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Levitt officials give assurances new pavilion is on time, within budget

Published 9:11 am, Sunday, December 29, 2013

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  • Construction workers at the site of the new Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts. Photo: Anne M. Amato / Westport News
    Construction workers at the site of the new Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts. Photo: Anne M. Amato

 

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Despite concerns expressed by Board of Finance members recently, the new $6.8 million Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts is expected to be completed on schedule and within budget, according to those overseeing the project.

"We are confident that the amount on deposit with the town is enough to cover the entire cost of the project," said Stuart McCarthy, the town's parks and recreation department director, in a conference call Friday that included Levitt principals Carleigh and Freda Welsh.

McCarthy, who is serving as overall project manager for the construction, recently requested $249,587 in contingency money from the finance board. That money, which was set aside by the Levitt Pavilion, was needed because of a major, unexpected cost involving "driving piles" into the ground, said McCarthy, who also represents the town on the Levitt Pavilion building committee.

While pre-construction tests said the pilings would need to be driven only 35 to 40 feet into the ground, they actually needed to be driven down 80 feet. The overrun cost was about $240,000. But McCarthy, at that time, told the finance board savings have been found "in other places."

McCarthy was also asked by finance board members about construction progress. "Where is the project," asked member Michael Rea. "Are you half-way done?"

McCarthy, at that time, said the project is "just short of half-way done," adding it was about "a third of the way" complete.

Friday, he said: "We are several months into the construction and on schedule to be completed in the spring -- some time in May."

"We are out of the ground and that's where you get all the surprises," he said, referring to the pilings.

Board member Janis Collins asked McCarthy if he anticipates any more "unforeseen problems."

"Unforeseen problems are just that," McCarthy responded, adding he wasn't aware of any unexpected problems.

At one point in the meeting, First Selectman Jim Marpe made his way to the podium, telling the finance board that construction of the new pavilion has taken up a significant portion of his time since he took office in November. He said he had gotten a written commitment from the Friends of the Levitt Pavilion that the project is on target for completion.

Nevertheless, he added, he intends to "keep my eye on it" and give a "lot of attention" to the project.

Friday, Marpe said "as far as I know, the project is on track to be completed late spring or early summer."

Meanwhile, a capital fundraising campaign by the Levitt Pavilion continues, Carleigh Welsh, Levitt's director of marketing and communication, said in the phone interview.

"Levitt has raised sufficient funds to complete the project," she said. But they will continue to fundraise for other reasons, including the "increased costs in operating" the new facility, expanding the programming offered and to "grow our endowment."

She said that, with construction of the new pavilion, they have "raised our own bar" and "taken a giant step forward."

Welsh said her mother, Freda Welsh, the Levitt Pavilion executive director, will begin booking acts for the summer season in January, adding they have already gotten submissions from performers. "My mother is always in the booking mode," she added.

The Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts has drawn thousands of people for an eclectic mix of outdoor entertainment each summer. A ceremonial groundbreaking took place in October on the new pavilion, located behind the Westport Library.

The new pavilion complex, designed by Westport-based architect Peter Cadoux, will include a stage under a tensile roof, a covered entry pavilion with restrooms, a food concession and hospitality terrace, a new lawn seating area and an extended riverwalk around the site.

To prepare for the new pavilion, the site's original bandshell was taken down in 2007 and replaced by a temporary stage.