Tag Archives: RBA Group

Downtown Plan Nears Final Approval

Remember Westport’s Downtown Master Plan?

The 1st draft of the 159-page document — the result of several years’ worth of meetings, surveys and studies — was introduced with moderate fanfare in January.

Now — after 5 more months of restructuring and reorganization — the final draft is done.

Larry Untermeyer’s spectacular aerial photo in the opening pages of the planning report highlights the inherent charm — and problems — of downtown.

Larry Untermeyer’s spectacular aerial photo in the opening pages of the planning report highlights the inherent charm — and problems — of downtown.

The 44 recommendations from the RBA Group consultants — ranging from big-picture creative ideas to practical smaller improvements — are are almost all the same.

But the document itself is much more intuitive and user-friendly. It includes far more illustrations, demonstrating some of the concepts and proposed changes. The section on storm waters and flooding — crucial to any Westport downtown plan — is deeper (ho ho). The “design guidelines” section has been beefed up with more examples, guidance and photos.

Greater emphasis is placed on management issues — for example, how to implement all these projects, and how to improve downtown services.

A newly detailed implementation and funding section notes — for each project – who will be involved, and which permits to obtain, legal issues to address and approvals to secure.

Finally, there are new cost estimates, accompanied by likely sources of funding: private developer contributions, other private partner funds, state and federal grants, and/or town capital funding.

The Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge looks spectacular -- in this view. The river is one key to unifying all of downtown. (Photo/Alan Hamilton -- William Raveis Real Estate)

The Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge looks spectacular — in this view. The river is one key to unifying all of downtown. (Photo/Alan Hamilton — William Raveis Real Estate)

Downtown Steering Committee chair Melissa Kane and her group have done a thorough, clear job. They have made their plan as easy to understand as possible.

On June 4, her committee voted to accept the report as the final document. Next, they’ll present it to the board of selectmen — hopefully at a nighttime meeting, with all town boards in attendance. That date has not yet been set.

“We’re very proud of our work,” Kane says. “A lot of ‘Westport’ has gone into this.'”

To read the full report, click here.

Meanwhile, here are some highlights:

Short-term

  • Improve and complete the sidewalk network throughout downtow
  • Redesign Church Lane into a “shared street”
  • Support improvements to Toquet Hall
  • Support the redevelopment of the west side riverfront
  • Restore and revitalize Elm Street
  • Coordinate with and integrate redevelopment of the west side riverfront
  • Build a pedestrian bridge crossing the Saugatuck
  • Create a Westport Arts & Culture Heritage “Trail”
  • Improve pedestrian safety at Post Road crossings
  • Improve pedestrian and vehicular safety at Post Road intersections through traffic signal modifications
  • Redesign Myrtle Avenue intersections
  • Improve traffic movements at the Route 1/33 intersection
Traffic often backs up on Wilton Road, near the Post Road intersection. Development of the west side of the river is an important element of the Downtown Master Plan.

Traffic often backs up on Wilton Road, near the Post Road intersection. Development of the west side of the river is an important element of the Downtown Master Plan.

  • Improve the wayfinding system for motorists
  • Develop directional and informational signs for pedestrians
  • Support initiatives to access and connect downtown through transit
  • Provide amenities for public transit passengers
  • Provide bicycle parking in downtown
  • Combine and co-manage public and private parking lots (Baldwin lot with Avery Place; Gillespie Center with old Town Hall)
  • Redesign the Main  Street/Elm Street intersection
  • Change parking from 1-hour to 2-hour maximum in downtown
  • Implement seasonal valet parking
  • Relocate long-term parking to south of Post Road
  • Coordinate flood prevention efforts with neighboring upstream towns
  • Replace existing culverts and pipes; conduct flood audits of downtown commercial properties; control building development in downtown’s flood hazard zone

Mid-term

  • Coordinate with and integrate the library transformation project
  • Transform Parker Harding Plaza
  • Reinvent Jesup Green
  • Provide public restrooms (either on Jesup or Parker Harding)
  • Redesign Taylor Place into a “shared street”
  • Coordinate with and integrate the relocation of the Westport Arts Center
  • Coordinate with and integrate the Westport Cinema Initiative
  • Implement/install standard streetscape elements throughout downtown
  • Create/improve pedestrian passageways
  • Create a new street: Library Lane
  • Build a bridge to connect to the Imperial Avenue parking lot; improve the appearance and safety of the lot
  • Redesign Jesup Road
  • Evaluate implementing a real-time parking information system
  • Evaluate a fee-based system to manage parking in certain locations
  • Evaluate the need for structured parking at Baldwin/Elm lots
Modifications to Elm Street are shown in this rendering. The old Westport Pizzeria is on the right; Vineyard Vines is hidden behind trees at center.

Modifications to Elm Street are shown in this rendering. The old Westport Pizzeria is on the right; Vineyard Vines is hidden behind trees at center.

An illustration of the possible reinvention of Jesup Green shows a pier, and relocation of parking.

An illustration of the possible reinvention of Jesup Green shows a pier, and relocation of parking. The library is at right.

Long-term

  • Place a cafe on the green
  • Construct a downtown landing
  • Create a barge restaurant
  • Extend the westside riverwalk
  • Evaluate the need for structured parking on police station lot or Gillespie Center/Old Town Hall lot
  • Evaluate strategies to combat tidal events/sea level rise

Downtown Planning Report: 44 Ideas Worth Examining

After several years, countless meetings and surveys, and endless anticipation, the 1st draft of Westport’s Downtown Master Plan has been made public.

A full house of interested observers was on hand yesterday when the Downtown Steering Committee got a look at the 159-page document.

Now the fun begins.

Larry Untermeyer's spectacular aerial photo in the opening pages of the planning report highlights the inherent beauty -- and potential -- of downtown.

Larry Untermeyer’s spectacular aerial photo in the opening pages of the planning report highlights the inherent charm — and problems — of downtown.

The consultant — Norwalk-based RBA Group — has provided 44 recommendations and strategies. They range from big-picture creative ideas to practical smaller improvements.

Here — drum roll, please — they are:

Near-term

  • Improve and complete the sidewalk network
  • Implement Main Street streetscape improvements
  • Create a new road: Library Lane
  • Redesign Church Lane into a “shared street”
  • Support improvements to Toquet Hall
  • Support the redevelopment of the west side riverfront
  • Build a pedestrian bridge crossing the Saugatuck
  • Create a Westport Arts & Culture Heritage “Trail”
  • Improve pedestrian safety at Post Road crossings
  • Improve pedestrian and vehicular safety at Post Road intersections through traffic signal modifications
  • Redesign Myrtle Road intersections
  • Improve traffic movements at the Route 1/33 intersection
Traffic often backs up on Wilton Road, near the Post Road intersection. Development of the west side of the river is an important element of the Downtown Master Plan.

Traffic often backs up on Wilton Road, near the Post Road intersection. Development of the west side of the river is an important element of the Downtown Master Plan.

  • Improve the wayfinding system for motorists
  • Develop directional and informational signs for pedestrians
  • Support initiatives to access and connect downtown through transit
  • Provide amenities for transit passengers
  • Provide bicycle parking in downtown
  • Combine and co-manage public and private parking lots (Baldwin lot with Avery Place)
  • Change parking from 1-hour to 2-hour maximum in downtown
  • Implement seasonal valet parking
  • Relocate long-term parking

Short-term

  • Reinvent Jesup Green
  • Coordinate and implement uniform streetscape improvements throughout downtown
  • Support the Westport Cinema Initiative
  • Monitor the relocation of the Westport Arts Center
  • Create new pedestrian passageways
  • Consider the future of Elm Street
Modifications to Elm Street are shown in this rendering. The old Westport Pizzeria is on the right; Vineyard Vines is hidden behind trees at center.

Modifications to Elm Street are shown in this rendering. The old Westport Pizzeria is on the right; Vineyard Vines is hidden behind trees at center.

  • Redesign Taylor Street into a “shared street”
  • Support the library transformation project
  • Improve the appearance and safety of the Imperial Avenue lot
  • Consider a fee-based system to manage parking in certain locations
  • Redesign Jesup Road
An illustration of the possible reinvention of Jesup Green shows a pier, and relocation of parking.

An illustration of the possible reinvention of Jesup Green shows a pier, and relocation of parking. The library is at right.

  • Build a bridge to connect to the Imperial Avenue parking lot
  • Redesign the Main Street/Elm Street intersection
  • Consider implementing a real-time parking information system
  • Create a town-wide bicycle plan

Long-term

  • Transform Parker Harding Plaza
A section of the reimagined Parker Harding Plaza shows much more green along the riverfront.

Reimagined Parker Harding Plaza shows more green along the riverfront.

  • Place a cafe on the green
  • Provide public restrooms
  • Construct a downtown landing
  • Create a barge restaurant
  • Extent the westside riverwalk
  • Combine and co-manage public and private parking lots (Gillespie Center with old Town Hall)
  • Consider providing additional parking supply

Each idea is explored in greater depth. Of course, a section of the report is devoted to financing.

It’s fascinating — and important — reading. If you’ve got a few hours, the report can be downloaded here.

The next stage begins now. The committee will present the report to the Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday, January 15.

The public gets a crack on Wednesday, January 28, with an open house in the Town Hall auditorium (4:30-9 p.m.), and 2 separate report presentations (5:30 and 7:30 p.m.).

Nothing is chiseled in stone, as 1st Selectman Jim Marpe points out. However, it looks like 2015 will be a year in which downtown might really start to rock.

(For more information, click on www.downtownwestportct.com)

Downtown Westport offers many opportunities for growth and rebirth. (All photos and renderings courtesy of the Downtown Master Plan report)

Downtown Westport offers many opportunities for growth and rebirth. (All photos and renderings courtesy of the Downtown Master Plan report)

 

And The Results Are (Almost) In

What do you get when you combine 2 “Downtown Visioning” workshops with several surveys?

I have no clue. But you and I can find out a week from Monday (July 21, 7:30 pm, Town Hall).

That’s when downtown consultants The RBA Group present a summary of ideas from those “Your Downtown” events. Over 2,900 residents completed surveys (“an unprecedented, large response rate for a survey of this nature,” a Downtown Steering Committee press release says). 170 people attended the workshops.

 

Westport residents are sharing many opinions about downtown -- including how to tie both sides of the river together.

Westport residents are sharing many opinions about downtown — including how to tie both sides of the river together.

After RBA’s presentation, the Downtown Merchants Association and Youth Commission will share the results of their own, separate surveys. The WDMA asked over 100 merchants about employees’ commuting and parking practices, while the Youth Commission asked Staples students about their ideas for downtown. (Hmmmm…..)

“Charrette” planning sessions will take place in September. Then comes a final downtown master plan. And more meetings.

Whatever the outcome, you can’t say you weren’t asked to be involved.

(For more information, click on www.downtownwestportct.com.)