Phase 1 of Greenwich Avenue’s shut down to vehicular traffic is on!
At noon Lt Governor Susan Bysiewicz walked the Avenue with First Selectman Fred Camillo and State Rep Livvy Floren.
Earlier in the day, the Town’s Dept of Public Works erected Jersey barriers on the lower part of Greenwich Avenue to fashion an outdoor pedestrian mall and allow restaurants to offer outdoor seating with room for social distancing to keep patrons safe during the Covid-19 pandemic which.
Though the first day of the reopening of lower Greenwich Ave technically starts Tuesday, several restaurants had gotten an early start.
Last week the Board of Selectmen voted to endorse Phase 1 of the reopening, which focuses on the bottom 2 blocks of the Ave, but also allows 5 additional “nodes” on upper Greenwich Ave.
A node is an enclosure created with jersey barriers to allow additional enclosures for businesses.
Camillo said the nodes are a versatile option.
“If it becomes an issue, say for Zyn’s (newsstand) and nobody’s walking down to get their papers, we’d go to the node concept so people can go in and out,” Camillo said. “We have to pay attention for businesses who might become adversely impacted.”
“We see lots of New York plates now,” Camillo observed. “We don’t know if they’re coming here to eat or to look for apartments.”
Camillo noted that in the recession of 2008 Connecticut had been hit hard. “But we’re in a great spot to take advantage of what’s going in New York,” he said. “People are yearning to be where they’re not on top of each other.”
Lt Gov Bysiewicz said, “We’ve seen the real estate market in Fairfield County doing extremely well – where it was lagging from the recession. In Litchfield County there’s no rentals left. And even on the south eastern coast, from Westbrook to Stonington, people from New York and Boston are looking for summer rentals. This is a good opportunity for our state.”
State Rep Floren said the effort to attract businesses and residents is part of a collaboration with officials from the “Fairfield Seven,” which is comprised of Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk, New Canaan, Darien, Westport and Fairfield.
In addition to the residential market – both home sales and rentals – Camillo said Greenwich’s office space may be poised for recovery.
“I did a webinar the other day with business people in New York. They’re looking at Fairfield County and Greenwich to set up satellite office space,” Camillo said, adding that designs for the upgraded waterfront district at Greenwich Harbor are not only restaurant-centric, but feature a building with a second floor that has covered parking in the back has shared office space.
“There is good news on this front,” Bysiewicz said.
The Lt Governor said she and Governor Lamont had been in conversation with a financial company that is located in New York about a satellite office in Connecticut.
“Even before the pandemic – they were looking in Greenwich to have an office because many of their principals live here,” she said. “Now with the pandemic, I’m sure they’d like to move up that opportunity.”
“Why be in New York, spend lots of money on a tiny apartment or very expensive office space when you can have this beautiful quality of life, be here, own a home that would be much less expensive. In every crisis there’s an opportunity,” Bysiewicz said.
The Lt Governor said nearby in Norwalk, Mayor Harry Rilling had relayed that both office space and apartments in that city were being snapped up.
“There are literally several thousand apartments being built within a quarter mile of the train station,” she said.
Along the Ave, Grigg Street is closed to thru traffic, as is the ramp to the municipal lot behind Steam. There are barriers at the intersection of Fawcett Place at Greenwich Ave and across the Ave at Havemeyer, which force cars coming down the Ave to turn either right onto Arch or left onto Havemeyer.
“Don’t be afraid to come out, patronize the stores, have a bite to eat,” Camillo said as he, Lt Governor Bysiewicz and State Rep Livvy Floren strode down the Ave on a beautiful sunny afternoon.
“All the merchants have taken care in setting up with all the precatuions to have a safe environment to eat and shop. It’s going to get better,” he said. “Take a mask – if you get close to someone put it on.”
On June 11 the town will consider reopening the rest of Greenwich Ave in phases 2 and 3.
Camillo said between now and then there will be careful monitoring medical data. “Usually there’s a little bit of a lag between cases reported and the actual testing,” he said. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”
“Local restaurants and businesses are precious,” Bysiewicz said. “We want to make sure that they are able to make it through the end of the pandemic…We want to see the creative ideas towns are doing to support their downtown areas and ensure they’re vibrant.”
“Other mayors and First Selectmen have closed down a block or two of their restaurant areas,” Bysiewicz said. “Others have created pedestrian walkways like they’ve done in Norwalk to encourage dining at restaurants, and creating a little more space.”
“Fingers crossed, June 20 will be the day that restaurants can open up for indoor seating with a limited capacity of 50%,” Bysiewicz added.