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Tag Archives: Parker Harding Plaza
A recent “06880” post on the future of Main Street got readers thinking.
65 people commented. Thoughtfully, insightfully and civilly, they offered suggestions.
Your flood of reactions got me thinking.
As a native Westporter — someone who remembers the Remarkable Book Shop, Klein’s department store, the African Room, World Affairs Center, movie theaters, Mark’s Place music club, Oscar’s, Dorain’s Drug Store — I know the kind of life that can pulse on Main Street.
But I also realize that we can’t simply wish for that kind of street again. The world is far different today.
For a long time, I thought a few tweaks would bring downtown back to life. I nodded as stakeholders assured me that once the flood-proofing and renovation projects were done, and empty storefronts filled up again, all would be well again.
After reading the comments, and talking to a broad array of sharp, committed Westporters, I no longer believe that’s true.
Main Street is no longer — and perhaps never again will be — our “main street.” It’s simply a short stretch off the Post Road near the Saugatuck River. It’s lined with commercial buildings, connecting one side of town with another.
To think of it as our “main street” is to live in the 20th century — or even the 19th.
But boy, does it have potential.
The problem is, “potential” implies re-imagining the future. And re-designing the present.
We can’t simply tweak the Post Road. We need to (almost) blow it up, and start again.
The possibilities are endless.
Main Street could be a car-less, pedestrian-friendly piazza/promenade lined with trees, tables and benches; upscale and family restaurants and cafes, including outside dining (with space heaters for winter); food carts and artists’ kiosks; independent businesses like a general store, bookstore and ice cream shop (joining the special Savvy + Grace-type places already there).
It could be filled with cultural and arts events; food festivals, and something at Christmas; music on weekends, plus waterfront access, with paddleboat and kayak rentals. In the winter, we could flood part of it for a skating rink.
And more: The Farmers’ Market could relocate there. We could add offices for non-profits, and co-working spaces. Apartments could be build on 2nd and 3rd floors.
Downtown is at an inflection point.
The decisions we make now are as important as the ones we made 70 years ago. That’s when town officials decided — and citizens agreed — to fill in the Saugatuck River, behind the stores on the west side of Main Street.
The result — a parking lot named for selectman Emerson Parker and Daybreak Nursery owner Evan Harding — may have been the right idea then.
But today we need a new downtown. And the change can’t be incremental. It must be big, bright and bold.
Bigger, brighter and bolder, even, than Parker Harding Plaza was then.
The time for consultants is past. They, and the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee, have generated some good ideas. Now we must seize the initiative.
Who is “we”?
All of us. Everyone in Westport. We all have a stake in a vibrant, exciting, innovative, walkable, livable, enjoyable downtown. A downtown that will draw us all in again — and many others, from around the area.
Our town already offers so much: excellent schools, the transformed library, beaches, Longshore, Levitt Pavilion, Senior Center, Playhouse, Wakeman Town Farm, YMCA, Earthplace and tons more.
We often take these jewels for granted. For too long, we’ve taken the idea that Main Street “must” be a shopping-only street for granted too.
I said it before: Downtown is at an inflection point. We have the opportunity to create something truly dynamic and visionary.
How do we do it?
Let’s start with a town meeting (of course, in the Library Forum). Let’s talk about the most exciting new Main Street we can imagine. Then let’s figure out how to make it happen.
Emerson Parker and Evan Harding were great civic volunteers. But look at their sorry legacy.
This is our chance to leave a legacy, for at least the next 70 years.
Who wants to step up and lead us forward?
And what better way to celebrate than by boxing in another car at Parker Harding Plaza?
According to alert “06880” reader Chip Stephens — who was as gobsmacked as I was to see this — there was no driver in the car.
And, Chip says, there were empty spaces nearby.
Parker Harding is not the easiest lot to navigate in the best of times. I can’t imagine what it was like with this vehicle planted there.
Meanwhile, a couple of hours later and across Main Street in Brooks Corner, this pickup driver figured, hey, why pull all the way in?
No vehicles could get around him. Mayhem ensued.
The driver did not care. He was nowhere in sight.
If you think the back entrances to Main Street stores — the ones on Parker Harding Plaza — look bad today, be glad you were not around in the mid-1950s.
Before the parking lot was built, the Saugatuck River lapped up against those stores.
The landfill changed downtown — and the river. It must have been quite a project. Jim Ezzes shares some photos of the construction.
I thought last week’s Photo Challenge might be too tough for any “06880” reader.
I did not reckon on Mary Papageorge and Lynn Untermeyer Miller.
Both knew that Amy Schneider’s image of a painted smiling face is located on the back side of the large star sculpture that Howard Munce created years ago. It sits on the bank of the Saugatuck River, in Parker Harding Plaza directly behind Rye Ridge Deli.
The fisherman — that’s what the face is — faces the river. It’s not easy to see — and not too many people actually stroll by there (though it is a nice, beautiful spot).
Mary no doubt knows it because the Papageorge family owned Oscar’s — the long-time, beloved predecessor to Rye Ridge.
Lynn knows it because — well, she sees and knows everything.
Can Mary, Lynn and/or you figure out this week’s Photo Challenge? If you think you know, click “Comments” below.
An alert — and peeved — “06880 reader writes:
Flanking the east bank of the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge on the Post Road, next to the Saugatuck River, are 2 small, triangular, landscaped signs. One says the gardens were “Designed and Donated by The Laurelrock Company.”
These gardens also include granite pillars of varying heights. They do not have an explanatory plaque.
These pillars seem to echo similar installations memorializing sad events.
Does anyone know their significance?
Whatever their meaning, it’s a pet peeve of mine that these gardens — and many other public Westport plots — are being overrun by lawn signs for various organizations and events,
Many are commendable. Some are even non-profit.
But must we now have lawn signs all over town year-round, rather than only during election season?
Ordinarily, this would not warrant selection as Pic of the Day. It looks like just another shot of the disgusting state of Parker Harding Plaza.
But it’s worth noting the box next to the trash can, with its free papers. The issues inside are dated June 2018.
Safe to say they — and the entire news stand — can be removed, no?
A few merchants have promised to crack down on employees’ misuse of the Parker Harding dumpsters.
Not enough, apparently.
This was the scene this afternoon, a few feet from the beautiful river in what is supposed to be a proud part of our downtown retail experience.
Note the sticker warning of a fine on the dumpster in the closeup above.
I’m as tired of posting photos like these as you are of seeing them.
So here’s a challenge to “06880” readers: Stake out the place. Take a photo of any asshats you see tossing garbage next to the dumpster. Follow them to their place of business. Take another photo. Then send the photo to email@example.com.
We can’t let this garbage continue.
This morning’s post –showing garbage where the dumpster once sat in Parker Harding Plaza, just a few yards away from the finally-working compactor — drew plenty of comments from readers.
And this email from Scott Martin:
I own the Rye Ridge Deli. Someone sent me the pic of the garbage by the compactors.
That is a mix of garbage from various tenants there. A couple of those boxes are ours: the bacon, avocados and Rockland bakery.
I just spoke to a number of my employees who take garbage out at night and during the day. Last night, the compactors were completely filled and overflowing. Everything was stuffed in them to the top. They would not compact any more.
Maybe they were a day late picking up due to the holiday. We are not sure. But when they come to remove the compactors it seems they cannot drive away with them overflowing so they knock it out, and when they return from the dump or wherever they take the trash they fill it back with what was knocked out.
There have been many occasions since the compactors have been installed with them not functioning at all. I guess the kinks are being worked out back there.
Going forward my guys have been instructed to let myself or a manager know when there is this sort of mess back there. Rather then leaving it for someone else to find, we can call City Carting to address it or figure out a better way rather than leaving that mess.
Those compactors are great, better than regular dumpsters, as long as they work (which is not always the case). I have been dealing with them for years in my other locations.
I just got off the phone with Scott. He apologizes for his guys leaving a mess. Nice to know he contacted “06880” to take responsibility.
As he notes though, only a small portion of the garbage is his. The hunt continues.