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POLL: Westport BoF to Vote on New $6.7 Million Levitt

An appropriation for the new Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts is on the Board of Finance’s agenda for Wednesday night.

 

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.”

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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. 

John Izzo July 31, 2012 at 11:05 AM
It looks like I save 1000 dollars John Izzo
Chris Rueli (Editor) July 31, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Of the 50,000 people that attend Levitt shows every summer, 28,500 people, or 57 percent, come from Westport and Weston.
Susan Shuck July 31, 2012 at 03:31 PM
It should be noted that most of those funds have been privately pledged and the appropriation is small. This should be clarified to people.
John Izzo July 31, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Susan, I'm sorry we havn't met, I know your intentions are well meaning, but think a minute and I hope that you will agree that a million dolllars is in fact a lot of money thats why we're in a lot of trouble, a million here and a million there, pretty soon ....billions in debt are left to our children their take home income's will deminsh... with all do respect John Izzo
Chris Rueli (Editor) July 31, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Susan, Thanks for commenting! The story clarifies that only $1.1 Million of the $6.7 million project is being contributed by the Town of Westport. "For every dollar Westport invests, private contributors will invest five," the story states. Two major contributors, Janet Plotkin, Chair of the Levitt Governing Committee, and her husband have donated over $500,000 since 1996. The Plotkins deeply believe in the pavilion and its mission and are very committed to its future. “I firmly believe our communities would be vastly different without the Levitt Pavilion,” Plotkin said. “Most importantly, lets continue to provide Access to enrichment for all and unite our neighbors with respect appreciation and camaraderie.”
Chris Rueli (Editor) July 31, 2012 at 05:35 PM
John, From a monetary aspect, Westport's Board of Finance thought this was a brilliant investment based on the fact that 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. Also, have you considered that Levitt visitors spend between $800,000 and $3,000,000 at downtown restaurants and stores every year? 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.
John Izzo July 31, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Chris please,the levitt visitors are already large in number and are highly unlikely to increase ,that said, try to understand that we all have to start somewhere, goverment spending is OUT OF CONTROL every where in America. Remember whatever is spent in downtown westport will likely remain the same. I must add how does anyone know how much is spent , please don't claim that you or anyone else does , oh I just purchased tickets to Frankie Vallie. I spent 200 dollars I'm glad I could afford it, I sincerly hope you can too. Anytime you wish to take this further and have a personal meeting my nbr is 203 227 7815 one more thing if contributions can raise 5 or 6 million it can raise whatever is needed and help us taxpayers Best Always John Izzo
Chris Rueli (Editor) July 31, 2012 at 08:27 PM
John, Increasing the amount of annual viewers is not the point of the renovation. "This is an opportunity to make a minimum investment ($1.1M for the town) with a very large return.” Don't you feel that the new venue will increase property and rent values, drive businesses to Westport and revitalize downtown, as many members of the Broad of Finance do?
John Izzo July 31, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Chris No I don't, we have many other needs that are far more pressing the BOF should know this. The question is ........one of priority remember my tel nbr, be well

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