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Tuesday, July 01, 2014

A Second Downtown ‘Visioning’ Workshop

By James Lomuscio

The second downtown master plan workshop drew about 70 Westporters tonight to the McManus Room at the Westport Library.

WestportNow.com Image
Workshop participants go over picture postcards tonight. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Hosted by the Downtown Steering Committee (DSC), the workshop included a representative from the RBA Group, Inc., which was hired to develop the plan.

According to Melissa Kane, the new DSC chair, tonight’s workshop was designed to allow input from residents unable to make the previous one held June 7, a sunny Saturday afternoon, at Bedford Middle School. (See WestportNow June 7, 2014)

She noted that her group has already received about 2,800 suggestions posted at http://www.downtownwestportct.com, and that more are welcome.

And with that, as in the previous meeting, Mark Keener, architect for the RBA Group, asked those assembled and hunkered down in groups of five and six to discuss and answer questions and make comments on backs of 32 picture postcards depicting proposed changes. The question on each card: “Is this good for the downtown?”

“We’re building on a framework that already exists,” stressed Keener.

By now, many of the topics were familiar: a possible pedestrian bridge linking the east and west banks of the Saugatuck River; dredging the river and creation of a dock north of the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge; a two-level parking garage set behind a building that includes upstairs apartments and offices; and flood-ready parks, parking and buildings.

“Think of it as a Rorschach test, a first blush visual,” said Kane.

In addition to the cards, today’s workshop addressed fiscal management, maintaining the town’s historic significance via a Historic Village District and the need for revitalized, public open space.

“It’s a great opportunity to attract a fresh set of voices who might not have been able to attend the daytime session,” said First Selectman Jim Marpe. “You can see the enthusiasm, even before the meeting starts.”

State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg watched as the groups got down to business.

“This town has done studies for 40 years, but this one will be different,” said Steinberg, adding that it will be a call to action.

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Posted 07/01/14 at 03:05 AM  Permalink



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