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The Future of Main Street
Where do we go from here?


Imagine for a moment how the majority of Westporters would feel if, say, three or four years from today and you walk or go shopping on Main Street and… (Note the rest of this paragraph would include the same general content as the paragraph

[Just suppose that we were to reimagine downtown as a place with small, locally owned businesses, perhaps with second floor apartments, generating rent from two stores and two apartments where there is currently only one large national chain store; where a movie theater and cafes attract people in the evening when stores are closed; a place where you can shop on a daily basis for things other than clothing and home furnishings; where there is access to the river and recreational space. Would not such a place have wide appeal and better serve to foster a sense of community? Surely it’s something to think about.]

People are wondering whether the unprecedented number of vacant stores is the result of an inexorable trend away from conventional retail driven by the ease of on-line shopping, or whether it is just a delayed reaction to unrealistically high rents—the new Norwalk mall promises to further complicate the situation

Along with the angst provoked by these questions, there is a pervasive nostalgia for the way things used to be—a time when Main Street was populated by local businesses—a hardware store, a grocery store, a pharmacy, three book stores, restaurants and three movie theaters in walking distance.

Can that nostalgia be put to good use by changing the way we think about Downtown? Can we dare to imagine a Main Street serving local needs and providing opportunities for cultural and recreational activities and other experiences rather than primarily a high-end shopping destination?

This notion may seem counter-intuitive and, some will say, counter-productive. Many are, after all, devoted to the mantra that you can’t stop progress; but when a course of action seems not to be working, you can stop calling it progress

Just suppose that we were to reimagine downtown as a place with small, locally owned businesses, perhaps with second floor apartments, generating rent from two stores and two apartments where there is currently only one large national chain store; where a movie theater and cafes attract people in the evening when stores are closed; a place where you can shop on a daily basis for things other than clothing and home furnishings; where there is access to the river and recreational space. Would not such a place have wide appeal and better serve to foster a sense of community? Surely it’s something to think about.

Of course such a radical change could only be accomplished if there were to be a comprehensive plan that acceptable to all of the stakeholders – property owners, government, and consumers alike – and a regulatory framework to support it by providing meaningful incentives to encourage transformation and increased residential uses. It would require consensus, patience, and compromise from all quarters, but in the end it might well be worth the effort.

The Coalition hopes to have more to say about this at a later date.