Police Commission to examine if Pop Up should stay up
Public safety officials this week will consider whether to allow this year's New Canaan Pop Up Park to remain popped up all summer, just as the annual summer gathering place prepares to open on South Avenue and Elm Street.
A failure to get permission to keep the park set up continually during the summer will pose a quandary to the Pop Up Park's committee of volunteers, committee chairman Tucker Murphy said.
According to Murphy, it takes a lot of hard work and muscle to help set up the park each Friday and tear it down each Sunday, and permission to keep it up during weekdays would make the volunteers' work a whole lot easier. And, he adds, it would be good for local organizations and businesses, providing more space and time for local events while attracting more people to local stores.
The request to keep the park up through the summer was on the agenda of the town's Police Commission when it met at 6 p.m. May 20 at the New Canaan Police Department, 174 South Ave.
"Based on a lot of studies we'd seen done in other cities and towns doing it, we think it is a positive thing," said Murphy, who also is executive director of New Canaan's Chamber of Commerce. "We don't have a town green or a place people can gather and hear live music. That's why we think it works -- but not everybody loves it."
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In the past three years, the park has provided a forum for live music and other entertainment from community groups as well as sponsored events, such as the recent Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, and it has served as a community gathering space that helps many local business, Murphy said.
While some find the shutdown at the corner of South and Elm an annoyance, many people are interested in having the park open weekdays, Murphy said. More than 17 community groups are requesting to stage happenings there, including art exhibits and culinary events, but available time depends on longer hours, Murphy said.
"If there is something specific they would like us to do, it would certainly make the whole functioning of the park easier in terms of setting it up and taking it down," Murphy said. "The objective of the Pop Up Park is the same as it is in New York City. It is placemaking and drives traffic into the town."
Initially, the Pop Up Park, which is equipped with chairs, tables, and potted trees, was envisioned as a noncommercial space, but Murphy said organizers are discussing whether to engage merchants about ways they might want to use the park to drive business to their stores.
"What I'd like to see from the Chamber perspective is if there is a way to align more programming to support the merchants," Murphy said. "We could work together with them."
Stuart Sawabini, chairman of the police commission, said the body needs to consider the diverse interests of merchants and residents of the town. Some believe the traffic disruption of the park would be a negative for shoppers and residents if the park was left in place continually through the summer months, he said.
"It will come up next week and it is a little premature to say anything about it," Sawabini said. "While very supportive of the Pop Up Park, we've also heard concerns raised on the part of merchants that it works better during the weekend than during a very busy week."