To the Editor:

Pavilion hall is the beloved centerpiece of the New Preston village landscape, speaking to New Preston’s history as an industrial and commercial hub.

Small villages like this, once a common part of Connecticut townscapes, are disappearing as economies, development pressures, and society as a whole are changing.

It is laudable that everyone involved in the decision about the future of Pavilion Hall wants to preserve the village and the building. I believe that selling the building to Plain Goods represents the best possible opportunity for the town and the village.

It is well worth the town and the business owners’ efforts to ensure that the village stays esthetically, economically and socially strong.

New Preston village has been saved because of Adaptive Reuse. This is the concept that old buildings can thrive and maintain their intrinsic beauty if their uses are changed sensitively to meet contemporary needs. Every single building in New Preston is evidence of that concept.

Former homes have been converted to commercial purposes and buildings that were built for one function have been converted to others. In that tradition, Pavilion Hall will be best preserved and the village best protected if ownership is transferred to a private party with the means and the ability to restore and preserve it to the highest standard.

Everyone involved on both sides of this controversy supports the desire to maintain the building as the visual and historic centerpiece of the village. However, the townscape is a whole entity, and each building is a critical component of the whole.

If one building is saved but everything around it changed, the arguments put forth by those who oppose the sale to a private entity could win the battle but lose the war.

Strategic thinking about the entire village and how it is going to be maintained and protected for the foreseeable future is essential. The question that really needs to be addressed is how will the viability of the village as a whole be protected?

The merchants opposed to the sale to Plain Goods have a short-sighted view of the challenges and opportunities presented by Pavilion Hall. They have expressed concern about what might happen to the Hall if it should be sold in the future, but have not explored the possibility of something similar appening to their own businesses and buildings.

Who is to stop any owner from selling to a purchaser who does not respect the unique qualities of the village? Thinking strategically about the village as a whole suggests that creating a Historic District would be a more effective approach and one that Plain Goods would embrace.

A variety of attractive retail enterprises helps everyone. Competition is healthy, encouraging each business to be the best it can be. Customers appreciate variety.

The shops in New Preston stand out from other places by offering experiences and personal service that are impossible to find elsewhere. New Preston offers authenticity in both the natural beauty of the East Aspetuck River and the man-made charm of its 19th and early 20th century buildings.

Plain Goods is eager to make its permanent home in New Preston because of those qualities. Its winning bid includes a commitment to incorporate a visitors’ center and historic exhibits that will give visitors and residents a sense of its rich history. Plain Goods embodies the philosophy of personal service and authentic experiences that New Preston represents.

The history of the village reflects the ways in which changes affect the viability of a community. It looks the way it does today because there was a time when people needed access to goods and services close to where they lived and worked.

When people no longer needed the village to supply essential goods and services, and no longer needed the Pavilion Hall to meet their entertainment needs, the village went into a decline, but the buildings were passively preserved until the current shop keepers saw their potential and moved in. Embracing change and the opportunity it can bring, not just for the village but for the entire Town of Washington, will, in the long run, benefit everyone.

Please vote “yes” at the town meeting Friday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m.

Sarah Griswold

Washington Depot