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Waterford - A group of local residents meandered through Jordan Village Saturday morning, taking pictures on their cellphones of what they like and don't like about the area.
They were enamored with the historic buildings and unique architecture, but they found it difficult to walk around because the sidewalks were uneven and ended in certain spots.
Ernest Hutton, president of Hutton Associates Inc., led the group. Hutton and several other consultants are developing a master plan that will cultivate a "Main Street" feel in Jordan Village and the surrounding area. The consultants hosted a series of public workshops last week, culminating in Saturday's tour, to get public input on the project.
"This is a very important part of the process. We can't come in and work in a vacuum," Hutton said. "We are going to interpret what the people want to see and use our professional expertise to put together proposals."
Hutton said he expects to return to Waterford in early June with a final presentation. He asked the 20 residents who attended the tour to take pictures and send them to the town planner so he could incorporate them into the presentation.
David Bednarz, a Waterford native, took a photo of a stone wall he liked. He pointed out a parking sign on the ground that he said should have been removed by now.
"I wanted to have a voice in the vision for Jordan Village," said Bednarz, who teaches at Ledyard High School. "I'm cautiously optimistic that there will be grant money to do something after this, instead of just to study it."
The plan is being paid for with grant funding from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation's Vibrant Communities Initiative. Brad Schide, a field staffer for the trust, walked with the group Saturday. He said it was encouraging to see so many people involved and excited.
"There is a very active core of people who understand what they are sitting on," Schide said. "This is a gorgeous area, and right now people just drive by it."
Jordan Village is the oldest settlement in Waterford and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. Sixty structures make up the historic village and, along with the adjacent Civic Triangle, it has been home to town government since about 1848.
About 80 people took part in the workshops over the three days and shared their ideas on how the area could become a civic, commercial, educational, residential and recreational center. Many of their concerns had to do with traffic, safety and pedestrian access, and they stressed the importance of preserving the character of the area, Hutton said.
When Sue Langer moved in Waterford in 1980, she said she looked for a town center and could not find one.
"I think it's excellent that they're doing this. I'm so pleased," she said during the tour. "This area is just so beautiful."