Following a presentation from board members earlier this month, the Board of Finance saw the appropriation of $6.7 million -- -- to build a new Levitt Pavilion as an extremely good financial deal.
Considering the amount of money private investors have donated, in addition to how the new pavilion will revitalize downtown, . The outdoor venue, which has provided free entertainment for the past 39 years, is an asset that makes Westport a desirable place to live and drives heavy traffic to the downtown area.
For every dollar Westport invests, private contributors will invest five, but that is not the true beauty of the deal on the table. The most important financial , according to Board of Finance member Brian Stern.
“,” Stern said at the Board of Finance meeting earlier this month. “We haven’t invested in downtown in years.”
Interested in Westport's news, events, community bulletins, blogs and businesses? Sign up for the free Westport Patch daily newsletter, "like" us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
Board member Janis Collins brought up how the town financially benefits from the pavilion. Levitt visitors spend between $800,000 and $3,000,000 at downtown restaurants and stores every year, according to Collins.
“This is an opportunity to make a minimum investment with a very large return,” Collins said, adding that the new venue will increase property values and drive businesses to Westport.
Kenneth Bernhard, Levitt board member and spokesman for the project, mentioned that national statistics provided to the pavilion’s governing committee suggest out-of-town Levitt visitors spend on average $39 downtown per visit, while locals spend on average $17 downtown per visit.
Inclined to support the project, Board of Finance Vice Chair Helen Garten said she was pleased admission will remain free, a core value of the Levitt Pavilion for 39 years.
“I was very gratified to see the commitment that we are going to offer free concerts and that free entertainment is going to remain,” Garten said. “I think that’s what the people in this town value about the Levitt.”
Board of Finance Chair Avi Kaner, who called the deal an ‘exceptionally good financial investment for the town,’ spoke of retaining and improving Westport property values by making Westport a more desirable place to live compared to competing communities.
“If we were to vote tonight, I would certainly vote yes,” Kaner said, adding that the Levitt Pavilion is an incredible example of what makes a town great.
Board member Michael Rea raised a bit of skepticism, .
“If you run into a problem, $6 million doesn’t even start to address environmental problems,” Rea said.
Peter Cadoux, of Westport-based Peter Cadoux Architects, who has been working on designs and permit approvals for the project for the past four years, explained that engineers would be on site at all times and that the construction company will be insured, leaving them partially responsible for any addition environmental expenses. Cadoux also noted that 80 two-foot deep test holes have been dug and that the soil the venue sits on is healthy.
Cadoux described the two new buildings including an entrance building that will provide concessions, toilets, storage, and an area for a reception on the second floor. The pavilion will have a bathroom, dressing and gathering areas, and the stage, which will be similar in size to the larger stage that was on the property prior to 2006.
In between the two buildings will be a six percent slope, which will improve drainage and viewer visibility.
The condition of both the property and the temporary stage shows an obvious need for this project and delay is no longer an option, according to Bernhard
“The opportunity for everything to fall into place is here and it’s now and if there is any further delay, committed donors will disappear and municipal permits will expire,” he said.
The town of Westport will take possession of the new building’s that are on town property behind the library, and Westport will therefore receive nearly $6.5 million in municipal improvements out of the deal, according to Bernhard.
Cadoux said that there are plans to remove most of the trees blocking the Levitt’s view of the Saugatuck River. Most of the trees that currently surround the pavilion are invasive species that prevent more desirable trees from growing, according to Cadoux
Board members drew concern to noise levels and the potential for unhappy neighbors and businesses.
“One fallacy that people have falsely interpreted is that trees are insulators of acoustics, and really, they are not,” Cadoux said, adding that they will be utilizing ‘array speakers’ that channel sound with much narrower, precise sound waves.
Advanced technology will allow the new pavilion to be more open and visible, while achieving better sound quality and control.
The appropriation of $6.7 million for the new Levitt for the Performing Arts will be voted on by the Board of Finance Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the Westport Town Hall auditorium.