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Downtown Plans Focus on Community

Downtown Westport is a vibrant area filled with shops and places to get a bite to eat. So what's missing? A sense of community, said Jonathan Steinberg, chairman of the Downtown Plan Subcommittee.

Formed to create a new vision for downtown, the subcommittee, part of the Town Plan Implementation Committee, has been at work for the past two years.

"We are working to create a real town center. We want to give everyone a reason to go downtown—not just shoppers," Steinberg said. "One way to do that is to encourage people to walk more."

And the only way to get more people walking around downtown is to make it pedestrian friendly.

The idea stems from the thought that if people are walking around, they'll slow down and linger, Steinberg said.

"When people go downtown, they aren't staying for long periods of time," he said. But the creation of more walking space brings up the issue of parking.

"We're seriously considering building a parking deck in the Baldwin Lot," Steinberg said.

Eleanor Lowenstein, vice chairwoman of the Planning and Zoning Commission said that in addition to possibly building a parking garage, the idea of metered parking has been mentioned.

"With paid parking, there will be more turnover," Lowenstein said. "And, it would keep employees from taking up customer parking."

Another idea to get downtown visitors to take their coats off and stay awhile is to offer more choices. Some ideas include bringing in more restaurants, and adding boutiques or galleries.

"We have to give people a reason to come out," Lowenstein said. "Maybe we need to bring in some kind of theater — something to attract people."

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