Konicki lays out vision of an iconic gateway over the Pawcatuck River bridge

Konicki lays out vision of an iconic gateway over the Pawcatuck River bridge

Record-Journal


STONINGTON — A proposed Westerly-Pawcatuck “gateway” project would capitalize on the “two towns, two states, one community” branding that began during the recent Bricks and Murals event, potentially attracting more tourism and investment to the area.

The idea could be as simple as a painted state border line on the Westerly-Pawcatuck Bridge where tourists could take selfies while standing with one foot in Rhode Island and the other in Connecticut.

Or, the concept could be an archway constructed over the bridge representing the unity of the two communities — a memorable, visual symbol of collaboration that would become associated with Westerly/Pawcatuck brand.

“In most towns people think of a state line as a border, something that defines and something that separates; in our unique community of Westerly-Pawcatuck, we look at the border as something that joins us together and the river as something that brings our community together, and we want to capitalize on that,” said Lisa Konicki, president of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce and the Ocean Community Chamber Foundation, who explained both concepts to the Board of Selectmen Wednesday.

The painted line could be interesting and fun as a tourist attraction, Konicki said, but the archway represented a grander vision for the two communities.

“What we’re looking for from a visionary perspective is some sort of iconic, artistic and timeless gateway that would welcome people to the heart of our downtown so that when they drive over the bridge they have that ‘ah-ha’ experience of ‘whoa, I just arrived somewhere incredibly special,’” she said.

One example was the arch at the entrance to Federal Hill in Providence, which visitors associate with excellent Italian restaurants, she said. “Everybody knows it. Everybody says, ‘I’ll meet you at the archway.’”

She also showed a photo of the Sydney Opera House, which she said was recognizable worldwide. “It’s iconic, it’s artistic, it’s bold, it was very, very forward-thinking for the time,” she said. “We actually think that downtown Pawcatuck/Westerly is no less deserving than Sydney, Australia, or certainly Federal Hill.”

Calling it a “legacy project,” Konicki said the design would convey the sense of synergy and harmony reflective of the unity of the two towns.

“We have a unique, architecturally-beautiful, historic downtown,” she said. “What we’re looking for is something that complements the beauty of what we have and takes it to a whole other level with a beautiful, artistic design.”

The project would cost $400,000 to $500,000 and would take four to seven years, she said. She suggested Connecticut and Rhode Island would each pay for one third of the project and one third would be raised through grants and fundraising.

So far, two local architects have submitted designs, which Konicki said she wasn’t ready to share with the public.

Selectman Michael Spellman said the project represented a rich opportunity and could help move downtown Pawcatuck forward economically.

First Selectman Rob Simmons said something like an arch would create a memorable symbol or “place-marking” for Westerly-Pawcatuck, but he balked at the price tag. He said he wanted to start with the painted line as a simple, inexpensive first step in a long term vision that could lead to a bigger project.

Selectwoman Kate Rotella agreed with Simmons that painting a line was affordable and doable and said she would need to see the designs before proceeding with anything larger or more expensive.

The selectmen agreed they wanted to collaborate on the project with Konicki’s group in the future.

chewitt@thewesterlysun.com


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