You may have missed this, because the Westport News story came out during schools’ February vacation.
While you were off in Aspen or Anguilla, Paul Schott wrote that the Westport Arts Center wants to move from its 3,600-square-foot Riverside Avenue home, to a 10,000-square-foot building next to the Westport Library.
To the only space available there: Jesup Green.
The gallery and classrooms would create “a cultural campus” downtown, on the river. The WAC has hired architect Henry Myerberg, who is also designed the library’s “transformation” renovation.
The arts center would like a 99-year lease of Jesup Green, Schott reported. The project would include “burrowing” Taylor parking lot into part of the green. That current riverside lot would be replaced with “greenery.”
The new WAC — which officials hope to begin constructing in 2015 — would cost between $5 million and $7 million. Three donors have already pledged several million dollars, Schott reported.
In the summer, the Westport Public Library lends croquet, bocce and badminton equipment, for use on adjacent Jesup Green.
It’s an exciting concept — and it comes at a time when major redevelopment plans are afoot for the entire downtown area.
But a number of questions have been raised.
- Aesthetically, how will the area change? Will a new “green” on the flat current parking lot look as nice as gently sloping Jesup Green — with mature trees — does now? What happens when a 10,000-square-foot building — and “burrowed” parking — gets added to the mix?
- How about traffic flow? What happens to parking when the library and WAC have big events simultaneously?
- Speaking of the library, where will its major fundraiser — the Summer Book Sale — go?
- What other options has the WAC looked at? (I already know what certain commenters will say: “Winslow Park!”)
This is the 1st major change to Jesup Green in years — since the library moved next door, in fact. (And eliminated a road that sliced directly through the green — who remembers that?)
Once upon a time, Jesup Green was bordered by a Little League field — and the town dump. Controversial landfill — and construction of the library, Levitt Pavilion and Riverwalk — have enhanced that area immeasurably.
Will a new Westport Arts Center do the same?
Let the debate begin.