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December 2, 2013

Westport moves revitalization plan forward

WESTPORT — A crowd of 75 attended a meeting to review the Town of Westport’s Economic Revitalization Strategy Report findings. 

At the recent session, Town Supervisor Dan Connell recalled how the process started in 2008, when 165 citizens gathered at Westport Central School to form committees that would look into hamlet expansion and community revitalization.

Westport partnered with New York State Department of State, Essex County Industrial Development Agency and the Project Advisory Committee, combining local stakeholders and residents of the community in developing the plan.

FOUR MAIN GOALS

Revitalization Committee Chair Charles Russell presented four main goals at the meeting: to revitalize small business activity; utilize tourism and agriculture and initiate small industries; determine a workspace for artists; and have a multi-disciplined art center.

Margaret Irwin of River Street Planning and Development of Troy, hired to obtain information for the strategy, was the primary speaker. 

“We took an asset profile; a SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis and found a unifying theme, which was arts oriented,” she said.

Findings included strengths, such as the citizens themselves, and physical assets that included the school system, infrastructure, high-speed Internet connection and cell service.  

It was found that Westport is also distinctive in its affinity for the arts.

WEAKNESSES

Westport’s strengths and opportunities include the Essex County Fairgrounds, golf course, the availability of Main Street storefronts and an area allocated for an industrial park.

Its weaknesses are considered typical for communities in the region — a population decline coupled with a growing senior demographic that is in need of services. 

MANY STRENGTHS

“Catalyst, or priority projects, include: revitalize Main Street, position Heritage House as an anchor for the new Westport arts brand, evaluate additional uses for the fairgrounds, implement a downtown marketing program and create attractive town gateways.

Anthony Wheeler, proprietor of the Westport Inn, felt there was a limitation to the arts strategy, as artists generally don’t support themselves but need outside funding, and thus sustainability is highly questionable.

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