Westport Inn: New Owners Revealed

So who exactly purchased the Westport Inn, saving it from possible demolition and Westport from the specter of a 200-unit, 5-story housing complex? And what did they pay?

The new owner is Building and Land Technology. The purchase price was $14.5 million.

Building and Land TechnologyBLT is described in a press release as “a leading real estate investor, developer and operator in Fairfield County and nationally.” It owns over 50 hotels across the US, and has developed numerous mixed-use projects, including Stamford’s Harbor Point.

Among its “premier commercial holdings”: the Nyala Farms complex, adjacent to I-95 Exit 18. Originally built for Stauffer Chemical, it now counts Bridgewater Associates as its anchor tenant.

“We’re pleased to add the Westport Inn to our local portfolio,” said Carl R. Kuehner III, CEO of BLT. “We believe that the Inn complements our office holdings here, and will continue to provide benefits for local corporations as well as residents of the Westport community.”

The Westport Inn began as The New Englander, in 1960. With BLT's purchase today for $14.5 million, it will remain a hotel.

The Westport Inn began as The New Englander, in 1960. With BLT’s purchase today for $14.5 million, it will remain a hotel.

First Selectman Jim Marpe — who with Planning and Zoning Commission chair Chip Stephens worked to find a purchaser for the Sheldon Stein-owned Inn — said that BLT has “an extraordinary local and national reputation as a real estate investor, and is an experienced hotel owner. It’s gratifying to achieve a result that forestalls previous plans to develop multifamily housing on the hotel site, which we determined was not an appropriate use here.”

Stephens noted that apartments would have resulted in “excessive densification,” as well as the loss of much-needed hotel rooms.

The  Westport Inn recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation. It includes 117 rooms, plus 6000 square feet of event space.

Breaking News — Westport Inn’s 200-Unit Housing Plan No Longer In Play

Westporters have a lot to worry about. But — as of today — the 5-story, 200-unit housing complex proposed for the site of the Westport Inn is not one of them.

The property has been sold. The new owners — an investment group — are presumed to want to continue operations as a hotel.

The sale did not simply fall from the sky. First Selectman Jim Marpe and Planning and Zoning Commission chair Chip Stephens have worked to find a buyer. They hoped to find someone local, who understood the need to maintain an inn — and not add massive new housing on a small-footprint, already-crowded part of the Post Road.

The Westport Inn will no longer be demolished, or replaced with 200 housing units.

The Westport Inn will no longer be demolished, or replaced with 200 housing units.

Part of the initial housing proposal — which was withdrawn, after P&Z commissioners raised concerns — included “affordable housing” units. Developers have cited a state statute — 8-30g — mandating that 10% of every community’s housing stock be “affordable.”

Officially, Westport is around the 3% level. But because of the way the regulation is worded — housing built before 1990 does not count, for example, toward points for a 4-year moratorium from the law — we actually do reach that threshold. may feel there is a sword hanging over us.

Other housing developments that involve 8-30g are in the works. One (temporarily withdrawn) is on Hiawatha Lane; another (flying under the radar so far) is on Post Road West, where several blighted buildings were recently torn down.

Those bear watching. But as of today, the Westport Inn no longer does.

Spring Ahead!

There is light at the end of the tunnel.

This Saturday night, we turn our clocks ahead one hour.

Daylight Savings Time is here. That pile of snow outside, which won’t melt until Memorial Day?

Just an illusion.

Daylight Saving

Broadway Stars Warm Up Westport

If the interminable weather has got you down — and played havoc with your trips to, say, Broadway, for entertainment — here’s an “06880” special.

Last week, nearly a dozen Broadway stars came to Staples. They performed a benefit concert, helping Orphenians — the elite singing group — who head to San Francisco later this month. (They’re one of only 10 high school choirs invited to perform at a 4-day workshop with Chanticleer.)

The concert was organized by Adam Kaplan. He’s a 2008 Staples (and Orphs) alum, and already a Broadway veteran (“Newsies”).

Adam rounded up some of his most talented buddies, from the biggest New York shows. They performed spectacularly — and, in between numbers, added insights about the importance of high school theater and music. Adam and fellow Staples grad Mia Gentile were particularly compelling.

Here’s the entire show. It’s exactly the warmth we need, in this long, cold winter. (NOTE: You’ll have to click the underlined “Watch this video on YouTube” once it loads.)

If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.


Fairfield County Gives!

Fairfield County is filled with folks who give.

But today, they’ll really give.

From now through midnight, we’re celebrating Giving Day. Anyone — including businesses, employee groups, school classes and others — is raising as much as they can, for a few hundred worthy area non-profits.

Hosted by Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, and sponsored by Bank of America, it’s a comprehensive, online, one-stop way to make a powerful, collective statement.

Matching funds and prize money is available, heightening each gift’s impact.

Giving Day

Last year — the 1st-ever Giving Day —  drew over $750,000 in donations, from 9,211 people. More than 250 nonprofits benefited.

This year’s goal: $1 million.

The website lists an astonishing array of good causes, in 12 categories. Westport-based organizations include the Animal Shelter, Wildlife in Crisis, the Levitt Pavilion, Westport Arts Center, Westport Cinema Initiative, Westport Country Playhouse, Westport Historical Society, Westport School of Music, A Better Chance, Staples Tuition Grants, Westport Astronomical Society, Earthplace, Homes With Hope, Culture of Respect, the YMCA and Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Services. (I’ve probably missed a few. Sorry!)

Beyond our town borders are Mercy Learning Center, WPKN, Soundkeeper, Circle of Friends, Jewish Home for the Elderly, STAR, the Merritt Park Conservancy — you get the idea.

But what are you waiting for? Stop reading! Click here.

As every organization knows: Every dollar counts. And there’s no time to waste.


The Only One On The Road

John Hooper snapped this photo earlier this morning, on his way to open up Christie’s Country Store.

March 5, 2015 - John Hooper

It’s a beautiful shot. But we’d like it so much more if today’s date was January — not March — 5.


Saugatuck Church Looks Ahead — And Back

Three years after a devastating fire, the Saugatuck Congregational Church is ready for its re-dedication ceremony. It’s set for this Sunday (March 8), with plenty of hope for the future.

And a special nod to the past.

A community-wide, inter-generational worship at 3 p.m. features Rev. Alison Patton, plus music by the Staples Orphenians, the Men’s Gospel Choir of First Congregational Church of Norwalk, and Saugatuck’s own youth and adult choirs.

Earlier — at 10 a.m. — Rev. Ted Hoskins returns as guest preacher. He served the church from 1971 to 1994.

That seems like a while ago. But it’s just an eye-blink in the long and storied history of the church, founded in 1832.

Tours of the newly reconstructed building begin at 1:45 p.m. Guides will probably mention that until 1950, it was located across the Post Road, and several hundred yards west.

Saugatuck Congregational has been through a lot, in 183 years. All Westporters welcome it back to its home — and wish it godspeed, for at least 183 more.

Saugatuck Congergational church

Hola, Tierra!

On Monday, an “06880” reader emailed that Tierra — the Latin-inspired restaurant in the basement of the old Town Hall — had closed. I called, but the phone just rang and rang. No answer; no message about hours, reservations — nada.

Yesterday afternoon around 2 p.m., I called again. Same thing.

I went down, to the alley entrance between Spruce and Restoration Hardware. The entrance was not well shoveled. I peered inside. All was dark. I took a photo.

This was the entrance to Tierra, yesterday afternoon.

This was the entrance to Tierra, yesterday afternoon.

I checked the website. It said, “Siesta menu daily, 3-5 p.m.” I looked for a Facebook page. There was none.

I posted a story saying Tierra was closed.

It drew 17 comments, about the food and service. Reviews were mixed. No one said, “no! It’s open!”

Tonight, WestportNow reports, Tierra was open for business. There’s a photo too (and a caption, saying they no longer serve lunch).

Tierra is definitely open.

But there’s still no sign outside.

This Old House

In the mid-1930s, WPA photographers fanned out around Westport. They shot 133 houses — all, at that point, at least 100 years old.

Eighty years later, the Westport Historical Society is preparing an exhibit, documenting preservation and changes to those even-older-now homes.

WHS logoHouse historian Bob Weingarten found over 90 of the photos in the WHS archives. He’s now curating the exhibit.

But a lot changes in 8 decades. Some of the houses have gone to that great scrap heap in the sky. Others remain — but have been so altered, they’re unrecognizable.

Twelve of the photos have not yet been identified. Bob hopes “06880” can help.

Each Wednesday, we’ll post a photo of one of the unidentified houses. Click “Comments” to let us know where you think it is. If you’ve got a back story, add that too. The more info, the better.

We’ll start next week. In the meantime, here’s a “practice” house.

Lost house 1 - March 4, 2015

It’s still standing — and the WHS and I know where it is. If you do too, click “Comments.” (Hint: It’s changed a lot since the 1930s.)

Then check out “06880” next Wednesday, for our 1st truly “lost” house.

Westport To Mother Nature: You Win!

We give up! Uncle!


And no, that is not just a white background.

It’s our !@#$%^&* back yard.