For the Record

Downtown Renewal



By Bob Capazzo

In our April issue we wrote about plans for the renewal of our central business district and the initial work of the Downtown Census Group. The group is developing recommendations embracing the entire downtown area including the continued use of the old Town Hall for the Senior Center, and the creation of off-street parking and a town green. The article addressed the proposed move of the Board of Ed from its very inadequate quarters in the Havemeyer Building and the privately funded conversion of that building to an arts center. 

Members of the Downtown Census Group represent a cross section of individuals and organizations that are stakeholders in the future of this vital public and commercial area of our town. The group is led by JoAnn Messina and Vince DiMarco as facilitators and includes representatives of the RTM, Board of Ed, Arts and Senior centers, Chamber of Commerce, restaurants, housing, green space and preservation. Its recommendations are intended to provide a guide for Town Hall and Planning & Zoning as they seek public input for the development of the ten-year Plan of Conservation & Development due for completion by December 2008.

The last time a renewal of our central business district was seriously addressed was ten years ago during the Ragland administration when the urban planning firm of Vollmer Associates created a master plan for Greenwich Avenue. A few of the Vollmer recommendations have been implemented, but the condition of our central business area still leaves much to be desired. The issues of traffic and parking have yet to be seriously addressed in spite of a dozen studies and recommendations over the years.

Now we again have the opportunity to turn vision into reality. The new Fire/Police headquarters is taking shape on schedule. There is general recognition that the aged Havemeyer Building is no longer suitable for the Board of Ed, in fact, not suitable for habitation of any kind without a $20 to $25 million renovation.

A group of leading Greenwich residents is committed to raising as much as $32 million, including an endowment, to renovate and reconfigure the building into a center for the visual, musical and performing arts. If this were accomplished, we would have a very desirable community resource in the center of town while removing a white elephant and financial liability from the shoulders of taxpayers. With its 400-seat formal theater and 125-seat black box theater, large high-ceiling rooms and wide corridors, the building is ideal for an arts center.

So who can argue? Well, some can and do. In a worst case scenario, what if the arts center can’t support itself and the endowment isn’t large enough to cover operating costs? Then the town takes back a fully renovated and code-compliant building at no cost to taxpayers. It appears that the biggest obstacle to forging ahead is the Board of Ed itself, which says it would love to abandon the Havemeyer Building, but the staff likes to be on Greenwich Avenue. That’s why there has been talk of renovating the Senior Center/Art Center to accommodate the Board of Ed, which we believe was one of the few bad ideas emanating from the first selectman’s office and one that had many seniors up in arms. Why in the world would we want to put an administration building with limited public access right smack on the Avenue?

Meanwhile, until the Board of Ed decides where it’s willing to be moved, planning is at a standstill. It has resisted what appears to be a logical proposal for a new, modern wing on the southwest side of Town Hall. The board’s most recent preference is for a new building just south of the Havemeyer, a location that could also possibly be used for tiered parking because the steep slope would accommodate below-grade parking levels.

Public meetings are planned to begin in September, and the town has retained Planimetrics, an urban-planning firm developing Westport’s ten-year plan. Plans of conservation and development, along with many of the studies that support them, have a way of gathering dust. This time around we are presented with a wonderful opportunity to create a vibrant cultural center, public meeting place and town green that will be a central hub of Greenwich. We should seize the opportunity to turn this vision into a reality. 

 

Greenwich Agenda

  • Meet Bestselling Author Ayelet Waldman

    2014.10.30
     @ Organic Planet

    On October 30 at 10am, JCC Greenwich will present New York Times bestselling author Ayelet Waldman, who will discuss her latest novel Love and...

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • Flinn Gallery Art Opening

    2014.10.30
     @ Flinn Gallery 2nd floor

    FLINN GALLERY Opening Reception 'IN FOCUS' Thursday October 30, 6 - 8pm Seven artists share their visions - Carolyn Conrad,...

  • 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...

  • 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....

  • 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...

  • Harvest Fair and Gift Show

    2014.11.01
     @ Second Congregational Church

    Event Will Include Hay Mazes, Games, Crafts, Food, Holiday Shopping The community is invited to a Harvest Fair and Gift Show on Saturday, Nov....

  • New Fitness Class: SalsaTone

    2014.11.01
     @ Latin Moves Dance Studio

    Starting November 1st ~ Every Saturday morning 10 to 11 AM Instructor: Melissa Lopez Start your weekend off right with this exciting cardio...

  • Lynne Scalo Design Opening

    2014.11.05

    Please join Lynne Scalo, Greenwich Magazine and athome Magazine to celebrate the Greenwich showroom opening of Lynne Scalo Design Cocktails...

  • Breast Cancer Alliance Benefit Luncheon & Fashion Show

    2014.11.06
     @ Hyatt Regency Greenwich

    Breast Cancer Alliance to Host Branching Out, Coming Together, Aspiring to a Cure 19th Annual Benefit Luncheon & Fashion Show: November 6,...

  • Free Screening of Documentary ' Children of the Inquisition'

    2014.11.06
     @ Bush-Holley House

    Join filmmaker Joseph Lovett as he presents his documentary film and multi-platform project of personal exploration and...

  • P.A.L.S. 2nd Annual Soarin' Soiree~ November 7, 2014

    2014.11.07
     @ Greenwich Country Club

    You are invited to join our State Senator, L. Scott Frantz and our First Selectman, Peter J. Tesei, for an awe-inspiring evening to benefit Patient...

  • John Hardy Event

    2014.11.08
     @ Bloomingdale's

    John Hardy One of a kind. One at a time. Each by hand. Bloomingdale's is inviting YOU to meet the head designer Guy Bedarida as he presents...

  • Olivine Gabbro Opening

    2014.11.08

    Olivine Gabbro invites you to join them for their Opening Party! DJ | Cocktails | H'Orderves | Gift Bags Made to Measure Beautifully...

  • Meet Joshua Safran, Author of "Free Spirit: Growing Up On the Road and Off the Grid"

    2014.11.11
     @ YWCA Greenwich

    Meet the author of this powerful memoir. Joshua Safran is an author, attorney, occasional rabbi, and nationally recognized advocate for...


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