news: The Compo Beach bathrooms are open. They bear these signs:

(Photo/Andrea Cross)


Coming attraction: Movies in the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

A “drive-in theater” will be set up there this summer. The Remarkable Theater — the initiative employing men and women with disabilities — is behind the project, which got a unanimous go-ahead from the Board of Selectmen.

Four films will be shown on a 40-foot-wide screen over 2 weeks at the end of June, said Remarkable creative director Doug Tirola. Up to 80 cars can be accommodated in the lot, which during the day is both a commuter parking lot and the site of Thursday Farmers’ Markets.

Film titles and more details will be announced soon.

 


A pair of Norwalk food pantries — St. Philip’s and St. Vincent de Paul — feed 350 families a week. Both the families and the pantries are in desperate need of help.

Tomorrow (Sunday, June 14, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), the Knights of Columbus will conduct a “drive-through food drive.” The site is the Assumption Church parking lot (98 Riverside Avenue).

You don’t have to leave your vehicle. K of C members will pick up your donation from your trunk or back seat.

Food that is needed:

  • Small bags of rice
  • Small packets of pasta/macaroni
  • Pasta sauce
  • Bags of dried black beans
  • Canned fruit
  • Canned vegetables
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly
  • Vienna sausage – regular or chicken
  • Cereal – oatmeal or cornflakes
  • Powered milk
  • Coffee

Checks are great too. Make them payable to Church of the Assumption; in the memo line, write “Food Drive.”

Assumption Church (Photo/Ellen Wentworth)


Staples High School and University of Southern California journalism student Becca Rawiszer recently interviewed Board of Education chair Candice Savin about where Westport schools go from here. Click here to download the Persona Interviews app to watch the full interview — and ask Savin a follow up question.

Screenshot from the Candice Savin interview.


And finally … like Tacocat, we can dream, right?

Pic Of The Day #752

Lazy day by the Levitt Pavilion bridge (Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

Blues Views & BBQ News

The Blues Views & BBQ Festival is a uniquely Westport tradition.

And it’s one that reaches far beyond our borders.

Now in its 11th year, the Labor Day weekend event brings Southern- inspired food, nationally recognized music, and good ol’ family fun to downtown.

You may not think of Westport as a blues town. With Bobby Q’s gone, there ain’t much barbecue left.

But the Festival — set for this Saturday and Sunday (September 1-2) — brings out our inner blues and BBQ. It draws thousands of non-Westporters who really understand that kind of music and food to places they otherwise might never go: the Levitt Pavilion, Library parking lot and Imperial Avenue commuter lot.

People come from around the state — New York and New Jersey too — to hear fantastic performers at the Levitt, and on 2 auxiliary stages. This year’s lineup of 20 bands includes funk powerhouse Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Grammy Award winner Fantastic Negrito, Sister Sparrow and Carolyn Wonderland.

Fantastic Negrito comes to the Blues Views & BBQ Festival this weekend.

Blues, Views and BBQ introduces up-and-coming and local talent too, like first-time performers Alpaca Gnomes, Mingo Fishtrap, Cris Jacobs and Ruby Velle & Soulphonics.

All that listening whips up an appetite. A BBQ competition, cooking demos, rib- and pie-eating contests, and plenty of food trucks and stands take care of the heartiest eaters.

Throw in 6 bounce houses, car painting, touch-a-truck, airbrush tattoos and more kids’ fun, and Blues, Views and BBQ is something you just don’t see every day. Particularly in Westport.

Enjoying a great day of blues at the Levitt Pavilion. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

This year, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce takes over the event from the Downtown Merchants Association. They spent 2 years making the transition, so it will be seamless.

This year too, the event has expanded to fill the entire Imperial Avenue lot. Folks will wander from there to the Levitt, library parking lot and back. Fantastic music and amazing BBQ aromas will fill the air.

… and, of course, BBQ in the parking lot nearby.

“06880”‘s tagline is “Where Westport meets the world.” This weekend, Blues, Views and BBQ shows some of the special ways we do it.

(For more information on the Blues Views & BBQ Festival, click here. For tickets, click here.)