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

    Dr. Julia Trebing, Director Creative Therapies in Stamford, CT exhibits her paintings at Meli-Melo Creperie & Juice Bar  during Sept...

  • 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...

  • Laurel House Family Seminar Series

    2014.09.18
     @ Laurel House

    Thursday evenings, September 18, October 2, 16, 30, 6:30-8:00 pm Join us Thursday evenings for this four part Family Seminar Series as...

  • Breast Cancer Alliance's Go For Pink Shopping Event

    2014.10.02
     @ Greenwich Avenue area

    Breast Cancer Alliance announced that it is partnering with Greenwich merchants for a special day of events and shopping on Thursday, October 2nd...

  • New Goergen Lecture

    2014.10.02
     @ Bruce Museum

    Reflections on Highlights of the Hohenbuchau Collection featuring Peter C. Sutton Known today as the "Golden Age" of Netherlandish...

  • Muddy Up 5k Adventure Run & Family Fun Walk

    2014.10.05
     @ Camp Simmons

    Are you ready for some MUDDY fun? Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich is proud to host the 3rd annual Muddy Up 5k Adventure Run & Family Fun...

  • Muddy Up 5k & Family Fun Walk

    2014.10.05
     @ Camp Simmons

    Race starts at 9:15 a.m. REGISTRATION HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO MON. SEPT. 29 at 8:00 A.M. DON'T LIKE THE MUD? SPONSOR A CLUB MEMBER TO RUN...

  • Sweat for a Cause

    2014.10.05
     @ SoulCycle Greenwich

    The Young Women's League of New Canaan (YWL) is sponsoring its first fundraiser of the season, "Sweat For A Cause" at SoulCycle...

  • SM&NC Farm Market

    2014.06.15
     @ Stamford Museum & Nature Center

    Sundays, June 15 – October 5, 10am – 2pm We're thrilled to bring back the SM&NC Farm Market — now on Sundays!...

  • Tuesday Toddler Tours

    2014.10.07
     @ Bruce Museum

    Come to the Bruce this fall to take part in our exciting new children and family programming! No advance registration is required and programs...

  • 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....

  • Lyme Research Alliance 3rd Annual Golf Tournament

    2014.10.09
     @ The Stanwich Club

    Tee up and raise funds & awareness for Lyme disease awareness at one of the area’s finest golf courses. The golf tournament is part of...

  • 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...

  • Annual Outdoor Arts Festival

    2014.10.11
     @ Bruce Museum

    There is plenty to discover on Columbus Day weekend, and this year much of it will be in Greenwich, on the grounds of the Bruce Museum.  On...

  • Outdoor Arts Festival

    2014.10.11
     @ Bruce Museum

    Come and enjoy the Bruce Museum’s 33rd Annual Outdoor Arts Festival. More than 85 artists from all over the country, many of them new to...

  • Lookbook Live Tour

    2014.10.12
     @ Westchester Mall

    In September + October 2014, Simon will team up with three of the world's top fashion magazines, Glamour, GQ, and  Vogue on a nationwide...


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