"You start to imagine that downtown isn't just what's in this little box. It's much bigger than that. And when it's bigger and it has two sides of the river - it's way more interesting," said one presenter.
Today Westporters coming out to Bedford Middle School to hear plans for the new downtown. Improvements have been in the works for sometime now, and today residents can hear those plans – and voice what they like and what they don’t like.
For four hours, town residents sorted through pictures and powerpoints, determining how they want to see their future downtown.
"Well, as you can see here, we have photographs of our downtown. We had stacks of those photographs and we - in groups of five or six - we looked at them, commented collectively and wrote our comments on the back of the card," said one Westport resident and committe member, Ken Bernard."
Today’s group brainstorm follows the release of an online survey, so far getting more than 2000 responses.
"I had a lot of thoughts already but in the conversations to the table with people new to the process -they brought other ideas and my ideas I were able to evolve as well," said Bernard.
"You want people to really accept the results at the end of the day and the only way that happens is by having strong public participation," said Dewey Loselle.
The Downtown Steering Committee is leading the campaign, taking over from the former leader : Downtown 20 -20. As the chairman of the committee, Dewey Loselle tells me the missions is to generally upgrade the current downtown – enhancing its experience. The mission is not to create new business.
"There is nothing really wrong with our downtown. We have a wonderful downtown. Most people in other states would be thrilled to have it. But the reality is that while we have a great downtown, it could be improved and be much better than it is," he said.
And here’s what we learned today:
By taking the existing downtown area, the committee is looking to improve parking and utilize more of it’s open space. Some of that can be done by including more alley ways like this one here. By the end of it – Westport will be more walkable, with better parking and allow for greater enjoyment of its river views. And that gives residents even more incentive to get outdoors in this beautiful weather.