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Green Necklace

Getting back to the “Emerald Necklace” concept. The idea is fairly straight forward. We have park-like areas downtown such as The Baron’s Land North & South, Jesup Green is another along with Veteran’s Green over by the Town Hall and the Levitt Pavilion.

The “Emerald Necklace” concept is to join these parks in such a way as to create a walking loop that encircles the downtown area. Connecting paths would be created so that the necklace would not have a week link in its chain.

Assuming that the Parker Harder parking lot, behind Main Street, is turned into a park like zone, which is a great assumption, I still don’t see how it would be possible to link all the parks together, or a reason to do so in the first place.

When I first heard about the “Emerald Necklace” concept I laughed so hard I got a knot in my stomach. People just don’t walk around downtown that much unless they are shopping. People who are spending money on Main Street don’t have time for walking all the way around downtown. Downtown is not a nature trail.

I would venture to guess, though I could be wrong, that after the downtown consultant is hired (if the consultant is hired) part of his plan will be for the development of the Parker Harding parking lot. Some in town picture a park like setting along the river. They say the river is wasted on parking. This idea is my personal pet peeve. I don’t like it—at all.

Sure a nature trail sounds great—no it’s not—because a nature trail is not what the Emerald Necklace is all about. It’s about development of the remaining open spaces downtown. Some would have us apply Smart Code Overlay Zones to Parker Harding and Jesup Green. This is horrible—yucky generic computer generated townscapes—yuck.

I can’t think of one good reason to develop this area:

  1. Originally the building owners on Main Street paid for this lot to be built so that their customers would have places to park near their stores. Charm factor in shopping downtown, you can drive right up to the store you want to shop in.
  2. People don’t walk to downtown to go shopping—they drive their car. And when they do– they get real close and personal with the river. They drive right along river’s edge for hundreds of feet, through Parker Harding. I can’t imagine not being able to do this, or the traffic problems associated with not being able to do so.
  3. A park like setting is seasonal, remember winter. Who would want to walk through the snow and ice to get a look at the river, in winter?
  4. Replacing parking spots with a parking garage. Once again – it is not an either or issue – we need more parking downtown already – the employees don’t have enough long term parking spots and they end up parking where their customers should be. Eliminating any spots from Parker Harding for a walking loop is the silliest idea I have ever heard of.
  5. The parking garage that should be built should be for employees and shopping over—flow—and theater parking. Not as a replacement for Parker Harding.

I love downtown. I can definitely see room for improvement but I haven’t seen much vision from the 2020 committee. They say the committee is all about vision. After months of review they want to hire a consultant for 150,000.00 dollars. I do have the utmost respect for Lou Gagliano and the committee members, their job is not an easy one.

I could outline ten achievable simple improvements to downtown, as I have done over the course of the last year in this blog. Understanding the motivations of the different constituencies involved is the first step.

  1. Building owners want to collect rent at the highest possible fee.
  2. Developers want the biggest possible developments.
  3. People who live in town want the shabby chic charm to continue.
  4. People from out of town want to go to a mall.
  5. Employees want a place to park where they won’t be hassled for parking fees.
  6. Never have I heard anyone ever say, “I wish they did that Emerald Necklace project.”

I believe we should look real close at the open space we have downtown before we hire a consultant to tell us house to sell it out to developers. But hey it’s just my opinion. I fall into the old school Westport category—so my ideas might be too much influenced by the past.

More on parking meters and Smart Code in future installments of this blog.

Also, yesterday it was raining cats and dogs I hope the sun comes out today.

P.S. I’m not such a Debbie Downer. I’m happy about the plan for Baron’s South only using up 4 of the 23 acres.