Improving Westport's Downtown

Photo by Jeff Cohen

by Roy Fuchs

Melissa Kane, Co-Chair of Westport’s Downtown Plan Implementation Committee recently updated Sunrise Rotary on this multi-year project that “will improve the downtown experience for Westporters.”

The plan was developed over a year-and-a-half using an “unprecedented public outreach campaign” that drew input from over 3,000 people. The Board of Selectman approved it last July and implementation began in October. The plan includes over 60 individual projects scheduled to be completed in three phases over the next twelve years, and funded by a mix of taxpayer money and third party grants.

Ms. Kane and Co-Chair Dewey Loselle are managing the implementation. They lead monthly meetings typically including a dozen or more town department heads and community interest group members who review ongoing work and plan next steps.

She told the group the projects are designed to help Westport maintain and enhance its unique small town character, make it more pedestrian friendly, reconnect downtown with the Saugatuck River and enhance the “public realm” — and do it all in a fiscally and environmentally responsible manner.

She talked primarily about the 15 near term projects, all scheduled to get underway during the next two years.

The committee’s first focus is on traffic congestion, parking, and the downtown pedestrian experience. Projects include increasing and improving maintenance by building out the downtown sidewalk network, upgrading Post Road crossings, creating better wayfinding (signage) for pedestrians and motorists, and expanding public transit.

And locations for five downtown bicycle parking locations are being scouted.

One task already completed is placing a two hour maximum on all downtown parking.

The committee used the plan to win a $650,000 grant from the Connecticut Department of Housing that will fund a downtown drainage study and an analysis of the Dead Man’s Brook drainage system. Both are important first steps to modernizing a drainage system with 100 year old segments in order to mitigate downtown flooding.

The committee is working to join the privately owned Avery parking lot with the Baldwin lot to provide more spaces and improve traffic flow.

Kane said she is “really, really excited” about the Arts & Cultural Heritage Trail. This “Westport Wandernet” will be a network of WiFi enabled interactive kiosk-like beacons that will form a trail throughout downtown highlighting Westport’s arts and cultural heritage, displaying works created by local artists and providing information about what’s going on in town.

The Wandernet is a public-private project overseen by representatives from all of Westport’s cultural organizations, including the Library. Miggs Burroughs will serve as the initial project designer. The group has applied for funding from Connecticut’s Office of the Arts.

The stop you in your tracks piece was “Westport — The Brand,” a broad program to design and place distinctive signage around the town to guide Westporters and visitors to important places — train stations, recreation areas, even parking lots, for which an app to direct drivers to available parking spots in real time is being considered.

And Toquet Hall Director Kevin Godburn is raising $30,000 to install soundproofing, a snack bar and a new kitchen with a microwave to provide “food the teens want” in the town’s teen center.

Finally, Ms. Kane responded to a question about Jesup Green saying the Library renovation will drive its reinvigoration. Parking will be moved away from the riverfront to create more green space without sacrificing any spots, and a cafe kiosk and public restrooms will be added.

Westport Gets $650K In Grants To Address Flood Fixes


WESTPORT, Conn. -- Westport has been awarded a grant of $650,000 from the Connecticut Department of Housing, First Selectman Jim Marpe announced.

The grant is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program.

“Because this was a very competitive grant and is 100 percent paid for with federal funds, this is a major win for the town," said Marpe. "The funds will be applied to two important projects that were identified in our Downtown Master Plan. These projects will help mitigate the effects of flooding in downtown and will help make Westport more resilient when storm events do impact the town.”

The first project includes $400,000 to develop a Master Drainage Plan for the town. The plan will study current drainage conditions, assess drainage issues, and attempt to identify the causes of drainage problems. Additionally, it will suggest improvements in areas of repetitive flooding causing losses to the business community and areas with important public infrastructure.

The drain piping and underground network is more than 100 years old in some areas.

The second project includes $250,000 to do a stream analysis and planning study regarding Dead Man’s Brook. That body of water is one of the major tributary streams that collects water and delivers it through downtown Westport and into the Saugatuck River. The Myrtle Avenue culvert is a major problem location and contributes to much of the flooding downtown. The study will contemplate flood mitigation alternatives, including infrastructure improvements.

“While we may not prevent all flooding from occurring, the results of these funded projects will go a long way toward helping to protect Westport’s Downtown and to assist in potentially mitigating flood damage should it occur," Marpe said.

He also praised the town's effort in crafting its Downtown Master Plan, since its detail helped with obtaining the grant money. "Having a commitment to well thought-out projects and advanced planning greatly enhances the likelihood that the town will be awarded grant funding now and in the future,” he added.


With Funds Approval, Main Street Redo to Wrap Up in a Month

With unanimous approval of $100,000 by Westport’s Board of Finance tonight, the Main Street renovation project including new curbing, brick sidewalks and trees should be completed within a month’s time, Public Works Director Stephen Edwards said.

“This is good news, and it will allow us to finish the project and wrap it up in a month,” Edwards said. The appropriation still needs Representative Town Meeting (RTM) approval.

The good news is that the additional money from the Capital and Non-Recurring Account is being benefit assessed by Main Street’s property owners who will reimburse the town upon completion of the project, he said.

“We had 100 percent participation,” Edwards said, adding that individual property owners have chosen how they want to enhance their frontages.

“This is private dollars, not Town of Westport dollars,” he added.

Edwards said extensive brick work was done in front of the Chase Bank, 184 Main St., including relocating trees, which he estimated would cost in the $50,000 range.


Marpe Establishes Downtown Plan Implementation Committee For Westport

WESTPORT, Conn. -- First Selectman Jim Marpe announced that he has established the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee (Downtown PIC) for the Town of Westport.

Former co-chairs of the Downtown Steering Committee, town operations director Dewey Loselle and Melissa Kane, will serve as co-chairs of the newly established Downtown PIC.

The Downtown Master Plan was accepted and approved for implementation by the Board of Selectman at a special meeting on July 15. The new committee replaces and supersedes the former Downtown Steering Committee, whose charge was successfully accomplished with the development and delivery of the Final Downtown Master Plan. The Final Plan may be found at .

“The Downtown Steering Committee provided the vision and planning efforts which engaged and galvanized the Westport community. It culminated in the successful and widely praised Master Plan for our Downtown. I want to thank all the people who were involved and dedicated to that process,” said Marpe.

“Now, a new and exciting chapter of Westport’s Downtown improvement effort begins. The implementation of the new Downtown Plan will require a much greater involvement of Town staff than has previously been needed during the planning stages. I am pleased that some of the members of the Downtown Steering Committee will remain involved with the new committee."

"Dewey Loselle will be working closely with a variety of Town departments and will also partner with Melissa Kane to work with the many outside entities which will be involved. Melissa will also keep the public informed as we move through the process. I am grateful for their enthusiasm and commitment to the project.”

“The Downtown Master Plan will serve as a guide for the many improvements which Westporters requested. At the same time, we will seek to incorporate and retain the character and 'small town values' that many residents expressly stated were important to them,” Marpe continued.

“Completing the Plan will be a multi-year process which begins now. It may well be ongoing past my time in office. Nevertheless, I am pleased that we are on a path to create a more functional, walkable, and aesthetically pleasing downtown.”

The first meeting of the Downtown PIC will be announced shortly.


'Library Lane,' more green on Jesup Green among ideas in new downtown plan

In the near future, there might be a new street in town called Library Lanerunning alongside the eastern flank of the Westport Library. It would extend to the Imperial Avenue parking lot by building a vehicular bridge over Dead Man's Brook.

Officials ramp up plans for downtown charrettes this weekend

Officials ramp up plans for downtown charrettes this weekend

Calling it "the most exceptional community participation in the town's history," First Selectman Jim Marpe kicked off plans for the weekend's charrettes on downtown's future with an informational session Monday in Town Hall.