Westport approves additional pedestrian access for Main Street
WESTPORT — The Board of Selectmen has unanimously voted to cordon off parking spaces on Main Street from Post Road east to Elm Street to allow for more pedestrian access downtown.
It also is considering closing Church Lane to traffic from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays to help restaurants there with reopening but has not voted on the concept.
The change on Main Street, which will be in effect until Aug. 31, was made to support outdoor dining and provide a safe, open environment for shoppers, said Randy Herbertson, president of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association.
“We can’t very well put stripes on the sidewalk to go one way like we can do at stores,” Herberston said. “So this is an effort to do that.”
The initiative was a collaboration between the Downtown Merchants Association, the town and ReOpen Westport Advisory Team. It will be reviewed 30 days after its implementation and renewal will take into consideration overall compliance and traffic impact.
“I do want to note we look at this as a trial and as something we are going to learn along the way,” Herbertson said. “This is something we want to try.”
For Church Lane, “The thinking on that timing is that is peak restaurant time,” Herbertson said. “It also provides time in the morning for deliveries and more importantly for most of our stores to do appointment shopping.”
The street closure will support up to six restaurants, he said, but it’s contingent on at least three restaurants submitting applications for outdoor dining.
“The primary purpose for this, even though it will support the stores, is to have street dining,” Herbertson said.
Signage to help drivers and pedestrians navigate the changes is also planned. If enough interest is not seen from retailers, he said the Church Lane proposal may be rescinded.
“I think if we decided to do this, we are doing it because as a town and as a body we think it’s the right thing to do for our businesses,” Selectwoman Melissa Kane said. “Not just because the DMA specifically asked for it.”
First Selectman Jim Marpe said it’s an opportunity to try to approach the walking street concept the town has long discussed.
“At the minimum, this is a start towards a different way of using downtown,” he said. “This may or may not be the answer, but I think this is part of the town’s investment in that experiment.”