Publisher's desk

Urban Renewal in Central Greenwich



Bob Capazzo

In the months ahead, we can look forward to many heated discussions over the proposals for a town green in the commercial heart of Greenwich. Using the new police/fire complex as an anchor at one end, the Lash administration proposes a town center that would include the old town hall, now the Senior Center and home of the Greenwich Arts Council, and encompass the Havemeyer Building, Havemeyer Park and terminate with Town Hall. Lighted footpaths would wind through landscaped lawn areas between Greenwich Avenue and Town Hall.

Central to the issue is the brick, Romanesque-style building that was given to the town in 1892 by Henry O. Havemeyer for a public school. In recent years the Board of Education has been awkwardly and inappropriately housed there. It is now proposed as the ideal venue for a new, privately funded arts center.

“Not so fast,” say some, even though, to our knowledge, there has never been a fast-moving municipal project in the Town of Greenwich. The inescapable fact is, the building is a white elephant and a major public liability. Dilapidated, severely out of code and a safety hazard, it will require millions of dollars of tax money just to maintain it let alone renovate it for continued misuse as office space. The vision of a center for performing and visual arts in the heart of Greenwich’s commercial district is being ardently pursued by a group of well-established Greenwich residents led by Bea Crumbine and Marvin Berenblum. It is without doubt the best use of the Havemeyer Building. Its main theater and smaller black-box theatre and its large, high-ceilinged rooms are ideal for studios and rehearsals. Promoters of the arts center insist they can raise the $30 million for renovation. If so, leasing the property to the arts center for a dollar a year would be a boon to taxpayers, a bargain for the town and would create a major benefit for generations of Greenwich residents and our neighbors.

Not since 1996 during the Ragland administration has there been a serious discussion of renewing our central business area. At that time the vision was limited primarily to a restoration and beautification of Greenwich Avenue. Certainly the Avenue was in dire need, and some recommendations by the urban architectural firm of Vollmer Associates have since been adopted, due in part to Mary Hull, Green & Clean’s perennially proactive director, along with garden clubs and former Public Works Commissioner Marcus Madrid. With uniformly designed trash receptacles, the Avenue is less littered, pedestrian crossings are safer because of bump-outs, and the hideous mercury-vapor turnpike lights are being replaced by attractive period-design streetlights.

But much more is needed. Lash’s recommendation to install traffic lights to operate in the absence of the police during non-business hours addresses an important safety issue, and we were pleased to see the BET approve his recommendation for allocating $350,000 to develop a master plan for the central Greenwich area.

The big question is where to relocate the Board of Ed. The Lash proposal is to move it into the old town hall and construct a new building on the parking lot next to Town Hall for the senior center. This may be, as Lash claims, the best alternative financially, but it strikes us as the least desirable. The old town hall is due for some serious fixing-up, but even with that it would not appear to be a natural for modern office space. It is also logical to question why valuable frontage in the middle of Greenwich Avenue should be dedicated to administrative offices with little public traffic. The seniors want to stay on the Avenue where the action is, and the Board of Ed should have the kind of efficient office space that only a new building can provide.

One thing is certain: If any plan has a chance of going forward and finding its way through the town’s myriad administrative and legislative obstacles, it must develop broad public support. In recognition of this, RTM member Vince DiMarco has formed a steering committee and advisory network comprising representatives of neighborhoods, commercial property and business owners, town agencies and non-profit organizations. Its mission is to create a consensus among representative parties and organizations that will be useful in guiding the planning process in Town Hall. Our central business district and the concept of a town green must be an integral part of the next Plan of Conservation and Development due in 2008. Input from this kind of independent, interested-party committee can make an important contribution to creating a realistic plan, and one that may be more readily accepted.

 

Greenwich Agenda

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     @ Meli-Melo of Greenwich

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  • Financial Literacy 2-Day Lecture Presented by Bob Salomon at YMCA of Greenwich

    2014.10.21
     @ YMCA of Greenwich

    Making sense of the world of finance FREE and open to all *Participants should pick up a copy of the Wall Street Journal on Oct.22, as Bob...

  • YMCA of Greenwich Harvest Art Week

    2014.10.18
     @ YMCA of Greenwich

    YMCA of Greenwich Harvest Art Week October 18 - 26, 2014 Join us for a week-long celebration of local art! Showcasing established and emerging...

  • Exhibit Ira BARKOFF

    2014.10.11
     @ Canfin Gallery

    “The beauty of the physical world becomes a metaphor for the capacity of the spirit to reveal itself". Ira Barkoff Evocation of...

  • Paint the Town Pink

    2014.10.21
     @ Lux Bond & Green

    Key to the Treasure Chest Indulge yourself at an elegant but fun event presented by Lux Bond & Green and Anne Fontaine Preview the newest...

  • Nigh Season: New Paintings By David Konigsberg

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM  Public Invited   NIGH...

  • Undulate: Paintings By Julie Gross and Margaret Neill

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    GALLERY II Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM Public Invited...

  • Parties at the JCC Center

    2014.09.02
     @ Stamford JCC

    A place to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. Be a guest at your own party! The JCC offers a wonderful space for you and your guests to...

  • SPLURGE Matches Scarf Donations for Cancer Patients

    2014.10.01
     @ SPLURGE

    SPLURGE and the Cancer Institute at Greenwich Hospital are partnering to bring comfort and encouragement to cancer patients.  From October...

  • Flower Power

    2014.10.08
     @ SM Home Gallery

    SM Home Gallery show featuring two Greenwich based artists: Margaret Bragg and Penny Putnam. The art show runs thorough November 22nd....

  • Meet Nomi Eve, Author of Henna House

    2014.10.22

    An evocative and stirring novel about a young woman living in the fascinating and rarely portrayed community of Yemenite Jews of the mid-twentieth...

  • Susan G. Komen CT Educational Session at YMCA of Greenwich

    2014.10.22
     @ YMCA of Greenwich

    FREE AND OPEN TO THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY! Learn about the importance of early detection and screenings Meet the men and women whose work is...

  • Greenwich Chamber of Commerce Networking Event

    2014.10.23
     @ Delamar Hotel

    Greenwich Chamber of Commerce will hold its October After Six Networking event. All are invited to exchange business cards, enjoy appetizers and...

  • October After Six

    2014.10.23
     @ Delamar Hotel

    Join us for After Six Networking at the Delamar Hotel

  • Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams

    2014.10.23

    Athome Magazine celebrates Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams' fall collection with fabulous vignettes from some of your favorite A-List designers....

  • Oktoberfest 2014 Greenwich United Way

    2014.10.24
     @ Loading Dock

    Greenwich United Way’s sixth annual “Oktoberfest” fundraiser is set for Friday, October 24 at Stamford’s Loading...

  • IMAGINE CANDY- SWEET TASTINGS!!!

    2014.10.24
     @ Imagine Candy

    Imagine Candy located in Scarsdale Village- Winner of 2014 Best West of Westchester by Westchester Magazine- holds a Belgian Chocolate and Candy...

  • The Food Network Open Casting Call for Home Cooks

    2014.10.25
     @ My Cooking Party

    FOOD NETWORK’S TOP CELEBRITY CHEFS ARE SCOURING THE NATION IN SEARCH OF AMAZING HOME COOKS! You’ve watched them on TV, bought their...

  • Greenwich Hospital Gala

    2014.10.25
     @ Greenwich Country Club

    It will be a Gala worthy of a doge when retiring Greenwich Hospital president and CEO, Frank A. Corvino, will be presented with the...

  • The Wilton Fall Antiques Market

    2014.10.26
     @ Wilton High School Field House

    Barnstar Productions and the Wilton Historical Society will present the Wilton Antiques Market. More than 80 exhibitors are expected to...


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