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Downtown Is Talk of the Town in Westport

The desire to have a movie theater in downtown Westport was echoed during a special downtown revitalization meeting held by the Planning and Zoning Commission — first by two groups of Coleytown Middle School students , then by Sandy Lefkowitz of Westport Cinema Initiative.

"Let's build a film community and a community through film," Lefkowitz, executive director of the nonprofit organization that's determined to bring a theater to town, told the commission Thursday night.

The addition of a cinema is a surefire way to boost the downtown area, Lefkowitz said. Currently, the group's vision is for Westport to have a state-of-the-art two-screen theater. Each screening room would have a seating capacity of 75 to 99 people. The theater would include a first-rate café, Lefkowitz said.

"This not-for-profit theatre will be a community jewel," she said.

Outside of a movie theater, other ideas on how to create a livelier town center included making the area more pedestrian friendly. Jonathan Steinberg, one of Westport's state representatives and former chairman of the Downtown Plan Subcommittee, explained making the area more accessible to pedestrians will not only attract people downtown, it'll also keep them there.

"We want people to come downtown, park their cars, walk around and be open to more spontaneous encounters and activities," Steinberg said. "This requires a philosophical change — getting people to slow down."

Commissioner Howard Lathrop agreed with Steinberg and pointed out several ways downtown can become more pedestrian friendly. Currently, Lathrop said a lack of sidewalks is detrimental. And the existing sidewalks, on Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza, for example, are too narrow, he said.

If more people are to park and walk around town, parking would need to be addressed, Steinberg said. In its plans, the Downtown Plan Subcommittee recommends a multi-tiered parking deck be built on the Baldwin lot. This parking structure would not only add more parking, but would replace the Parking Harding Lot, which the subcommittee recommends developing into a shopping area made up of multi-level brownstone-scale buildings, with retail shops on the main levels and small apartments above.

Although there was a lot of talk about the possibilities for downtown, there was also some discussion on what residents don't want to see happen to the area.

"We don't need more stores that are duplicates of what have already," resident Helen Martin Block said. "We need a variety of things — things that are important to us as citizens."

To read the full story on what the Coleytown Middle School students envision for downtown, click here .

What do you think is missing from downtown? What should be done to make the area more vibrant? Please leave a comment below.

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