Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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Coalition Forum Focuses on Downtown’s Retail Challenges

The retail future of downtown Westport will be the focus of a Coalition for Westport (CFW)-sponsored, public forum set for Monday, May 13, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at The Visual Brand located at 56 Church Lane, CFW officials announced.

The forum, which is open to the public, will feature three speakers with experience in regional and local retail and development trends for creating a 21st century downtown, the announcement said.

Scheduled speakers are: David Kooris, deputy commissioner of CT Economic and Community Development (DECD); Randy Herbertson, president of Westport Downtown Merchants Association; and Joseph McGee, vice president of public policy and programs for The Business Council of Fairfield County.

Coalition member Julie Belaga is set to moderate the moderate the program, which will be introduced by G. Kenneth Bernhard, CFW vice chairman.

Denise Torve, CFW spokeswoman, said that downtown retail faces myriad challenges including online shopping , store vacancies and turnovers, plus the soon-to-open Norwalk Mall.

“The Coalition is eager to learn how other communities similarly affected have tackled the problem, with what results, and what Westport might do by way of planning and regulatory changes to address the issue,” Torve said.

She added that Westport’s downtown, “with its enviable location on the riverfront, should be an attractive destination, not only for shoppers, but for families seeking dining, entertainment, art, recreation and shared experience.”

“The Coalition believes that a commitment to innovative planning and a more welcoming and targeted regulatory scheme is required,” she said. 

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