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Joseloff Embraces Downtown Plans

Plans for a "vital Westport Center" were unveiled by the Downtown Plan Subcommittee Tuesday. The plans, which call for a dramatic overhaul of downtown, were displayed for the town's Plan Implementation Committee (PIC), and First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, chair of the PIC, said he supports the plans.

"I think the plans are very exciting," Joseloff said. "I hope in time, by reaching out, enough people will realize this is highly beneficial."

The plans were presented by Downtown Plan Subcommittee Chairman Jonathan Steinberg. They were created to mesh with goals highlighted in the 2007 Town Plan of Conservation and Development.

The plan examines a variety of initiatives, including creating a town center with a greater sense of community, embracing the Saugatuck River, making downtown more pedestrian-friendly and promoting nightlife. Robert Orr , a New Haven-based architect, helped the subcommittee draft some of these ideas.

For starters, the subcommittee, in a five-page document, suggests giving people more reasons to visit the downtown area by offering a variety of retail stores, as well as recreational and entertainment venues. But a vital town center goes beyond getting people in: it's about getting people to stay a while.

"Make 'pedestrian friendly' a priority," the subcommittee wrote. "Facilitate outside dining for restaurants; develop Jesup Green as a community meeting place and locus of public events."

In addition, it suggested that Parker Harding Plaza be turned into a "2-3 story, brownstone-scale, pedestrian-oriented village of buildings" with small ground-floor retail shops and residential units upstairs.

The development of Parker Harding Plaza would remove substantial parking. To address this, the subcommittee recommends a multi-tiered parking deck on the Baldwin lot.

To create nightlife, one suggestion is to bring a movie theater to town. As for embracing the river, the subcommittee recommends creating a Riverwalk that extends from Gorham Island, along Parker Harding, across Jesup Green and all around the Levitt Pavilion peninsula.

To move the project forward, the subcommittee recommends that a town director position be created. This person would oversee economic development and have grant-writing and planning responsibilities. The subcommittee also recommends the Planning and Zoning Commission consider zone and district changes, such as "smart coding," to promote these plans.

"We need to figure out a way to move ahead quickly," Joseloff said. "I certainly don't want to see this age on a shelf."

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